Getting to Know Birmingham

The metal monuments that pepper the city of Birmingham, Alabama make for interesting guideposts. They stand in different districts and neighborhoods around the city, as symbols of history and beacons of culture, drawing visitors and locals to the surrounding spice of life.
The Storyteller's Fountain in Five Points is one of the strangest attractions in Birmingham

Funky Statues & Other Fun Finds

To many, the idea of trekking around Birmingham to find and admire historic statues would be a boring way to spend the day. They’d be right—if the statues around Birmingham were boring and not conveniently located near local watering holes. It’s easy and entertaining to make a day out of hunting down the odd statue (or three) while keeping an eye out for hidden gems. Some of the most prominent attractions in Birmingham are the strangest, and some of them are pant-less—so there’s that.

See the famous Vulcan statue overlooking Birmingham, AL

Moon Over the Magic City

There is a correlation between the 56-foot tall iron man on Red Mountain and the moniker the “Magic City.” Is it self-explanatory? Not really. Is he a wizard holding his wand aloft? Nope. He is Vulcan, Roman god of the Forge.  Due to the proximity of the raw materials for making iron and steel, industry and population in Birmingham boomed. The city grew at a magical rate and the statue emphasizes the industry responsible for its success. Vulcan now commands a dignified spot overlooking the city, but conservative southern sensibilities weren’t always so accepting of his Roman attire (or lack there-of). Even today, his large-scale bare bottom is shocking to behold up close and personal in Vulcan Park.

After enjoying the view from the park it might be wise cool down with a drink in nearby SOHO (Southern Homewood). Sipping a John Daly or a Moscow Mule on the patio of Jackson’s Bar & Bistro should do the trick.

Downtown Diversity

Another shiny hiney waits downtown. “Divinity of Light” (affectionately dubbed ‘Miss Electra’ by locals) stands in nude, golden glory on top of the Alabama Power building on the corner of 18th St. N and 6th Ave N. Standing 20 stories high and armed with smite-ready lightning bolts, she’s an impressive sight, especially from a bit of a distance at night.

A less intimidating metal man waits a few blocks over from Electra’s throwing arm. Eddie Kendrick, lead singer of the Temptations and Birmingham native, earned himself a statue to commemorate his Motown moves. He stands mid-performance on the corner of 18th street and 4th Ave. N. with his music pumping from speakers around the memorial. Strike a pose and try to hit a note with Eddie before heading down to 2nd Ave. N to wet your whistle at Das Haus.

What do the statues of a giant golden woman and a Motown legend have in common? Almost nothing—except their proximity to an authentic German bar in Birmingham, AL. Daus Haus, serves traditional German food and has a huge selection of German bottled beer.

Streetcar Suburb in Southside

When streetcar lines ran through Birmingham the lines from downtown and Highland Avenue and other residential areas intersected at Five Points South Circle. Today, storyteller fountain (pictured at top) is the telltale landmark of Five Points South (it actually says Five Points South on the cement retaining wall surrounding the fountain).  The sculptural fountain depicts a man with the head of a ram telling a story to an array of gathered animals. According to the plaque affixed to the fountain: “Storytelling is a deeply rooted Southern heritage. The animals are listening to a story intended to convey the idea of a peaceable kingdom.” Art is subject to interpretations (sometimes unfortunately) and urban myths about satanic associations have risen. Some call him Satan, the homeless call him “Bob,” and some just call him a conversation piece (me). And a good place to have that conversation is the courtyard at The Garage Cafe.

Unique inside and out, The Garage Cafe on 10th Terrace S. feels like the ultimate find in Southside (really, it’s easy to miss). Inside, the bar is a character-covered hole in the wall with typical entertaining “poetry” on the bathroom walls. However, the true treasure is the atmosphere out back. Walk through the wardrobe (typical glass doors) and discover: Narnia! The Secret Garden! Terabithia! A cozy courtyard to have lunch in! A dreamy place to share a nightcap under the stars! (I love this courtyard!) Surrounding the courtyard, and scattered throughout, are antique treasures big and small. Many of them are behind glass doors around the perimeter. Do not miss the Garage. The atmosphere at this bar makes it feel like the reason Birmingham is called the “magic city.”

Want more Birmingham history and oddities? Check out Beverly Crider’s blog at al.com. While you’re out exploring more great attractions in Birmingham, quench your thirst with one of the city’s fabulous Bloody Marys.

Photos courtesy of Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau

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