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“Very Cool, Great for Photographers” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark
20 32nd St N, Birmingham, AL 35222
205 324 1911
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Ranked #13 of 30 Attractions in Birmingham
Type: Historic Sites, Landmarks/ Points of Interest, Landmarks
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Owner description: Historic iron manufacturing facility
Atlanta
Top Contributor
172 reviews 172 reviews
24 attraction reviews
Reviews in 41 cities Reviews in 41 cities
64 helpful votes 64 helpful votes
“Very Cool, Great for Photographers”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2014

I'd heard a lot about Sloss Furnaces from fellow shutterbugs, so when I had the chance to visit at night with my photography group, I snapped up the chance. Here's the scoop: 1) it's FREE! 2) it's self guided and 3) there is a restroom and gift shop onsite. I've heard that Sloss hosts concerts and special events. I bet that's pretty cool, too.

The best thing to do is to grab a map in the reception area, then head out and explore. Watch where you're walking. There are hanging metal pipes above and uneven footing below. Make sure you go underground. There are some cool tunnel spots that are really interesting and will make great photos. Definitely bring your tripod! Also, lots of great lines, textures from the cracking and peeling of the rust.

Follow the map and hit all of the suggested spots. There are informational signs at each spot that explains what was happening when this site was functioning and tells you about the people who worked here. You can also learn why it's called pig iron!

One quick note about the bathrooms -- they were in pretty bad shape when we got there. No TP and the soap dispenser was dirty, looks like it's been filled and refilled about a million times. I mentioned it to the lady working there. She apologized and quickly went into action.

Visited March 2014
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English first
New England
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
24 attraction reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
“Really cool”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 22, 2014

I can't even imagine how hot it was working at Sloss during the 19th century. What I can imagine is how interesting it is to walk around a piece of Southern industrial history. Take an hour and absorb this fascinating and slightly haunting giant factory of old.

Visited February 2014
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NYC
Top Contributor
77 reviews 77 reviews
33 attraction reviews
Reviews in 45 cities Reviews in 45 cities
82 helpful votes 82 helpful votes
“great potential, but get your tetanus shot booster”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed January 19, 2014

I arrived after a day of Civil Rights sightseeing and hoped to join a tour. however, the tour guide was "out sick," and I ended up taking a self-guided telephone tour. No problem.

this is a huge, abandoned industrial site which has got to be a photographer's dream come true. The shapes, voids, pipes, industrial parts, screws and bolts, ladders and stacks... all of it is so visually fascinating that you could take photos here all day. Or use it as a backdrop for any number of shoots.

There are some downsides, however. First, the self-guided tour is hard to follow (meaning, it's hard to know where to go next, directions are vague. there should be arrows or something. Also there are lots of detours too.

Let me explain further - this is truly and abandoned industrial site. Like, they didn't spruce it up for tours, which is what makes it so awesome. BUT, it's really not intended for random people to traipse around like this. There are - LITERALLY - rusty metal pipe shards. There are broken windows that you could just grab on to. There are stairways that are crooked and lead to almost-pitch-dark tunnels. there are stories-tall pieces of equipment that you can explore. You know how when you go to a 2nd or 3rd world country you'll find yourself somewhere thinking, "wow, in the USA they'd never get away with this." seriously, that is what this was. The whole time I'm thinking, "how the HECK does the Department-of-whatever-controls-this find this safe? No hard hats, no steel-toe-boots, and no required note from your doctor saying you have a tetanus shot." It was insanity. There was even a box of old chainsaws (chains and power removed) for, what I assume, you to pose with. I can't stress this enough, the site was so cool but I felt like a rebellious teenager trespassing in a very precarious place. It was NOT NORMAL.

It was also hard to learn about the process of the furnace through the self-guided tour, partially because it was nearly impossible to follow the stops in order without better markings, and partly because there was no Q&A (obviously), so I'd encourage you to try to take a guided tour if possible and then re-explore the nooks and crannies on your own afterward if you feel so inclined.

Also there are several bulldozers, backhoes, etc. that little boys would be thrilled to see...if you trust their safety here.

Visited January 2014
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Peachtree City, Georgia
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46 reviews 46 reviews
31 attraction reviews
Reviews in 32 cities Reviews in 32 cities
71 helpful votes 71 helpful votes
“The Sleeping Giant”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 14, 2014

I was staying in Birmingham overnight because of a show at the Bottletree. And as I drove to the club on a foggy night, I saw the towers of Sloss silhouetted against the night sky. I took it all in and thought, "I've gotta visit that place!" And the next morning, I did.

I was the first car into Sloss, right at opening, and indeed they opened the gate for me. The rep asked me why I wanted to visit Sloss, and I told him that I knew iron was what made Birmingham and I wanted to learn more about the role it played (I left out the part about the fact that I just thought it looked really cool). When he found out I work as an engineer, he immediately took me to be much smarter than I actually am and gave me a good crash course in iron making. Even with the self-guided book and the video, his talk was the best and most informative part of my time there. He covered not only the manufacturing but the work conditions, the use of Sloss materials around Alabama, and hands-on examples of iron components, products, and by-products. I wholeheartedly recommend engaging in conversation, and even if you aren't an engineer, say you are. The best lie you will tell in Alabama, I assure you.

Of course, the walk through Sloss was like nothing I'd witnessed previously. It's not every day you get to wander a massive industrial abandonment. There is just something mysterious about wandering such atypical architecture - it's almost like a turn-of-the-century Stonehenge in its feel, so unlike life in the US now.

Of course, we're just looking at the impressive ruins, but think about this place going full blast for 100 years continuously. Think of the guys who worked in grueling conditions in the same area where we now casually stroll, snapping photos. Think of the multiracial blend doing the grunt work only to break and go home completely separately, while the management embodied the typical thoughts of the 20th Century South at its nadir. And yet think of this city, built literally and figuratively from the riches of its deposits, melted on site. There are so many things to think about, the spirit of it waiting to take you in whichever direction you choose. And you, all you have to do is go there - the history and the industrial landscape do everything else.

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Top Contributor
259 reviews 259 reviews
79 attraction reviews
Reviews in 94 cities Reviews in 94 cities
148 helpful votes 148 helpful votes
“Really big broken furnace”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed December 14, 2013

Nice, historically important, but not necessary to spend a lot of time there as it is somewhat dry in terms of entertainment value.
Glad we went, a pleasant hour of history.

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