Local landmark continues to charm
Posted on Jul 10, 2012 in Features
It’s a warm, windy afternoon – just another typical late spring day – when a plane zooms overhead, bypassing one of the most peaceful scenes that Birmingham has to offer: Vulcan Park.
“It’s so peaceful and beautiful; it’s just a great place to be,” said Terri Moody, assistant manager of visitor services. “To me, it’s got it all.”
Vulcan Park was created in the 1930s in an attempt to attract tourists traveling on U.S. Highway 31. Today, vacationers, as well as many residents of the surrounding area, use the 10-acre park as a way to slow down and appreciate Birmingham’s rich history.
On this Tuesday afternoon, families of all shapes and sizes roam through the park, gazing in awe of the largest cast iron statue in the world. The sound of the rustling trees below the god of iron reminds them to turn around to look out over the entire downtown Birmingham area.
“[Vulcan] is an icon that represents our city and what it was built on,” said Moody.
Vulcan, a god in Roman mythology, is known as the god of fire and forge. For nearly a century, the city of Birmingham has used this 56-foot statue weighing over 101,000 pounds to remember how it prospered from a boom in the iron industry.
Trisha Reynolds, a stay at home mother from Homewood, was among the people enjoying the park, along with a family guest from Minnesota.
“We came to show him what Alabama is all about,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds and her family purchased tickets from Moody to witness the view from the observation deck. While making their way towards the elevator, they walked through the statue’s surrounding grassy garden.
This surrounding garden and former cascade fountain was designed to reflect ancient Renaissance gardens. However, attempts made to modernize the park in the 1960s altered the original intent that the park once had.
From 1999 to 2004, Vulcan and Vulcan Park were temporarily shut down in order to repair and renovate the statue and surrounding park.
Renovations included a stainless-steel infrastructure to replace concrete that was originally used inside the statue. Changes to the park helped it regain some of that Renaissance feel it once had, such as removing the enclosed observation deck that was put in place in the ‘60s.
“I’ve been working here since it re-opened,” said Moody, who drives to work from her home in Hueytown. “I get to meet people from all over the world. I’ve met people from countries that weren’t even formed when I was in school.”
From people dressed in top-notch business suits just visiting on their lunch breaks to groups of families in T-shirts and athletic shorts spending an afternoon together, Vulcan Park has developed into a place where a wide-range of people visit.
Children run ahead of their parents, only stopping when they realize that they need to ask for two quarters to use the mounted binoculars to get a closer view of the city below.
“There’s a great atmosphere here,” said Mark Harmon, architect and father of two. “We brought our kids here to hopefully show them a fun, safe time while spending the afternoon together.”
The sound of the rushing wind and chirping birds almost completely masks the sound of downtown Birmingham, but if one stops to listen for it, the faint sound of the rushing ambulances is still there, showing just how close this park is to the city.
Sometimes people need a place that helps them slow down and simply appreciate their lives, and that’s just why Vulcan Park was created.