People with vision impairment will soon get a unique opportunity to see with their own hands just how enormous Birmingham's god of the forge really is.

September 28, 2000

BIRMINGHAM, AL — People with vision impairment will soon get a unique opportunity to see with their own hands just how enormous Birmingham's god of the forge really is.

The Vulcan Park Foundation, in cooperation with the Alabama Eye Institute, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Vision Science Research Center, will host a series of visits to Vulcan Park for approximately 1,000 Alabama residents, including students from the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Jefferson County Schools and support groups during the month of October.

Birmingham Museum of Art staff members will lead the hour-long tours, which will consist of 30 to 35 people each. A total of 12 to 15 tours are planned throughout October. An opening event for students, teachers and docents is planned to coincide with the first tour, which will be Thursday, October 5, at 9:30 a.m. at the park.

Vulcan, the cast-iron statue that has stood high atop Red Mountain as a symbol of Birmingham and the State of Alabama, is disassembled in 18 pieces on the ground while it awaits repair and eventual return to its pedestal overlooking the city. The hosting organizations have collaborated to provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the visually impaired to touch, feel and see Vulcan in his temporary ground-level setting at Vulcan Park.

Vulcan Park Foundation President Steve Yoder is pleased these institutions could collaborate to bring students this chance. "Vulcan Park Foundation recognizes that during this period of time that Vulcan is disassembled, we have a very unique opportunity for people of all ages who are visually impaired to learn about the great work of art and great symbol of our city and state," he said.

The up close and personal view of Vulcan will not only allow those who are blind to see Vulcan, but also the many Alabamians who have low vision. "The vast majority of those with visual impairments have some sight, but can't see the details that someone with normal vision can see, especially at greater distances," says Dawn DeCarlo, O.D., chief of Low Vision Services at UAB's School of Optometry. "By allowing these people to get an up close view of Vulcan, they will be able to see the details like the statue's facial features that they would never be able to distinguish when he's on his pedestal. This is called relative distance magnification, which means that the closer you get to an object, the better you see it."

Don Fletcher, M.D., director of Low Vision Services for the Department of Ophthalmology, hopes this kind of outreach project will not only have an impact locally, but nationally as well. "This is an excellent example of how people can take a look at what's going on in their own communities, like restoration projects or local art exhibits, and find ways to reach out and include the nearly 14 million people — 1 in every 20 — who suffer from low vision in our country," he said.


Vulcan, Roman god of the forge, was chosen as the symbol to represent Alabama at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. Leading citizens and businessmen worked to raise money to build a colossal statue that would tower over the other exhibits and hired an Italian sculptor, Giuseppe Moretti, to create him. The statue was incredibly popular and won a gold medal. He was returned to Birmingham and in 1938 he was placed on Red Mountain, a natural choice since the iron he was made of was mined from the mountain. Vulcan has stood proudly ever since as a symbol of the city's industriousness (until last Fall when he was dismantled for restoration).

Why the restoration? Following the common practice of the 1930s, Vulcan's interior was filled with concrete, a substance which expands at a rate 20 percent greater than iron. With the passage of time, Vulcan's exterior cracked and the statue has gone through excessive metal fatigue. Vulcan Park was closed to visitors in March 1999 for fear of pieces of Vulcan breaking off and falling to the ground.


  • At birth, Vulcan was the world's largest cast metal statue, second-largest U.S. statue.

  • Vulcan is 56 feet tall.

  • Vulcan weighs 120,000 pounds.

  • Vulcan's head weighs 11,000 pounds.

  • Vulcan's feet are 6 feet long (can sleep one reclining person).

  • The circumference of Vulcan's chest is 22 feet, 6 inches.

  • The circumference of Vulcan's waist is 18 feet, 3 inches.

  • Vulcan is made of 21 pieces.

  • Vulcan's pedestal is 123 feet.

  • Vulcan stands 390 feet in elevation above Birmingham.

  • It took four months to cast the colossal statue.

  • Vulcan is made of Sloss No. 2 Pig Iron (By early 1900s, Birmingham had become the world's largest producer of pig iron and pipe and also made steel for rails.)