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Vulcan at 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis Vulcan at 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis

History of Vulcan

The history of Vulcan is deeply tied to Birmingham's roots and its growth into a prominent industrial city. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, was originally built in 1904 and has stood as a symbol of Birmingham for over 100 years. After a four-year renovation, Vulcan Park reopened to the public in 2004 and welcomed over 100,000 visitors its first year.

Read the story of Vulcan — its symbolism, history and significance.

See the timeline of Vulcan's conception, design, construction, and renovation that brought him to his new world class, state-of-the-art current location, Vulcan Park.

FAQ about Vulcan Park

Why Vulcan?

Vulcan is the Roman god of fire and forge (a forge is a shop with a furnace where metal is heated and hammered out into useful items). Birmingham is unique because of the availability of the raw materials necessary for making iron: coal, iron ore and limestone. By 1900, Birmingham was called the "Magic City" because of its rapid population growth due to the larger number of workers needed to produce iron. City leaders wanted to advertise Birmingham and Alabama at the St. Louis World's Fair and decided a statue of Vulcan would best highlight the area's growing industrial abilities.

Why does Vulcan hold a hammer and spear?

The hammer is a tool Vulcan used in his forge and the spear represents a piece of his completed work.

Why did Vulcan hold a torch light in his right arm for so many years?

In 1946, the decision was made to place a torch in Vulcan's right hand as a temporary traffic safety campaign for a few months. The red light signaled that there had been a traffic fatality in Birmingham; the green light shone to demonstrate there had not been a fatality.

Vulcan at Alabama State Fairgrounds, 1910 Vulcan at Alabama State Fairgrounds, 1910

Why was the torch removed?

The torch was removed in 1999 during the renovation of Vulcan. The actual torch can be seen in Vulcan Center and with the opportunity to push a button to shine the green torch. The decision was made to return Vulcan to the way that sculptor, Giuseppe Moretti, intended. Since the original spear point never returned from 1904 World's Fair, a new one had to be cast. For the first time, since 1904, Vulcan is standing as he stood in St. Louis - gazing at the spear point in his outstretched right arm.

What happened to the cascades at Vulcan Park?

One of the fond remembrances of early visitors to Vulcan Park is the cascades. Constructed out of stone, water tumbled down the cascades in a series of falls and ponds that contained fish. The cascades were removed when the park was renovated in 1969-1971. No original 1936-1939 landscape records were found and preservationists needed original drawings to proceed with reconstruction. Today, the sloping grass hills between the stone steps that lead up to Vulcan are designed to simulate the original cascades.

Vulcan 1946-1999, with his traffic safety campaign torch Vulcan 1946-1999, with his traffic safety campaign torch

How big is the statue?

Vulcan stands 56 feet tall, from toe to spear point, upon a 124-foot pedestal rising to a height of 180 feet and weighs 101,200 pounds. Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world and the largest metal  statue ever made in the United States.

About Vulcan Park Foundation

Vulcan Park is operated by Vulcan Park Foundation and appreciates park members and generous donors. Vulcan Park Foundation is a non-profit organization with the goal of keeping the park a historically significant site with a wealth of educational opportunities for area visitors and citizens of all ages. You can show your support of Vulcan by becoming a member, becoming a volunteer or making a tax deductible donation.

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