The Big Spring, the center of the street plan in Twickenham (renamed "Huntsville" in 1812)
Twickenham was carefully planned, with streets laid out on the northeast to southwest direction based on the flow of Big Spring. However, due to anti-British sentiment during this period, the name was changed to "Huntsville" to honor John Hunt, who had been forced to move to other land south of the new city.
In 1811, Huntsville became the first incorporated town in Alabama. However, the recognized "founding" year of the city is 1805, the year of John Hunt's arrival. The city's sesquicentennial anniversary was held in 1955, and the bicentennial was celebrated in 2005.
Wade House, 1939, by Frances Benjamin Johnston
David Wade arrived in Huntsville in 1817. He built the David Wade House on the north side of what is now Bob Wade Lane (Robert B. Wade was David's grandson) just east of Mt. Lebanon Road. It had six rough Doric columns on the portico.
During the Great Depression, the house was measured as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) to be included in the government's Archive and was photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston for the project. This project put architects, draftsmen, and photographers to work to create an inventory of documentation and photographs of significant properties across the country. The house had already been abandoned for years and was considerably deteriorated. It was torn down in 1952. Today only the antebellum smokehouse, an imposing structure itself, survives at the property.
Huntsville's quick growth was from wealth generated by the cotton and railroad industries. Many wealthy planters moved into the area from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas. In 1819, Huntsville hosted a constitutional convention in Walker Allen's large cabinetmaking shop. The 44 delegates meeting there wrote a constitution for the new state of Alabama. In accordance with the new state constitution, Huntsville became Alabama's first capital when the state was admitted to the Union. This was a temporary designation for one legislative session only. The capital was moved to more central cities: to Cahawba, then to Tuscaloosa, and finally to Montgomery.
Huntsville initially opposed secession from the Union in 1861, but provided many men for the Confederacy's efforts. The 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment, led by Col. Egbert J. Jones of Huntsville, distinguished itself at the Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, the first major encounter of the American Civil War. The Fourth Alabama Infantry, which contained two Huntsville companies, were the first Alabama troops to fight in the war and were present when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. Eight generals of the war were born in or near Huntsville, evenly split with four on each side.
On the morning of April 11, 1862, Union troops led by General Ormsby M. Mitchel seized Huntsville in order to sever the Confederacy's rail communications and gain access to the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. Huntsville was the control point for the Western Division of the Memphis & Charleston, and by controlling this railroad the Union had a direct connection to Charleston, South Carolina.
During the first occupation, the Union officers occupied many of the larger homes in the city while the other men camped on the outskirts. In the initial occupation, the Union troops searched for both Confederate troops hiding in the town and weapons. After they had established themselves, the occupying federals did not burn or pillage the city of Huntsville, though towns around it were sometimes targeted. Treatment toward the town was actually civil.
The Union troops were forced to retreat some months later, but returned to Huntsville in the fall of 1863 and thereafter used the city as a base of operations for the remainder of the war. While many homes and villages in the surrounding countryside were burned in retaliation for the active guerrilla warfare in the area, Huntsville itself was spared because it housed elements of the Union Army.
After the Civil War, Huntsville became a center for cottontextile mills, such as Lincoln, Dallas, and Merrimack. Each mill company constructed worker housing, in communities that included schools, churches, grocery stores, theaters, and hardware stores, all within walking distance of the mill. In some of these, workers were required to buy goods at the company stores, which sometimes overcharged them. The mill owners could throw out workers from housing if they violated policies about behavior.
Robert Mosley, an African-American man, was hanged in Huntsville on March 22, 1890 by a white lynch mob. He was among the 10 black men lynched in Madison County, Alabama from 1877 to 1950. Most were killed by this form of racial terrorism in the decades around the turn of the century.
A dairy cow called Lily Flagg broke the world record for butter production in 1892. Her Huntsville-resident owner General Samuel H. Moore painted his house butter yellow and organized a party to celebrate, arranging for electric lights for the dance floor. An area south of Huntsville was named Lily Flagg before 1906. This area was later annexed by the city.
Great Depression 1930s
During the 1930s, industry declined in Huntsville due to the Great Depression. Huntsville became known as the Watercress Capital of the World because of its abundant harvest in the area. Madison County led Alabama in cotton production during this time.
World War II
By 1940, Huntsville was still relatively small, with a population of about 13,000 inhabitants. This quickly changed in early 1941 when the U.S. Army selected 35,000 acres (140 km2) of land adjoining the southwest area of the city for building three chemical munitions facilities: the Huntsville Arsenal, the Redstone Ordnance Plant (soon redesignated Redstone Arsenal), and the Gulf Chemical Warfare Depot. These operated throughout World War II, with combined personnel approaching 20,000. Resources in the area were strained as new workers flocked to the area, and the construction of housing could not keep up.
At the end of the war in 1945, the munitions facilities were no longer needed. They were combined with the designation Redstone Arsenal (RSA), and a considerable political and business effort was made in attempts to attract new tenants. One significant start involved manufacturing the Keller automobile, but this closed after 18 vehicles were built. With the encouragement of US Senator John Sparkman, the U.S. Army Air Force considered this for a major testing facility, but then selected another site. Redstone Arsenal was prepared for disposal, but Sparkman used his considerable Southern Democratic influence (the Solid South controlled numerous powerful chairmanships of congressional committees) to persuade the Army to choose it as a site for rocket and missile development.
In 1950, about 1,000 personnel were transferred from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Redstone Arsenal to form the Ordnance Guided Missile Center (OGMC). Central to this was a group of about 200 German scientists and engineers, led by Wernher von Braun; they had been brought to America by Colonel Holger Toftoy under Operation Paperclip following World War II. Assigned to the center at Huntsville, they settled and reared families in this area.
As the Korean War started, the OGMC was given the mission to develop what eventually became the Redstone Rocket. This rocket set the stage for the United States' space program, as well as major Army missile programs, to be centered in Huntsville. Toftoy, then a brigadier general, commanded OGMC and the overall Redstone Arsenal. In early 1956, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under Major General John Medaris was formed.
The city is nicknamed "The Rocket City" for its close association with U.S. space missions. On January 31, 1958, ABMA placed America's first satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit using a Jupiter-C launch vehicle, a descendant of the Redstone. This brought national attention to Redstone Arsenal and Huntsville, with widespread recognition of this being a major center for high technology.
On July 1, 1960, 4,670 civilian employees, associated buildings and equipment, and 1,840 acres (7.4 km2) of land transferred from ABMA to form NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). Wernher von Braun was MSFC's initial director. On September 8, President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally dedicated the MSFC.
During the 1960s, the major mission of MSFC was in developing the Saturn boosters used by NASA in the Apollo Lunar Landing Program. For this, MSFC greatly increased its employees, and many new companies joined the Huntsville industrial community. The Cummings Research Park was developed just north of Redstone Arsenal to partially accommodate this industrial growth, and has now became the second-largest research park of this type in America.
Huntsville's economy was nearly crippled and growth almost came to a standstill in the 1970s following the closure of the Apollo program. However, the emergence of the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, and a wide variety of advanced research in space sciences led to a resurgence in NASA-related activities that has continued into the 21st century. In addition, new Army organizations have emerged at Redstone Arsenal, particularly in the ever-expanding field of missile defense.
Now in the 2000s, Huntsville has the second largest technology and research park in the nation, and ranks among the top 25 most educated cities in the nation. It is considered in the top of the nation's high-tech hotspots, and one of the best Southern city for defense jobs, It is the number one location for happy engineers with high average salary and low median gross rent.
More than 25 biotechnology firms have developed in Huntsville due to the Huntsville Biotech Initiative. The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is the centerpiece of the 150-acre Cummings Research Park Biotech Campus, part of the 4,000-acre Cummings Research Park, which is second only to North Carolina's Research Triangle Park in land area. The non-profit HudsonAlpha Institute has contributed genomics and genetics work to the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE). For-profit business ventures within the Biotech Campus focus on subjects such as infectious disease diagnostics, immune responses to disease and cancer, protein crystallization, lab-on-a-chip technologies, and improved agricultural technologies. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) created a doctoral program in biotechnology to help develop scientists to support HudsonAlpha in addition to the emerging biotechnology economy in Huntsville. The university's strategic plan has biotechnology as one of its emerging fields for future education and research.
Situated in the Tennessee River valley, Huntsville is partially surrounded by several plateaus and large hills. These plateaus are associated with the Cumberland Plateau, and are locally called "mountains". Monte Sano Mountain (Spanish for "Mountain of Health") is the most notable, and is east of the city along with Round Top (Burritt), Chapman, Huntsville, and Green mountains. Others are Wade Mountain to the north, Rainbow Mountain to the west, and Weeden and Madkin mountains on the Redstone Arsenal property in the south. Brindley Mountain is visible in the south across the Tennessee River.
As with other areas along the Cumberland Plateau, the land around Huntsville is karst in nature. The city was founded around the Big Spring, which is a typical karst spring. Many caves perforate the limestone bedrock underneath the surface, as is common in karst areas. The National Speleological Society is headquartered in Huntsville.
The city is primarily surrounded by unincorporated land. The following incorporated areas border parts of the city:
Huntsville is near the center of a large area of the U.S. mid-South that has maximum precipitation in the winter and spring, not summer. Average yearly precipitation is more than 54 inches. On average, the wettest single month is December, but Huntsville has a prolonged wetter season from November to April, with (on average) 5 or more inches of precipitation each of those months. The relatively drier months are from August to October. Droughts can occur in the summer, but usually there is enough rainfall to keep things very lush and humid. Much of Huntsville's precipitation is delivered by thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are most frequent during the spring, and the most severe storms occur during the spring and late fall. These storms can deliver large hail, damaging straight-line winds, and tornadoes. Huntsville lies in a region colloquially known as Dixie Alley, an area more prone to violent, long-track tornadoes than most other parts of the US.
Since Huntsville is nearly 300 miles (480 km) inland, hurricanes rarely arrive with their full force; however, many weakened tropical storms cross the area after a U.S. Gulf Coast landfall. While most winters have some measurable snow, heavy snow is rare in Huntsville. However, there have been some unusually heavy snowstorms, like the New Year's Eve 1963 snowstorm, when 17 in (43 cm) fell within 24 hours. Likewise, the Blizzard of 1993 and the Groundhog Day snowstorm in February 1996 were substantial winter events for Huntsville. On Christmas Day 2010, Huntsville recorded over 4 inches (10 cm) of snow, and on January 9-10, 2011 it received from 8.9 inches (23 cm) at the airport and up to 10 inches (25 cm) in the suburbs.
Climate data for Huntsville, Alabama (1981-2010 normals, extremes - 1907-present)
As of the census of 2000, there were 158,216 people, 66,742 households, and 41,713 families residing in the city. The population density was 909.0 people per square mile (351.0/km2). There were 73,670 housing units at an average density of 423.3 per square mile (163.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 64.47% White, 30.21% Black or African American, 0.54% Native American, 2.22% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.04% of the population. Non-Hispanic Whites were 58% of the population in 2010, compared to 86.9% in 1970.
There were 66,742 households out of which 27.6% had children living with them, 45.5% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.5% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.91. Same-sex couple households comprised 0.5% of all households.
Map of racial distribution in Huntsville, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)
As of the census of 2010, there were 180,105 people, 77,033 households, and 45,416 families residing in the city. The population density was 857.6 people per square mile (332.7/km2). There were 84,949 housing units at an average density of 405.3 per square mile (156.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 60.3% White, 31.2% Black or African American, 0.6% Native American, 2.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.9% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.8% of the population.
There were 77,033 households out of which 24.9% had children living with them, 40.1% were married couples living together, 14.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.0% were non-families. 34.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.91.
Huntsville's Administration Building, also known as City Hall
The current mayor of Huntsville is Tommy Battle, who was first elected in 2008 and then re-elected in 2012 and 2016. The City Administrator is John Hamilton, who replaced Rex Reynolds on January 1, 2014 when Reynolds retired. The city has a five-member/district City Council. The current members are:
District 1 (Northwest): Devyn S. Keith
District 2 (East): Runoff Happening October 9, 2018
District 3 (Southeast): Dr. Jennie Robinson
District 4 (Southwest): Bill Kling, Jr.
District 5 (West): Will Culver
The council had not voted on president, since the retirement of Mark Russell, who was from District 2, and served as City Council President from 2003-August 2018.
Council elections are staggered, meaning that Districts 2, 3, and 4 had elections in August 2018, while Districts 1 and 5 had elections simultaneously with mayoral elections in 2020.
The city has boards and commissions which control everything from schools and planning to museums and downtown development.
In July 2007, then Senator Barack Obama held the first fundraiser in Alabama for his Presidential campaign in Huntsville. Obama ended up winning the Alabama Democratic Primary and Madison County by large margins in 2008. However, in the general election, John McCain carried Madison County with 57% of the vote.
In 2007, Mayor Loretta Spencer combined the police, fire, and animal services departments to create the Department of Public Safety. The former chief of police was appointed as its director. The new department has nearly 900 employees and an annual budget of $63 million.
The Huntsville Fire and Rescue provides fire protection for the city. On a daily basis the department staffs and coordinates nineteen engine companies, five ladder trucks, four rescue trucks, along with a Special Operations Division that includes Hazardous Materials Units, Technical Rescue Units, and several specialized support units. Huntsville Fire & Rescue also has Fire Investigations, emergency response dispatch, logistics, and training divisions, all of which are diverse, innovative and efficient. Many Huntsville firefighters are members of the regional Hazardous Materials and Heavy Rescue response teams. The day-to-day operations of the department are currently carried out by the department's Fire Chief.
Huntsville Emergency Medical Services Inc.(HEMSI) provides emergency services to Huntsville and surrounding Madison county. HEMSI operates 17 ALS ambulance crews, 2 BLS ambulance crews, and 1 wheel chair transport from 12 stations located in Huntsville and Madison County. HEMSI also operates 1 ALS ambulance crew at The Marshall Space Flight Center located on Redstone Arsenal.
The Huntsville Police Department has 3 precincts and 1 downtown HQ, 400 sworn officers, 150 civilian personnel, and patrols an area of 194.7+ square miles (this number has grown due to recent annexations).
The Huntsville Police Academy has been in operation since 1965. In 2014, the academy had graduated 53 basic classes and 7 lateral classes.
In 2005, Forbes magazine named the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area as 6th best in the nation for doing business, and number one in terms of the number of engineers per total employment. In 2006, Huntsville dropped to 14th; the prevalence of engineers was not considered in the 2006 ranking.
Cited as "Restore Our Roads", the city of Huntsville, between 2014 and 2019, will perform about $383 million worth of road construction to improve the transportation infrastructure. Some of the funds for the road work comes from an increase in sales tax, while others come from various sources including the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program. Major road projects include:
Additional road projects include reconstructing Holmes Avenue over Pinhook Creek, widening Zierdt, Martin and Winchester Roads, widening Old Madison Pike from Cummings Research Park to the city of Madison, relocating and widening Church Street north of Downtown, relocating Wynn Drive to allow an extension of the Calhoun Community College campus, various improvements along US 431 north of Hampton Cove, creating a new Downtown Gateway with the extension of Harvard Road from Governors Drive to Williams Avenue to create a direct connection to Downtown, and extending Weatherly Road to the new Grissom High School.
In 2015, Alabama and Huntsville were not considered bicycle friendly. There are bike paths for exercise available. Huntsville government is working to improve bicycle network within the city limits.
Public transit in Huntsville is run by the city's Department of Parking and Public Transit. The Huntsville Shuttle runs 11 fixed routes throughout the city, mainly around downtown and major shopping areas like Memorial Parkway and University Drive and has recently expanded some of the buses to include bike racks on the front for a trial program. A trolley makes stops at tourist attractions and shopping centers. The city runs HandiRide, a demand-response transit system for the handicapped, and RideShare, a county-wide carpooling program.
Another rail line, formerly part of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N), successor to the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway (NC&StL), is being operated by the Huntsville and Madison County Railroad Authority (HMCRA). The line connects to the Norfolk Southern line downtown and runs 13 miles (21 km) south, passing near Ditto Landing on the Tennessee River, and terminating at Norton Switch, near Hobbs Island. This service, in continuous operation since 1894, presently hauls freight and provides transloading facilities at its downtown depot location. Until the mid-1950s, the L&N provided freight and passenger service to Guntersville and points South. The rail cars were loaded onto barges at Hobbs Island. The barge tows were taken upstream through the Guntersville Dam & Locks and discharged at Port Guntersville. Remnants of the track supporting piers still remain in the river just upstream from Hobbs Island. The service ran twice daily. L&N abandoned the line in 1984, at which time it was acquired by the newly created HMCRA, a state agency.
A third line, the Mercury and Chase Railroad, runs 10-mile (16 km) weekend tourist rides on part of another former NC&StL and L&N line from the North Alabama Railroad Museum's Chase Depot, located in the community of Chase, Alabama. Their collection includes one of the oldest diesel locomotives in existence (1926). The rail line originally connected Huntsville to NC&StL's Nashville-to-Chattanooga mainline in Decherd, Tennessee. The depot was once the smallest union station in the United States when it served the NC&StL and Memphis and Charleston Railroad, the predecessor to the Norfolk Southern.
Telephone service in Huntsville is provided by AT&T, EarthLink, WOW!, and Comcast. Comcast and WOW! are the two cable providers in the Huntsville city limits. Mediacom operates in rural outlying areas. AT&T announced the start of its DSL U-verse service in the Huntsville-Decatur metro area in November 2010.
Media and communications
The Huntsville Times has been Huntsville's only daily newspaper since 1996, when the Huntsville News closed. Before then, the News was the morning paper, and the Times was the afternoon paper until 2004. The Times has a weekday circulation of 60,000, which rises to 80,000 on Sundays. Both papers were owned by the Newhouse chain.
In May 2012, Advance Publications, owner of the Times, announced that the Times would become part of a new company called the Alabama Media Group, along with the other three newspapers and two websites owned by Advance. As part of the change, the newspapers moved to a three-day publication schedule, with print editions available only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The Huntsville Times and its sister papers publish news and information 7 days a week on AL.com.
A few alternative newspapers are available in Huntsville. The Valley Planet covers arts and entertainment in the Tennessee Valley area. The Redstone Rocket is a newspaper distributed throughout Redstone Arsenal's housing area covering activities on Redstone. Speakin' Out News is a weekly newspaper focused on African Americans. El Reportero is a Spanish-language newspaper for North Alabama.
Huntsville Life Magazine is a lifestyle magazine, which is published six times annually.
No'Ala Huntsville is a lifestyle magazine, which is published six times annually.
Huntsville is the 106th largest radio market in the United States. Station KIH20 broadcasts the National Weather Service's forecasts and warnings for the Huntsville area.
The Huntsville DMA serves 15 counties in North Alabama and 6 counties in Southern Middle Tennessee.
The majority of K-12 students in Huntsville attend Huntsville City Schools. In the 2007-2008 school year 22,839 students attended Huntsville City Schools, 77% of all students scored at or above state and national ACT averages, and of the 1,279 members of the graduating class, "approximately 92% of the students indicated that they planned to enter a post-secondary institution for further study, 43% obtained scholarship & monetary awards", and "received 2,988 scholarships totaling $33,619,040, had forty-one National Merit Scholars, three National Achievement Scholars, and two perfect ACT scores."
Of the 53 schools in the Huntsville City Schools system in 2007-2008, there were:
25 elementary, and
Two K-8, which serve 10,836 students.
For grades 6-12, there are 11,696 students enrolled in the following schools:
Eleven middle schools (grades 6-8)
Seven high schools
Three special centers (two Schools of Choice and one Program of Choice [1B])
Four magnet schools (two with grades K-8 and two with grades 9-12)
The two magnet elementary schools are the Academy for Academics and Arts and the Academy for Science and Foreign Language. The three magnet middle schools are Williams Technology, The Academy for Academics and Arts, and the Academy for Science and Foreign Language, and the two magnet high schools are Lee High School and New Century Technology High School.
In 2007, 60% of HCS teachers had at least a master's degree or better.
The following was the disposition of annual funding in 2007: Instructional services - 54%, Instruction support services - 15%, Operation and maintenance - 11%, capital outlay - 8%, auxiliary services - 7%, general administrative services - 3%, and debt and other expenditures - 2%.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville is the largest university serving the greater Huntsville area with more than 7,700 students. Approximately half of the university's graduates earn a degree in engineering or science, making it one of the larger producers of engineers and physical scientists in Alabama. UAHuntsville has been ranked by the Carnegie Foundation as a very high research institution, placing it among the top 75 public research universities in the nation. UAHuntsville is also ranked as a Tier 1 national university by U.S. News & World Report.
Alabama A&M University is the oldest university in the Huntsville area extending back to 1875. Oakwood University, founded in 1896, is a Seventh-day Adventist university with over 1,800 students and a member institution of the United Negro College Fund. It is one of the nation's leading producers of black applicants to medical schools.
Various colleges and universities have satellite locations or extensions in Huntsville:
Twickenham Historic District was chosen as the name of the first of three of the city's historic districts. It features homes in the Federal and Greek Revival architectural styles introduced to the city by Virginia-born architect George Steele about 1818, and contains the most dense concentration of antebellum homes in Alabama. The 1819 Weeden House Museum, home of female artist and poet Howard Weeden, is open to the public, as are several others in the district.
Old Town Historic District contains a variety of styles (Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and even California cottages), with homes dating from the late 1820s through the early 1900s.
Five Points Historic District, consists predominantly of bungalows built around the beginning of the 20th century, by which time Huntsville was becoming a mill town.
Lowe Mill Village was born during the textile boom of the 1890s and was recognized for its historical importance in 2011 along with Dallas Mill Village.
Burritt on the Mountain, located on Monte Sano Mountain, is a regional history museum and regional event venue featuring a 1950s mansion, interpretive historic park, nature trails, scenic overlooks and more.
Clay House Museum is an antebellum home built c. 1853 which showcases decorative styles up to 1950 and has an outstanding collection of Noritakeporcelain.
Early Works Museum is a child friendly interactive museum in downtown Huntsville.
Harrison Brothers Hardware Store, established in 1879, is the oldest operating hardware store in Alabama. Though now owned and operated by the Historic Huntsville Foundation, it is still a working store, and part museum featuring skilled craftsmen who volunteer to run the store and answer questions.
The Historic Huntsville Depot, completed in 1860, is the oldest surviving railroad depot in Alabama and one of the oldest surviving depots in the United States.
Huntsville Museum of Art in Big Spring International Park offers permanent displays, traveling exhibitions, and educational programs for children and adults.
The Veterans Memorial Museum displays more than 30 historical military vehicles from World War I to the present, including the world's oldest jeep. Also on display are many artifacts, memorabilia, and small arms dating back to the Revolutionary War.
Big Spring International Park is a park in downtown Huntsville centered on a natural water body (Big Spring). The park contains the Huntsville Museum of Art. Festivals are held there, such as the Panoply Arts Festival and the Big Spring Jam. There are fish in the spring's niche. There is a waterfall and a constantly lit gas torch.
Creekwood Park is a 71 acres (29 ha) park with a full-scale children's playground and dog park that connects to the Indian Creek Greenway.
Burritt on the Mountain features an eccentric, mid-century mansion and museum, an interpretive historic park depicting rural life in the 19th century, educational programs for children and adults, accessible nature trails, panoramic views of the city below and functions as a venue for popular regional events throughout the year.
John Hunt Park is the city's largest park with over 400 acres (160 ha) of open space, tennis courts, soccer fields and walking trails.
Jones Farm Park is a park set in Jones Valley. The park encompasses 33 acres, and offers 2 ponds, a paved trail, and a pavilion.
Land Trust of North Alabama is a member supported, non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the natural heritage of the area, and has preserved more than 5,500 acres (22 km2) of open space, wildflower areas, wetlands, working farms, and scenic vistas in North Alabama, including 1,107 acres (448 ha) of the Monte Sano Nature Preserve (Monte Sano Mountain), 1,471 acres (595 ha) of the Blevins Gap and Green Mountain Nature Preserves (Huntsville & Green Mountains), and 935 acres (378 ha) of the Wade Mountain Nature Preserve. Volunteers have created and maintain 62 mi (100 km) of public trails - all of which are within the Huntsville city limits.
Lydia Gold Skatepark, located behind the Historic Huntsville Depot, is open to the public. In 2003, it was dedicated to the late Lydia Leigh Gold (1953-1993), an area skateboarding activist in the 1980s and the former owner of "Tattooed Lady Comics and Skateboards". Helmets are the only pad requirement. No bikes, scooters, or other wheeled vehicles are allowed - only skateboards and rollerblades are permitted.
February/March: Annual Maslenitsa "Spring Festival" is held in late winter (February or March) in Madison County. A goodbye to Winter and welcome to Spring, it is associated with ancient pagan traditions, the Orthodox Church, and the fifteen East-European, Baltic, Central Asian, Russian, and Southern Caucasus nations represented. This annual, family-friendly event includes a menu with crêpe-like blini as its centerpiece; the festival is also called "Pancake Week." It's brought together by a partnership between Madison County, sponsoring 501(c)(3) organizations, and Kazakh, Moldovan, Ukrainian, Russian, Georgian, and other community representatives. Traditional dance, authentic regional folk-songs and instrumentals, fashions, children's activities, and wonderful foods are part and parcel of the celebration.
April: Panoply Arts Festival is an annual arts festival that began on May 14, 1982. It is presented by The Arts Council and is held on the last full weekend of each April in Big Spring International Park and the Von Braun Center. The festival includes performance stages featuring presentations, demonstrations, performances, competitions, and workshops to promote the arts. There are children's activities, a Global Village, strolling performers, and nightly fireworks displays. The Southeast Tourism Society consistently ranks the festival among their "Top Twenty Events" and Governor Bob Riley has announced it as one of Alabama's top ten tourism events.
May: Rocket City Brewfest is an annual craft beer festival that began in 2009 by the local Free the Hops organization. Brewfest has been held at the historical Huntsville Depot Roundhouse each May on the second Friday evening and Saturday afternoon usually before Mother's Day.
June: The annual Cigar Box Guitar Festival is held the first week of June at Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment. It is the world's longest running Cigar Box Guitar festival and features live music using home made instruments in the tradition, makers from across the region, and includes workshops and demonstrations.
September: Big Spring Jam (1993-2011) was an annual three-day music festival held on the last full weekend of September in and around Big Spring International Park in downtown Huntsville. It featured a diversity of music including rock, country, Christian, kid-friendly, and oldies.
September: The Annual International Festival of North Alabama (iFest) is held each Fall on the UAHuntsville Campus. This free family event offers displays from many nations, presentations, travel/historic literature, hosts in native apparel, children's activities, and other audio-visuals emblematic of the wide diversity of participating countries. In addition, there are live performances and demos by local and touring artists, as well as international food vendors, an Open Air Market, and a colorful "Parade of Nations."
October: Con+Stellation is an annual general-interest science fiction convention. Con+Stellation (also written as Con*Stellation) has been generally held over a Friday-Sunday weekend in October each year (as of 2012).
Public golf courses
Becky Pierce Municipal Golf Course, known locally as the "Muni", off Airport Road (named for the old airport, not near the current airport)
Sunset Landing Golf Club (located next to the airport)
Private golf courses
Established in 1925, the historic Huntsville Country Club boasts a challenging 18-hole course with dining and banquet facilities located just Northwest of downtown at 2601 Oakwood Avenue.
The Ledges is Huntsville's newest golf community with 18 holes, dining and banquet facilities overlooking Jones Valley.
Valley Hill Country Club features 27 holes in South Huntsville's Jones Valley.
The Links on Redstone Arsenal is available for Military, NASA, and others that have base access. The Links has an 18-hole course, a driving range, a putting and chipping green, and even play foot golf - a soccer version of golf.
The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, founded in late October 1818, is Alabama's oldest continually operating library system. It has 13 branches throughout the county including one bookmobile. The Huntsville branches are the Bailey Cove Branch Library, Bessie K. Russell Branch Library, Downtown Huntsville Library, Eleanor E. Murphy Branch Library, Oscar Mason Branch Library, and Showers Center Library. The Downtown Huntsville Library Archives contains a wealth of historical resources, including displays of photographic collections and artifacts, has Alabama's highest materials circulation rate, and features daily public programs. The library system provides free public access Internet computers and wireless Internet access in all facilities.
Several arts groups have passed the 50-year mark: Huntsville Community Chorus Association; Huntsville Art League; Theatre Huntsville (through its parent company); Broadway Theatre League; Fantasy Playhouse Children's Theatre; Rocket City Chorus; Huntsville Symphony Orchestra; and Huntsville Photographic Society among them.
Founded in October 1962 as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, the Arts Council, Inc. (TAC) includes over 100 local arts organizations and advocates. TAC sponsors the arts through five core programs:
Arts Education — including the "Meet the Artist" interactive, "distance learning" program at Educational Television and ArtVentures summer arts camp;
Concerts in the Park, a series of "summer serenades under the stars" held at Big Spring International Park in partnership with the City
Community Information Services, featuring "Boost Your Buzz", an annual publicity workshop.
TAC promotes the visual arts with two galleries: art@TAC, using the walls near the company's Von Braun Center offices and the JavaGalleria. TAC supports The Bench Project[clarification needed] and the strategic planning effort to support Huntsville-Madison County's economic development goals through expanded arts and cultural opportunities known as Create Huntsville.
Twickenham Fest is Alabama's Premiere Summer Chamber Music Festival. Founded in 2010, this festival brings world class musicians into Huntsville to perform chamber music repertory over a week-long. This festival is free to the public due to philanthropic support from the Huntsville community.
The Huntsville Community Chorus Association (HCCA) is one of Alabama's oldest performing arts organizations, with its first performance dating to December 1946 (per its website, the Mobile Opera Guild — the state's oldest — first performed in April of that year). HCCA produces chorale concerts and musical theater productions. In addition, the company features its madrigal singers; "Glitz!" (a show choir); a chamber chorale; an annual summer melodrama/fundraiser; and three children's groups: the Huntsville Community Chorus (HCC) Children's Chorale (ages 3-5); the HCC Treble Chorale (ages 6-8); and the HCC Youth Chorale (ages 9-12).
Broadway Theatre League was founded in 1959. BTL presents a season of national touring Broadway productions each year, a family-fun show, and additional season specials. Shows are presented in the Von Braun Center's Mark C. Smith Concert Hall. Recent productions include Mamma Mia!, A Chorus Line, The Color Purple, and An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.
The Flying Monkey Arts Center is in the historic Lowe Mill under the auspices of Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment and hosts events such as the traditional Cigar Box Guitar festival, the Sex Workers' Art Show, concerts, and many presentations of the Film Co-op.
Huntsville Symphony Orchestra is Alabama's oldest continuously operating professional symphony orchestra, featuring performances of classical, pops and family concerts, and music education programs in public schools.
Fantasy Playhouse Children's Theatre, Huntsville's oldest children's theater, was founded in 1960. An all-volunteer organization, Fantasy Playhouse performs for the children of north Alabama on stage and off. Fantasy Playhouse Theater Academy, the organization's dance, music, and art school, teaches children and adults each year. Fantasy Playhouse regularly produces three plays a year with an additional play, A Christmas Carol, produced early each December.
Theatre Huntsville, the result of a merger between the Twickenham Repertory Company (1979-1997) and Huntsville Little Theatre (1950-1997), is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, all-volunteer arts organization that presents six plays each season in the Von Braun Center Playhouse. It produces the annual "Shakespeare on the Mountain" in an outdoor venue, such as Burritt on the Mountain. Presentations range from The Foreigner and Noises Off to the occasional musical (Little Shop of Horrors and Nunsense). In addition, TH presents drama-related workshops (stage management, stage makeup, etc.), as announced.
Independent Musical Productions, was founded in 1993 and presents at least one annual main production such as Ragtime, Civil War, 1776, Into the Woods, RENT, and Sweeney Todd. Standard and original musicals for children as well as outreach programs complete the season.
Plays are performed at Renaissance Theatre, with two stages, the MainStage (upstairs) and the Alpha Stage (downstairs), each seating about 85. The theaters are housed in the former Commissary Building for the historic Lincoln Mill Village. In addition to well-known and mainstream titles, Renaissance produces original, controversial, and offbeat plays. It was the site for the East Coast premiere of "The Maltese Falcon."
Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that opened in 2007, after nearly $3 million in renovations to the historic building. It was once the social center of the Merrimack Mill Village in the early 1900s. The Company Store, gymnasium, and bowling alley were all there and provided a place for socialization and recreation to all of the village's residents. Merrimack Hall now includes a 302-seat performance hall, a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) dance studio, and rehearsal and instructional spaces for musicians. Productions and performers include Menopause The Musical, Dixie's Tupperware Party, Billy Bob Thornton and The Boxmasters, Dionne Warwick, Lisa Loeb, Claire Lynch, and the Second City Comedy Troupe.
Ars Nova School of the Arts is a conservatory for music and performing arts. Ars Nova produces musical theatre, opera, and operetta for the local stage.
The Huntsville Youth Orchestra was founded by Russell Gerhart, founding conductor of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, in 1961. The HYO is a non-profit corporation whose purpose is to "foster, promote, and provide the support necessary for students from North Alabama to experience musical education in an orchestral setting." The organization has six ensembles: the Huntsville Youth Symphony, Sinfonia, Philharmonia, Concert Orchestra, Intermezzo Orchestra, and Novice Strings.
Huntsville Chamber Music Guild was organized in 1952 to promote and present chamber music programs; the group seeks to present recitals in which artists are presented in works of the classical masters.
The Huntsville Ballet Company is under the non-profit Community Ballet Association, Inc. The Huntsville Ballet Company performs ballets each year such as The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, The Firebird, and Swan Lake.
The Huntsville Museum of Art opened in 1970. It purchased the largest privately owned, permanent collection of art by American women in the U.S., featuring Anna Elizabeth Klumpke, among others.
The Huntsville Photographic Society started in 1956. A non-profit organization, the HPS is dedicated to furthering the art and science of photography in North Alabama.
The Huntsville Art League started in 1957, adopting the name "The Huntsville Art League and Museum Association" (HALMA). In addition to their Visiting Artists and "Limelight Artists" series, which highlight both nonresident and member artists at the home office, HAL features its members' works at galleries located in the Jane Grote Roberts Auditorium of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library - Main, the Heritage Club, and the halls of the Huntsville Times.
Convention center and arena
The Von Braun Center, which originally opened in 1975 as the Von Braun Civic Center, has an arena capable of seating 10,000, a 2,000-seat concert hall, a 500-seat playhouse (330 seats with proscenium staging), and 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of convention space. Both the arena and concert hall have undergone major renovations; as a result, they have been rechristened the Propst Arena and the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, respectively.
Straight to Ale opened in 2010 in North Huntsville, later relocated to South Huntsville, and then moved to Campus 805 in West Huntsville.
Yellowhammer Brewing opened in 2010 in West Huntsville. It later moved to Campus 805 in West Huntsville.
Below the Radar Brewpub opened in 2012 just a few blocks off the square in downtown Huntsville.
Salty Nut Brewery opened in 2013 in North Huntsville. It is currently located in the former Yellowhammer Brewing location in West Huntsville.
Mad Malts opened in late 2013 just North of downtown Huntsville under the name 'The Brew Stooges' until Fall 2015.
Green Bus Brewing in downtown Huntsville opened in late 2015.
InnerSpace Brewing opened in 2018 in West Huntsville, between Salty Nut Brewery and Yellowhammer Brewing.
Comedy and other entertainment
Huntsville is home to a number of comedy shows, including: