Huntsville Information

Huntsville was the site of the first English settlement in Alabama. In 1819, the first constitutional convention and state legislature met in Huntsville and Alabama became the 22nd state of the Union.

The city is considered the birthplace of the nation's space program. Spearheaded by the development of the Saturn V moon rocket by Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of German scientists, space technology and exploration have gained increasing momentum through the advances made at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, established in 1960.

Originally created to design NASA's rocket propulsion systems, the Marshall Center later became involved in all aspects of the space program, including spacecraft and experimental research and development. The Marshall Center fostered the space program's extraordinary progress, from the creation of the first satellite-launching rockets to the development of the space shuttle's propulsion system.

Huntsville's location just north of the Tennessee River and its many adjoining lakes provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including water skiing and fishing. A number of parks beautify downtown and the environs.

Big Spring International Park, west of Courthouse Square, is on the site where John Hunt founded the city in 1805. It also is the location of the Fearn Canal, which was used in the 19th century to transport cotton to the river. Throughout the park are gifts from foreign countries; of special interest is a sculptured bridge from Japan. Various festivals are held in the park throughout the year.

The Madison County Nature Trail, 12 miles from downtown on Green Mountain, includes a 16-acre lake, a covered bridge and a wildlife sanctuary.

The Twickenham Historic District, downtown and south and east of Courthouse Square, is one of Alabama's largest ante-bellum residential districts. Descendants of the original owners live in many of the homes. The district is a living museum of 19th-century architecture. The Old Town Historic District, east and north of Courthouse Square, contains 19th- and early 20th-century homes, some still in the process of restoration.

The annual Huntsville Pilgrimage in mid-April offers a tour of eight of the city's more beautiful and historically interesting residences. Additional information can be obtained from the Huntsville Pilgrimage Association, 700 Monroe St., Huntsville, AL 35801; phone (205) 533-5723.

The arts are celebrated in early May in Panoply, a 3-day event showcasing visual and performing artists, including competitions in choreography and music composition, as well as craft demonstrations by many artisans.

Self-guiding tours: Maps outlining self-guiding tours of Huntsville's two historic areas and brochures detailing points of interest in the city and county are available from the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 700 Monroe St., Huntsville, AL 35801; phone (205) 533-5723 or (800) 772-2348.

Shopping areas: More than 120 stores, including Castner Knott, JC Penney, McRae's, Parisian, and Sears, offer opportunities for browsing and bargain hunting at Madison Square Mall, off US 72W at the intersection of Old Monrovia and Rideout roads. Parkway City Mall, at Bob Wallace and Drake avenues, includes McRae's, Montgomery Ward, and Parisian.

In high-tech Huntsville the Historic Huntsville Foundation operates Harrison Brothers at 124 Southside Sq., Mon.-Fri. 9-5, Sat. 10-2. Established in 1879 and moved to this site in 1897, this low-tech, hardware, etc., store rings up the sales of its old-fashioned tools, housewares and other items on its hand-cranked cash register.

Local Attractions

U. S. Space and Rocket Center and Space Camp , One Tranquility Base just off I-565, is an exposition center featuring one of the world's largest collections of space and rocket hardware as well as a simulation of travel aboard the space shuttle. Visitors can experience some of the sensations of space flight by activating more than 60 hands-on displays.

The Spacedome Theater presents space and science films projected on a 67-foot dome screen that surrounds viewers. The U. S. Space Camp Training Center adjoins the museum. On the grounds are collections of NASA rockets and Army defense missiles, including a full-scale shuttle display and Saturn moon rockets.

Regularly scheduled bus tours of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center leave from the Space and Rocket Center; stops include the NASA Space Station Development Center, astronaut training facilities and Spacelab stations. Picnic and camping areas as well as food are available.

Films at the Spacedome Theater are shown hourly. Center open daily 9-6, Memorial Day-Labor Day; 9-5, rest of year. Closed Thanksgiving and Dec. 25. Admission (includes museum, Spacedome and NASA tour) $13.95; over 60 and ages 3-12, $9.95. AE, DS, MC, VI. AAA member discount. Phone (205) 837-3400.

Huntsville Botanical Garden [in/near Huntsville, AL], 0.25 miles west of Jordan Lane/Patton Road at 4747 Bob Wallace Ave, offers more than 130 acres of year-round gardens. A dogwood trail is accented by wildflower gardens and woodlands. Other features include perennial, day lily and herb gardens. Picnicking is permitted. Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 1-5; closed Dec. 25. Admission $2.50; ages 7-17, $1. Phone (205) 830-4447.

Burritt Museum and Park [in/near Huntsville, AL], 3101 Burritt Drive, features an 11-room mansion containing antique furnishings, accessories, clothing, archeological artifacts, a rock and mineral display and exhibits about Huntsville artists. In addition to a group of reconstructed buildings furnished in period, the 167-acre park offers nature trails and picnic facilities.

Special events include Earth Day in April and Interpretive Folklife Weekends in the summer. The Sorghum and Fall Festival the third Saturday in September features demonstrations of historical folk skills. Among the many events offered during the Alabama Indian Heritage Festival held the third Saturday October are demonstrations of skills, music and dance and lectures on American Indian cultures. The Candlelight Christmas in December spotlights early 1800s and Victorian holiday decorations. Allow 1 hour minimum. Grounds open daily 7-7, Apr.-Sept.; 7-5, rest of year. Mansion (museum) open Tues.-Sat. 10-4, Sun. noon-4, Mar.-Dec. Donations. Admission charged during special events. Phone (205) 536-2882.

Huntsville Museum of Art/Von Braun Civic Center displays traveling exhibitions, traditional art, works by regional artists and a collection of graphic arts. Allow 1 hour minimum. Tues.-Fri. 10-5, Sat. 9-5, Sun. 1-5; closed major holidays. Free. Phone (205) 535-4350.