The earth birthed the city Birmingham, Alabama, back in the age of manufacturing when men slaved and sweated in the furnaces and their bosses grew wealthy. Jones Valley was rich in iron ore, coal, and limestone, the elements for making iron, and Birmingham became the major industrial center in the southern US. Its population grew so rapidly from 1881 to 1920, that it became known as the Magic City.
Sloss Furnace, consisting of two 2400 ton blast furnaces and a collection of 40 other buildings, is silent now, echoing with specters of the past. Birmingham is no longer noted for its industry but for its world class medical facilities. However, when I was a child, Sloss was still a working furnace, and I remember looking down into it from a highway overpass. One could see the fires and lava-like streams. I always thought it looked like the entrance to Hell.
Old Sloss is now a national landmark, and its facilities are used for festivals, concerts, metal workshops and art exhibitions. It is open throughout the year to tourists, and self guided tours are free. Earlier this year my family walked through the behemoth. I wasn't interested in the process of making iron; I was prepared to be bored. However, the sculptural qualities of the buildings amazed me. The workmanship is both age-old and futuristic. You may wonder why I am posting this on my garden blog, but Sloss is the epitome of man's harness of nature, so there is a connection!
Here are a few of the photos I took. I hope you see some of the fascinating details I marveled over in person.
Sloss was a dangerous place to work, and men died here. There are tales that it is haunted. By this guy?No, that is my husband!
By this guy?Definitely! At Halloween, it doesn't take much to turn Sloss into Birmingham's best haunted house.
Look below and you will find some garden tools, though I doubt they were used for planting marigolds!Sometimes it's hard to tell what is original to Sloss and what is more recently added sculpture:
The same day we visited Sloss we also visited Vulcan, the world's largest cast iron statue. Vulcan is the Roman god of fire and the forge, and the statue was Birmingham's entry in 1904's world's fair in St. Louis. Today Vulcan overlooks Birmingham from his perch high on Red Mountain, so named because of its iron ore. Using a telephoto setting, I took this post's first photo of Sloss from an observation deck located just below Vulcan's feet.
Vulcan stands with his hammer and anvil and holds a spearpoint. While an apron covers his front, his backside is sometimes the butt of jokes, especially by those who live in the genteel community directly behind him. Ahem!
And that, I think, is a good end to this post!