Welcome to the 2nd installment of the Bham Now Guide to Birmingham statues and monuments. This edition features statues that are symbols of our community.
Our first guide focused on statues of people memorialized throughout the Magic City.
In this guide we will look at the “powerful and strong” statues that are emblematic of this region.
Join Bham Now as we guide you, our readers, on a tour of Birmingham statues that symbolize our city.
If there is a symbol that is the “granddaddy” of them all in Birmingham it is Giuseppe Moretti’s 56 foot tall statue that depicts Vulcan, the Roman god of the fire and forge. The largest cast iron statue in the world, Vulcan’s image is on the city of Birmingham seal and resides at one of the most visited tourist attractions in the state – the Vulcan Park and Museum.
Standing 23 feet tall and holding lightning bolts in her hands with lightning projecting from her hair, Electra has been atop the Alabama Power building for 91 years. The creation of New York sculptor Edward Field Sanford Jr., the sculpture was originally named “The Divinity of Light.” The folks at Alabama Power soon started calling her “Miss Electra.”
Vulcan & Electra – A love affair & Potholes on 18th Street
According to Bhamwiki, Birmingham Post satirist Dr. B. U. L. Conner in the 1920s started the legend of a romance between Vulcan and Electra. Here is an excerpt from Bhamwiki on the the unrequited love and the reason we have potholes (they come from Vulcan!)
“The statue was secured in place on May 10, 1926. That summer, Birmingham Post satirist “Dr. B. U. L. Conner” began a series of illustrated fanciful episodes in the courtship of Electra by Birmingham’s other scantily-clad mythical colossus, Vulcan. The potholes on 18th Street were explained as the smitten god’s footprints. The popular serial cemented the pair’s storied connection into the city’s common folklore even before Vulcan was moved to Red Mountain in the 1930s.”
The Storyteller Fountain
One of the Birmingham’s most fun-loving and mystical pieces of public art, the Storyteller fountain sculptures have resided in the heart of Five Points South since 1991.
The sculptures are a creation of Frank Fleming, who also has similar work displayed at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Birmingham International Airport.
Homage to Leonardo: The Vitruvian Man
The Vitruvian Man is a 108-inch diameter circle bronze figure by Italian-born British sculptor Enzo Plazotta. Fittingly, the piece is located at the entrance of the Medical Forum at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The duplicate piece honoring Leonardo da Vinci is in London, England.
The Chase at Barber Motorsports Museum
Created by artist Ted Gall, the sculpture represents the “super-human power and sense of achievement that one experiences on the track.”
The sculpture is located at the entrance of the Barber Motorsports Museum. Made of stainless sterling steel, it took over a year to create. Each 3000 pound figure was cast from 28 different pieces, welded together, ground out, and finished with a chemical patina.
Liberty National Statue at Liberty Park (adjacent to the Boy Scouts)
From the 50s to the late 80s Electra had a companion located a few blocks southeast of her – the Liberty National Statue. Today, the Statue of Liberty replica stands tall at the entrance of Liberty Park, adjacent to the Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters.
The Liberty National statue is a 30-foot-tall, 1/5th scale bronze replica of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s “Liberty Enlightening the World” which has stood in New York Harbor since 1886. The replica was commissioned by Birmingham‘s Liberty National Life Insurance Company in the 1950s and installed atop their downtown headquarters building at 300 20th Street South in 1958.
Mountain Brook’s Civitas
Another “gateway” statue, “Civitas” was dedicated at the entrance of Mountain Brook’s English Village in 1998. Designed and cast by North Carolina sculptor James Barnhill, the bronze sculpture depicts a female figure examining models of buildings in English Village. The statue recognizes Carolyn Smith, a self taught architect who designed buildings in the area during the 1920s.
According to a 2015 Villagelivingonline.com interview of Phillip Morris, former editor of Southern Living Magazine, the statute is a symbol of “making a place.” The name Civitas, is the Latin word for citizens or a community.
What Did We Miss?
Birmingham is blessed with a diverse range of statues that symbolize our history and place. Please let Bham Now know what “symbols” around the Magic City we may have missed. Give us your input. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next up – Public Art
In our upcoming third edition of the Guide to Birmingham Statues, we will explore public art. We have already made some wonderful discoveries, especially at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and much more. And of course, because its public art, it doesn’t have to be a statue or monument.
We welcome your suggestions!