Winter 2010
Volume 23
Inside this issue:
• The Magic Begins: The history of Vulcan
The Magic Stops: Vulcan is dismantled
• The Magic Starts Again: Vulcan is restored
• The Magic Grows Stronger: An Armature is added
• The Magic Returns: Vulcan is Re-Erected

Bringing Back the Magic: Restoring Giuseppe Moretti’s Vulcan Birmingham, Alabama

The Magic Begins: The History of Vulcan

In 1903 Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti was commissioned by Commercial Club of Birmingham, Alabama, to create a monumental cast-iron sculpture of Vulcan, the Roman god of the forge, for display in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. The statue was to symbolize the city's iron-and-steel making capabilities. At 56 feet in height, Vulcan towered over the other exhibits in the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy and won the Grand Prize.

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The Magic Stops: Vulcan is Dismantled

In September 1999 the city of Birmingham contracted with Robinson Iron to dismantle the statue and remove the concrete. At that time the city had the funds available only for the disassembly; whether or not Vulcan would eventually be restored was unknown. In preparation for the removal, a re-milled asphalt ramp was installed to reduce the grade to an angle suitable for two large cranes to reach the base of the pedestal. A 200-ton hydraulic crawler crane was used to hoist men and tools via a four person basket to the required height of 180 feet, the combined height of the statue and the pedestal. A 250-ton conventional fixed-boom crane was assembled on site and used to lift the components as they were dismantled.

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The Magic Starts Again: Vulcan is Restored

In 1999 a group of prominent Birmingham citizens formed the Vulcan Park Foundation. The organization’s mission was to raise funds to restore the statue and build a new educational center in Vulcan Park to tell the story of Birmingham's industrial past. In the fall of 2001 Robinson Iron was contracted to restore the statue as closely as possible to its 1904 configuration, reinforce its interior, and re-coat and reassemble the statue on the restored 1938 pedestal. After transporting the components the 65 miles from Birmingham to Alexander City, paint-layer samples were obtained and engineers began the design of a new stainless-steel armature system for Vulcan’s interior.

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The Magic Grows Stronger: An Armature is Added

The design and construction of an interior supplemental support and anchorage system for Vulcan was the most difficult phase of the restoration. Two custom waterjet-cut 1 3/4-inch-thick stainless-steel plates, 3 inches larger than the footprint provided support for the statue and a flange for a total of forty-six 1 1/4-inch anchor bolts. Two rectangular stainless-steel columns, 10 inches by 14 inches with a 2-inch-thick wall section were welded to the base plates along with 1-inch web flange supports. When inserted into the legs, the columns provided support for a series of 1-inch waterjet-cut plates located at the casting joints. The matching plates were connected to one another with 4 by 4 by 3/8- inch angles, thus forming a truss configuration. The plates also provided flange supports to the cast iron. Holes in the flange supports were oversized to allow for movement resulting from the slight difference in the coefficient of expansion between cast iron and stainless steel. The armature system was designed by Robinson engineers with the assistance of structural calculations provided by Tucker and Jones Structural Engineers of Birmingham.

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The Magic Returns: Vulcan is Re-Erected

The re-anchorage of the statue to the pedestal was accomplished by completely coring through the 4-to-6-footthick pedestal cap to reach the void below. One-inch stainless-steel plates were used in the void as washers for the 26 11/4-inch stainless steel all-thread rods. In addition, 20 11/4-inch by 18-inch deep anchors were cored into areas where the holes in the anchor plates were located over solid walls. The shorter bolts were set in Hilti HY 500 epoxy.

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