Electra

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Electra in Sanford's New York studio before delivery to Alabama

Electra is the 23-foot-tall, golden statue atop the eastern end of the tiled roof of the Alabama Power Building at 600 18th Street North.

The original plans for the building included a lighted "Alabama Power Co." sign running along the top of the ridge. Architect William Warren suggested that the board consider an alternative, a statue representing "the state of Alabama rising triumphantly in her electrical progress". The suggestion was approved by a unanimous vote.

Electra, originally entitled "Divinity of Light," was sculpted by Edward Field Sanford, Jr of New York. His design consisted of a graceful nude female holding six lightning bolts over her head. The 4,000 pound bronze casting was covered in gold leaf.

The statue was secured in place on May 10, 1926. That summer, Birmingham Post satirist "Dr. B. U. L. Conner" began a series of illustrated fanciful episodes in the courtship of Electra by Birmingham's other scantily-clad mythical colossus, Vulcan. The potholes on 18th Street were explained as the smitten god's footprints. The popular serial cemented the pair's storied connection into the city's common folklore even before Vulcan was moved to Red Mountain in the 1930s.

During construction of the Alabama Power Corporate Tower, a marble replica of Electra was commissioned for display in the atrium. Andrew Wielawski carved the figure from white Carrara marble in his studio in Italy. It is displayed on a base of black Chinese marble. The sculpture was dedicated on June 25, 1988.

In 1996 to celebrate her 70th anniversary, Electra was completely cleaned and regilded. In the Summer of 2016 Alabama Power hosted an exhibit entitled "Electra: The Divinity of Light: 1926-2016", including historic artifacts and memorabilia alongside interpretations of the figure rendered by local artists.

References

  • Tharpe, Bill (May 17, 2016) "Electra statue turns 90 years old, remains Birmingham beacon." Southern Company/Alabama NewsCenter