The Story Behind the Alabama Power Building in Birmingham
Name: Alabama Power Building
Location: Birmingham, AL
Date Built: 1925
The Alabama Power Building might catch your eye because of the golden goddess perched on top. It worked on me. I spotted her from across the city and it was immediately obvious that I needed to know more.
The Alabama Power Building was designed by the same company responsible for Jordan-Hare: Warren, Knight & Davis (other notable projects include The Club and the Protective Life Building). At 217 feet, the Alabama Power Building is the 17th largest building in Birmingham. However, it stands out from the rest of the buildings because of its unique Art Deco style architecture — focusing on geometric patterns and vertical lines.
Another feature of Art Deco architecture is the use of statues and sculptures. This is best represented by the most notable figure on the Alabama Power Building — Electra. Electra was sculpted by New York sculptor Edward Field Sanford Jr. who lovingly referred to her as “The Divinity of Light.” Dedicated on May 10, 1926, Electra stands 23 feet tall, weighs 4,000 pounds, holds lightning bolts in her hands and is rumored to be the nighttime lover of another popular Birmingham statue, Vulcan. Their adventures were documented by the Birmingham Post newspaper in a satirical cartoon called “The Love Story of Vulcan and Electra.”
Fun Fact: The original building plans included a lighted “Alabama Power Co.” sign. Thankfully, Architect William Warren suggested that the board consider an alternative.
The Alabama Power Building was restored and expanded between 1988 and 1990. When the new glass atrium was constructed, executives decided they wanted a marble replica of Electra to display. They selected Andrew Wielawski, an American sculptor living and working in Carrara, Italy, for the project. Working from pure white statuario marble from the same quarry used by Michelangelo, the project took a year to complete.
Electra isn’t the only statue decorating the exterior of the Alabama Power Building. Located along the 18th Street entrance, carved into limestone, are three 8-foot tall statues. Each statue is holding a different item, meant to work together and represent Power, Light and Heat.
Other notable features of the building include floral relief patterns in the limestone, a marble monogram in the entrance walk-way, and a museum showcasing photos and artifacts from Alabama Power’s history.