What’s That? An HGTV Show That Will Not Infuriate Preservationists?!

While I’ve confessed my love of HGTV previously, most of the shows are not preservation friendly. What’s particularly annoying? The shows in which people talk about “character” and “charm” but only want brand new homes when they are looking at older homes. Or the shows in which spray foam runs rampant. I normally end up angry at the television. (It’s a good thing I watch HGTV only a few times per year.) But, wait! This time on my HGTV stint, I’ve discovered a new (to me) show.

The show is Rehab Addict, with host and “star” Nicole Curtis. She’s a self-taught DIY-er who buys historic homes desperately in need of rehabilitation. And what does she do? She restores them, doing most of the work herself. She saves old windows, hardwood floors, and significant features. And when new material is needed Nicole finds salvage material where possible. The show is based in Minneapolis, MN and Detroit, MI. How does she afford such tasks? Curtis is also a real estate agent; after the houses are rehabilitated she sells them.

As a preservationist, what do I like? Nicole seems genuine and she gets excited about finding historic features. She wants to save as much historic fabric as possible. She loves these houses. She despises vinyl tile, popcorn ceilings and bad renovation decisions. And she’s a cool woman. How many of us (women and men) wish we could do what she does? Read more about Nicole Curtis here.

While I’ve only seen a few episodes, it’s exciting to find a television that actually is about restoration not “remodeling.” Good job, HGTV. And now I want to buy a dollar house somewhere. Who’s with me?

A New Foundation: Vergennes Railroad Depot

Back in October, the Vergennes Railroad Depot was moved via hydraulic jacks to rest in its new home, adjacent to the Ferrisburgh Park & Ride (which is just over the Vergennes/Ferrisburgh town line on Vermont Route 22A).

On the move in October 2012.

Since then the depot has been set on a foundation and rehabilitation work is well underway. Here are a few images for an update. One thing to know about the depot is that it is now on the opposite side of the tracks, however, the building remains oriented correctly, with the bay windows and semaphore facing the tracks.

Early December 2012.

Early December 2012. This side faces the park & ride.

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Early December 2012. The windows are being restored, and thus are not in place. And check out that new concrete foundation.

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Early December 2012.

And for some updates later in December:

Mid December 2012.

Mid December 2012. Track side. Note the bay window and semaphore.

Mid December 2012.

Mid December 2012. What a sight! The relocation brings much more visibility to the building. Rehabilitation is in progress and the community is excited.

More updates to come. Any good rehabilitation stories to share from your corner of the world?

Preservation Photos #128

The beautiful, restored Wilder Center (former Congregational Church, constructed 1890) in Wilder, VT.

For the story of the community supported 2009 Wilder Center restoration, read the history and watch the slideshow.

The Alison House

It’s a week of House Hopping with Preservationists! Continuing on from stop one in central Virginia, let’s make our way to Columbus, Ohio. Maria, a historic preservationist, is busy researching, planning and prioritizing restoration and other projects for her house. Read on as Maria shows us the significant architectural features and shares the first projects she and her husband have undertaken. 

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By Maria Burkett

About a year ago, my husband and I purchased our first home, a beautiful little two-story brick vernacular house constructed in a working class immigrant neighborhood in 1914. The house is one of the newer buildings in the neighborhood, which dates to the 1860s, although most of the neighboring buildings on my street are from the 1890s and early 1900s. We are located north of downtown Columbus, Ohio and many of the early homeowners worked at nearby factories or shops. One of the early owners of our house (the Allison family) was an auto-mechanic and had a large garage in the rear of our yard, off of the ally. The garage is long gone, but the 1921-1922 Sanborn Map shows the location of the garage as well as the mixed development in the area with several multiple dwelling units and businesses mixed together.

Sanborn Insurance Map, 1921-1922.

One of the things that attracted us to the area was the diversity. The factories and garages have been replaced by restaurants and art galleries, and the area continues to change with many new developments planned for the neighborhood that will reuse the older buildings or appropriately in full the vacant urban lots. It is an exciting place to live.

It was love at first site for my husband and me with our house. First of all, it is one of the most unique buildings I have seen from the exterior. Although its form is rather plain, the buildings materials are unique. The front of the house is a beautiful yellow brick with red mortar and red brick details, and the other sides are a darker red brick, much darker than normal. Luckily for us, little repointing has been done, and we still have most of the original red mortar. The house has no additions and most of the windows are original, although all three of our doors have been replaced.

Front corner of our house—you can see the original 1/1 window, yellow brick façade, and red brick details and red brick side wall.

The interior is just as extraordinary; the house retains the original reddish hardwood floors and wood trim. The trim in the kitchen and first floor bathroom was painted, but one of my jobs this year is to remove the paint and refinish the trim.

The original floors and trim really excited us about the house when we were looking.

One of my distant projects is to remove the drywall in the firebox and find and appropriately sized gas insert.

My favorite part of the interior is the upstairs bathroom. Most of the bathroom has been redone (which I think is pretty ugly and will be giving it a makeover eventually), but the original clawfoot tub is still in place and there is a curved wall detail to accommodate the tub.

My beautiful bathtub—I can’t wait to rip out the tile and flooring.

We have done relatively little in the ways of improvements to the house so far. One of my husband’s requirements was that we did not, under any circumstances, purchase a fixer upper. Our house was move in ready, but like all houses, a person can dream up many projects. I made a three page list of every dream, which is why we delayed beginning work – in order to prioritize these projects. This past fall, we took the first step and insulated our attic. We like to think our house is warmer this winter, although the winter has been so warm it really is hard to tell.

After the insulation = a nice warm house. None of this existed in the attic before.

This spring we are going to start the task of repainting our exterior trim (one reason a brick house is so great, so little to paint!) and fix our gutters and front porch. The roof was incorrectly built and years of water and ice damage have left a considerable gap between where the roof ends and the gutters begin. I would also like to get some storm windows up and restore all of the rope and pulley systems in our double-hung windows, but that may have to wait another year.

One of my favorite details-a corner guard! We have several of these upstairs, although others are painted (for now).

In the meantime, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring so I can continue work on my yard. For a house that is closing in on its 100th birthday, it had almost no landscaping to speak of until we bought it. I spent last summer putting in raised garden beds and planning perennials, azaleas, vinca, and whatever else I could get my hands on.

My nice garden last summer.

Our dog posing by a newly planted azalea.

The beginning of the garden. We later discovered that the dirt path running through out backyard is actually a concrete walk buried under several inches of mud. That is a project for this coming spring.

We are looking forward to continuing my battle against grass and installing a back walk this year. We love our old house and are constantly surprised and gratified by what we find and complete to make it our home.

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Maria works in Columbus, Ohio where she lives with her husband and dog. She is part of the fabulous Mary Washington Preservation class of 2006 and a flamingo enthusiast since 2005. 

Thanks, Maria!  You are a great inspiration for how to carefully plan restoration and other home renovations. Good luck with this year’s projects. Last year’s garden looks beautiful.

Next stop on House Hopping with Preservationists, we’ll head further west to the Great Plains: Montana!

House Hopping with Preservationists

Let’s take a trip together! How about a cross-country road trip this week to visit historic (or old) homes inhabited by and loved by preservationists and their families? Have you wondered how preservationists live in and treat their own homes?

This week, Preservation in Pink, will do just that with the introduction of a mini series: House Hopping with Preservationists. Step into the homes of preservationists, who will share their historical research, analysis of alterations, thoughts on restoration and renovation planning, project implementation and project completion. Join in for the variety and lots of images.

Get ready, the first tour begins today.

A repeat, but still adorable: Scooter hugging Mr. Stilts.

And none of the houses will include stuffed or lawn flamingos or cats (my house is not on the tour for this round).

 

A Life in the Trades: December 2010

Series introduction. October 2009. November 2009. December 2009. January 2010. February 2010. March 2010. April 2010. May 2010. June 2010. September 2010. October 2010. November 2010.

By Nicholas Bogosian

A Photo Diary of the Fall Quarter at Belmont Tech’s BPR program.

Metals class introduced us to the art of blacksmithing as well as the deterioration and preservation of various metals. Jeff Forster, guest instructor, owns a decorative ironworks and metal restoration business in Wheeling, WV.

The author at work.

Our Field Lab class in Morristown, OH gave us the opportunity to carry out sandstone foundation repairs. Improper face-bedding of the stone as well as the use of a Portland cement had caused some noticeable deterioration of the stone. The joints were repointed with an appropriate Virginia Lime Works mortar and one significantly damaged stone was given a plastic repair with a Jahn restoration product so that its cavernous face could be made sound again.

Jahn repair.

After Jahn repair.

In Windows & Doors class, damaged sashes and sills were removed from an 1880s one-room schoolhouse in Pleasant Hill, OH for repairs back at our lab space. Repairs included documentation of conditions, wood consolidation, paint removal, and re-glazing. Our final project was the creation of a paneled door with traditional mortise and tenon joinery and raised panels.

Graining & Marbling Class introduced us to the art of faux painting. Projects included sample boards of various stones and wood species. Final projects involved the creation of a “Pietra Dura” panel or stone marquetry as well as a panel with a graining and marbling combination.

And finally, my advanced material science class, which I elaborated on in my last blog, involved the conservation of structural timbers. Various techniques were carried out, including: splices/ dutchmans, WER (wood epoxy reinforcement), as well as mechanical repairs.

 

Carving out interior wood rot.

Splice/dutchman of knee brace.

 

 

BETA system repair to end rot using fiberglass rods and epoxy.

All photographs courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

A Life in the Trades: October 2010

Series introduction. October 2009. November 2009. December 2009. January 2010. February 2010. March 2010. April 2010. May 2010. June 2010. September 2010.

By Nicholas Bogosian

I have now reached the fifth quarter of my training at the Building Preservation & Restoration Program of Belmont Technical College.  That’s five out of seven.  I started this series at the beginning of my training with the intent of highlighting the trades function in the preservation of our built environment and as an open scrapbook of my experiences through the duration of the training.  I am happy to say that the zeal I came into the process with hasn’t wavered a bit.  Now the time has come to begin seeking out internships and think more forwardly about my place in the field.

Sistering rafters in historic outshed until necessary structural repairs can be made. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

It’s a true challenge to define preservation, let alone decide where you fit into its expansive net.  Preservation is not something most of us hear about growing up, or see on career placement tests.  While attending a plaster demonstration at Sarel Venter’s plaster lab in Grafton, WV last Spring, he asked us what we wanted to do when we graduated.  A few of us only had vague ideas:  “I’m not really sure” to which he replied, “That’s probably a good thing.”

Renata Bruza working iron over an anvil in Metals class. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

I know, like most of my peers, that I find satisfaction in making an unhealthy structure healthy again.  I enjoy even more knowing why it is healthier and why it was unhealthy in the first place.  This maintenance ethic may seem concrete in our minds, but I bet most of the world doesn’t view maintenance as a technical skill, a science, or an art (or even a priority).  The beauty of the craftsman is not only their ability to work with their hands – truthfully, their handiwork would have no value without the intellectual understanding of the materials they are working with.

Windows & Doors class repairing windows at an 1880s one-room schoolhouse in Pleasant Hill, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

It is not enough, however, to be proficient in the historic building trades (i.e. plastering, blacksmithing, masonry, timber framing, faux painting, etc.)  A modern preservationist (or conservator, or preservation technician) must take their knowledge of these highly specialized professions and view the building holistically and understand the process of deterioration.  What good is a plasterer’s handiwork in repairing cracks in a wall when significant differential settlement is taking place in the building?  A preservation-sensitive structural engineer would do more good.

Sandstone erosion due to face-bedding & improper Portland cement mortaring. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

At this point, if I had to describe my dream job in preservation it would be something like working for an Architectural Conservation firm that not only carries out laboratory testing of materials, but also completes the process of sensitive repairs.
I love the resolute and grounded quality of stone and the inspiring durability of wood and the careful chemistry of arranging a sophisticated three part plaster.  I love the investigation, the clues:  the face of a sandstone block exfoliating like pages of a book, the cambium layers of a hand-hewn joist letting go and falling to the ground, the way the paint bubbles on the clapboards during a heavy rainstorm.

Removing a corroded cast iron grate for repairs in metal lab. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

So I suppose the conservationist shares in the same delight of the chemist, in knowing something at its atomic and molecular level – to know something through and through.

A Life in the Trades: March 2010

Series introduction. October 2009. November 2009. December 2009. January 2010. February 2010.

By Nicholas Bogosian

In the Materials Science of Wood class at BPR this quarter, we’ve been assigned six projects: Bracket reconstruction, wood epoxy repair, dutchman repair, lathe turning, wood carving, and parquetry design. The focus of the course is to get us fully acquainted with the character of wood, the tools by which we manipulate it, its common deterioration mechanisms, and basic methods by which to conserve, preserve, and restore it. The nature of the more significant projects (bracket & parquetry) lead us into aspects of fine wood working, whereas the separate Building Carpentry class focuses on wood as a framing material in a historic context. The Building Pathology component of the program, in turn, reinforces the study of deterioration and stabilization of materials such as wood.

This month I documented the process of my bracket reconstruction. “Case by case basis” is a phrase we hear all the time in our classes. The goal of the program is to equip us with an index of options. Much like a doctor upon hearing her patient’s symptoms, she must catalogue in her brain potential causes and possible remedies. If she is a good doctor, the cause of the symptoms will be considered the first priority to solve. In the field of preservation we also have other variables dictating our actions: time, the vision of the owner of the object/property (are we restoring to mid-18th century or are we leaving “as is” and conserving what we have only?), and the budget of the owner.

In the context of my bracket reconstruction I pretty much assumed the vision of the project as a restoration of sorts. I also assumed that if any problem exists that was a direct contributor to the bracket’s complete failure/disappearance, that it has been investigated and fixed. Whereas dutchman and wood epoxy repairs are repairing a wooden object and retaining as much original fabric as possible, a reconstruction effort is dealing with recreating an object based on documentation of what used to be. Perhaps only a couple of the brackets remain. Perhaps none exist at all. If it fits the parameters of the project’s vision, the reconstruction process may begin once all proper documentation and research has been accomplished.

All documentation and research aside, I began at the drafting table rendering the bracket in detail. Generally, all profiles need to be explored. I learned very quickly in the construction process, that this time spent at the drafting table is the most difficult and most important part of the entire process. Every dentil, every depth, every component of the design must be understood in your mind and explained on the paper. If you can see its multiple layers coming together accurately, then the construction process will run much more smoothly.

A bracket’s width is determined by the height of the individual boards that compose it. A process of glue lamination will give us our bulk. Once the height of these individual boards is determined, they are planed down to the correct size. In our case we’re dealing with rough-cut Poplar. Rough-cut boards are not necessarily the dimension we need and may show signs of crooking, cupping, and bowing.

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A note on dimensional lumber…

The most cost-effective and resourceful method of dimensioning lumber in a lumber mill is the plain sawing method.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

The downside to plain sawn planks is the nature of the growth rings in relation to moisture evaporation processes. They are more prone to warping. The quarter sawn method produces a more durable cut of wood that is less prone to this warping.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

In our case, the boards are roughly plain sawn. Each face grain is planed down to the correct level in the planer which also provides a finer finish. The purpose of the planer is to give plumb dimensions on these face grains as well.

Board planer. Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

After the face grains have been planed, one edge grain per board must be joined in the joiner to remove any imperfections such as crooking. Once a single edge grain side has been joined, the other side must be trimmed off on a table saw setting the recently joined side against the fence. End grain sides may be simply trimmed on a chop saw. Now the board should be square on all sides.

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After all individual boards have their proper height, the edges are glued together with a Poly Vinyl Acetate adhesive (i.e. white glue and wood(yellow) glue). These adhesives are water based and work best on porous materials. F-clamps keep the boards in place in the drying process.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

It is best to arrange the boards in alternating end grain patterns. Should further warping occur, ideally the warpings will oppose each other and cancel themselves out.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

After the boards have dried, the process of tracing the side profile of the bracket onto these begins. I used a simple carbon paper. I needed to trace seven profiles, as seven profiles would create the width of my bracket once placed side by side.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Once the individual profiles have been cut using a scroll saw, they are aligned together and once again glued in the final lamination process.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Left to dry. Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

There might be irregular edges along this profile after the lamination process. Using a bobbin sander, the bulk of the bracket may be sanded down to a smooth and regular shape.

One component of my bracket was a turned rosette. After a block is attached to the end of the lathe, using various turning speeds and different turning chisels, my contoured shape was created. These discs were then glued to both sides of the bracket.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

In creating the decorative scrolls which flank the bracket, a 3-D carved depth illusion is given by joining two pieces: one creating the elevated portion and the other providing the backing.

Prior to cutting. Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Using a scroll saw once again, the piece is “carved out.” Once the two pieces are glued together, a simple dremel tool helped to establish even more depths in the scrolls. These too were glued to each side of the bracket.

The last decorative element of the bracket was creating the partial architrave on the top and base consisting of a simple cornice and dentil run. It is worth noting that options for replicating historic and even rare molding profiles must be indexed as well for future “case by case” assignments. Options can run the gamut from locating rare router bits, creating custom router bits, or even doing a combination of routing with existing bits in one’s collection and hand planing/shaping. All decorative trim and molding must be carefully tagged, photographed, and organized if detached from a structure in a preservation endeavor.

Once a matching router bit was found, the cornice was shaped using the router. Various miter joints must be cut with miter saws to create the corners of the cornice.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Dentil blocks can be created with a few different methods. The most time-efficient method is using a dado blade on a common table saw. The dado blade is intended to carve out the wood. The width of this uniform shape is determined by placing spacers in between two saw blades and based on the height of the saw blade. A jig is created for the assignment if not already in your jig collection. By simply passing the dentil plank inside a jig over the dado blade, the spacing in between the dentils is created accurately.

And…..I’m finished.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Spotlight: the Harnett Historical Association

Many of us preservation minded folks are fortunate to live and work with in areas already established in preservation, whether it’s through one organization or several. Our work is much easier when someone has at least taken a few steps ahead of us because then we can follow suit, increase the workload and efforts, and build upon something already there. Yes, no matter what, preservation is forever an uphill battle. Still, starting at the beginning, creating a non-profit, and convincing a county or town that historic preservation, heritage, and historic buildings can benefit everyone is the biggest hurdle.

Meeting a preservationist with an impressive list of accomplishments happens quite often; after all, this is a field where you work hard to get what you want. Meeting a preservationist who leaves the rest of us inspired and motivated happens less frequently, and is always a refreshing reminder to find such exceptional individuals. From the first time I met Thomas Ellis and Elizabeth Crudup of the Harnett Historical Association (Harnett County, North Carolina), it was obvious that they are on the path to something phenomenal.  Their energy and determination is contagious. The HHA incorporated in 2008, with Thomas Ellis as the President and Elizabeth Crudup as the Executive Director. The pair was inspired to preserve local history when they found the McKay House, a 1910 Greek Revival house, on the demolition list.

The HHA worked with Preservation North Carolina and the City of Dunn to find John and Lynette Mercer of Bluefield, West Virginia, who were eager buyers with a restoration vision.  (See this article in the Dunn Daily Record). The McKay House is a landmark in Dunn, North Carolina and it prominently sits in the small downtown next to the public library. Today, its restoration is well underway and will soon become a coffee shop and spa.

The Harnett Historical Association formed “in response to need for a protective advocacy and restoration alliance for historic properties in the area.” Its mission is “to pull historical properties from the demise that is their present condition into opportunities to represent various periods in its history with vistas throughout the county.”

The above reads plain and simple to me; in rural North Carolina and fast growing counties like Harnett, developers and planners are not often inclined to look at what is there. Instead, houses and barns are demolished and history is lost. The Harnett Historical Association is trying to change that, one house at a time. However, the HHA reaches beyond houses, too. The HHA was able to convince the City of Dunn save the Rosenwald School, which had been vacant for nearly a decade.  Through efforts of the HHA, the school has been cleaned up and the city has plans to reuse the building in the near future.

Currently, the HHA is working on getting approval from the Harnett County Board of Commissioners to go ahead with their plan for an educational, interpretive, historic site that would showcase rural North Carolina history and Overhills history. See a brief summary below. There are many logistics involved including land transfers, moving a few small buildings, and acquiring appropriate permits. These are their biggest hurdles right now.

Such a place would be an incredible addition to Harnett County. The demographics are rapidly changing as more military families move to the region, people move from the Raleigh Durham area and the county progresses. For people like me who are relatively new to the Sandhills and the tobacco farming way of life, a place to learn the heritage of the region would be invaluable.

The goals of the HHA and the “Overhills Remembered” history center are ambitious and long; it will be a challenging, but rewarding route. But, with people like Ellis and Crudup in charge, I have no doubt that it will benefit everyone in the surrounding communities. People like Ellis and Crudup embody the quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” They saw a house in need of salvation, a town in need of a deeper connection to and understanding of its heritage, and they started from the very beginning.

On Friday May 15, 2009 the HHA will go before the Harnett County Commissioners at 9am to hopefully earn their support and votes in favor of the project. This will be at 102 E Front Street in Lillington, North Carolina. If you are local, please go and show your support. If you are not a local, but believe in people like Thomas, Elizabeth, the HHA, and their efforts, please leave a comment here or email them at harnetthistoricalassociation@yahoo.com. All support is appreciated and necessary. Without people like them and their unrelenting ambition, historic preservation would not be what it is.

Thank you to the Harnett Historical Association. Good luck on Friday.

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A Brief Summary of the History Center, provided by the HHA:

The heritage that was the Overhills has mostly been ignored. With the demand for more combat ready soldiers and the immediate need to accommodate these new solders and their families, historical heritage has really taken a devastating blow in Harnett County.

But wait a ray of hope. One small square piece of land and a handful of structures are all that is available to showcase this history. Harnett Historical Association has risen to the occasion and formulated a project that will preserve and present the heritage of the Overhills in an interactive way.

The History Center will be a hamlet of the surviving Overhills historic structures not put into military use. A tobacco barn, the freight station and various dwellings will be moved to the Haire Farm location. These will be set up to narrate various scenes from day to day life in the early Overhills. This center would serve as the main educational field trip venue to the local schools.

A horse arena will accommodate stables and arena to represent the old equestrian life that prevailed in the region. It will be aptly called “The Circus”. It will have stables, dog kennels and host an array of equitation events and dog shows.

A demonstration crop grown on the property could be tobacco or even tapping turpentine from the many mature pine trees. This would give area students a chance to experience, hands on, the life of an early 20th centaury farmer.

The miniature golf course will be an adaptation of the original design of the one by the Croatan Club. This would be the last project construction project completed.

The resulting area will be not only informative but also thoroughly enjoyable by everybody. Visit our website at www.harnetthistoricalassociation.org  to learn more about our organization

Alabama #6: Vulcan Park

A series of weekly posts about Birmingham, Alabama and the surrounding area.  See Post #1,  Post #2, Post #3, Post #4, Post #5. This is Post #6.

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Vulcan Park in Birmingham, Alabama offers an expansive view of the city and is home to the world’s largest cast iron statue, named Vulcan.  As you may recall, Sloss Furnaces, also in Birmingham, is famous for its role in the iron industry. At the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham wanted to highlight its industrial accomplishments and abilities, so city leaders hired Giuseppe Moretti, an Italian immigrant already well known for large statues.  Vulcan was chosen because he is the Roman God of the Forge.  The project took only six months to complete and was ready for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.  After the World’s Fair, Vulcan was sent back to Birmingham, where he sat in a variety of locations before the WPA created a park in 1939 on Red Mountain in order to give Vulcan a respectful home in the city.

Read “About Vulcan” on the Vulcan Park and Museum website for a more detailed history and interesting facts about Vulcan including his days of holding a coke can, a pickle, a light that indicated if there was a traffic fatality that day, his variety of paint colors, ;and how the hollow statue was filled with concrete. In 1999 the Vulcan Park Foundation formed to raise money to restore Vulcan after the statue suffered from years of deterioration. The statue was disassembled, repaired, recast when necessary, and reassembled piece by piece in Vulcan Park atop the original pedestal. Since 2003, the park has been open to visitors with a history museum about Birmingham on site.

We visited Vulcan Park late in the afternoon, and thus didn’t have time to venture up to the observation deck or into the museum. However, we were able to spend time looking at the Birmingham skyline, read the historic markers, gaze at Vulcan, and explore the giant stone map that is next to the pedestal.

Vulcan

Vulcan

Although it was a cloudy afternoon, the grey skies appropriately matched Vulcan’s paint color. What immediately struck me about Vulcan was the giant antenna in very close proximity, which detracted from the viewshed. Also, the elevator/stairs to the observation deck create an odd aesthetic alteration.

Note the antenna

Note the antenna

The addition for the elevator to the observation deck

The addition for the elevator to the observation deck

Shown for scale

Shown for scale

Looking up in between Vulcan's pedestal and the addition

Looking up in between Vulcan's pedestal and the addition

However, aside from the conflicted thoughts about the addition, I enjoyed the visit to Vulcan Park. And it brings to mind interesting discussion topics about additions and accessibility and things like cell phone towers or radio antennas.  Thoughts, anyone?

While Vulcan is very impressive, my favorite part about the park was, however, the giant stone map of Birmingham. It is drawn to scale and features neighborhoods and important landmarks.

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img_4617Admission to Vulcan Park is free if you just want to walk around and not visit the museum or the observation deck. It’s a nice spot in Birmingham to learn a bit of the city’s history and get a visual overview of the city. And, who can pass up visiting the world’s largest iron statue? Now that is some roadside architecture.

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View of Birmingham from Vulcan Park