Road Trips through History: A Collection of Essays from Preservation Magazine

Article excerpt

Road Trips Through History: A Collection of Essays from Preservation Magazine. By Dwight Young. (Washington, D.C.: National Trust For Historic Preservation, 2003. Pp. 115; $15.00, paper.)

Probably not one of the most famous, and certainly not one of the most important, pieces of sculpture resides in Birmingham, Alabama. At fifty-seven feet tall, Vulcan is the largest iron sculpture in the world, created by Giuseppe Moretti for the St. Louis World's Fair. (Unfortunately, when the fair opened in 1904, only Vulcan's lower legs were in place.) When the fair closed, workers disassembled Vulcan and shipped him off to Birmingham. He stayed in pieces for two years before being reassembled (incorrectly) and put on display at the state fairgrounds. There he advertised a variety of products before the Works Progress Administration created a more suitable home for him on Birmingham's Red Mountain. He stayed there, sometimes holding an electric beacon that glowed red to indicate a traffic fatality, slowing deteriorating. In 1999 workers took Vulcan down to begin a much needed restoration project.

This is an example of Dwight Young's work. In fifty-four essays, which appeared over ten years on the back page of Preservation magazine, Young explores important but often overlooked and sometimes lost pieces of American history. In a piece entitled "Looking Injustice in the Face," he writes of the recently designated national historic site at Inyo County, California-Manzanar. In World War II it served as one of the internment camps for Japanese Americans who were rounded up on the West Coast and sent inland after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I have never been to Manzanar, but I did live in Alabama for a time in the 1970s and recently had the opportunity to visit Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham where a series of sculptures dramatically depict the violence and the confrontation of the civil rights movement. Young's words brought my visit to the park back, along with the memories and the sadness for the pain and injustice inflicted by my society on its black members. I believe his words about Manzanar are as accurate and as moving.

In a more lighthearted treatment, Young wrote three pieces on movies and movie houses. In one he combined information about the Donna Reed festival in Denison, Iowa, with his growing-up years in Texas. He went to two theaters in Plainview: the State, a small, plain theater; and the Granada, a palace in which the auditorium resembled a Spanish village under a twinkling, star-filled sky. …