We’re on the road in Alabama – specifically in Birmingham – digging into the history that has earned this town the nickname of the Iron City. We’re making 2 stops on today’s tour, and up first we’re heading to a place that helped start it all.
This is Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. A place that is visually stunning to explore, there is a rich history here that details the story of how this town began – and grew – into one of the largest cities in the south.
The city of Birmingham began in 1871 and its main purpose was to make iron and help fuel the industrial revolution. Why here? The three main ingredients needed to make iron (iron ore, limestone, and coal) are all found within 15-30 miles of the city.
This is one of the few places in the world where this occurs. And that combination of ingredients meant that by 1890 there were 28 different blast furnaces firing in and around the city.
The Sloss Furnaces operated for nearly a hundred years. And then in 1983 the facility was converted into a museum. Today, it’s the only 20th century blast furnace site that is being preserved and interpreted as a museum.
And that’s not all. Since initiating the metal arts program in 1985, Sloss has offered workshops, exhibitions, and conferences on all aspects of metal working—forging, fabricating and casting — but focuses primarily on the use of cast iron as a sculpture medium.
Forges and fire are nothing new to humanity. In fact, the Roman god, Vulcan was said to have forged the lightning bolts of Zeus and the weapons of Hercules. Surely in the city of iron you’d think there’d be like some giant statue celebrating this guy – well, you’d be right.
56 feet tall and made of 100,000 pounds of cast iron, Vulcan stands atop Red Mountain with spectacular views overlooking the city of Birmingham. The Vulcan Park and Museum features an interactive comprehensive history museum that examines Vulcan and Birmingham’s story, and it’s a great spot to pick out some awesome souvenirs of this city’s iron heritage.