Chiseled physique

This sculpture of a sculptor chiseling himself out of Sylacauga marble sits outside Sylacauga's City Hall. 

Friday, Aug. 1, 8:34 a.m. — SYLACAUGA — The global reputation of this Talladega County city is based on rock — marble, to be exact. It’s long been called the Marble City because of the overwhelming amount of pristine, white marble on which it sits. (It’s part of the Murphy Marble Belt, 32 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.)

Visitors who drive through Sylacauga on Alabama 21 can’t miss the obvious.

On Main Street — Alabama 21’s local name — the Marble City Grill does a brisk business downtown. Up the road on the left is the city’s municipal center. A sign out front reads, “Welcome to The Marble City.” Nearby are two prominent marble statues.

One memorializes the Hodges meteorite that fell through the roof of a house here in 1954. The other, named “Sylacauga Emerging,” is an impressive depiction of a shirtless, well-muscled working man wielding a large hammer. It’s the type of public art that gives this Alabama city, population 12,500 or so, a little panache. It wouldn’t work everywhere, but it works here. Unsurprisingly, Sylacauga’s sister city is Pietrasanta, Italy, another marble-carving Mecca.

Alabama 21 in Sylacauga (incorporated in 1838) passes through a collection of stately, Southern homes shaded by large trees — think Quintard Avenue in Anniston — the library, several banks, churches and businesses, and Sylacauga High’s stadium. U.S. 280, to the west, contains newer developments and businesses like a Home Depot, a Zaxby’s and a Holiday Inn. But to a visitor, Alabama 21 seems to rest near Sylacauga’s heart.

— Phillip Tutor