Driving on I-565 between Madison and Huntsville, I watch the landscape slowly change as the multi-use development for Town Madison progresses.
While I am curious what the new urban center will look like, I am a little sad that I never got to see what the property could have been.
If developers, city officials, and residents had their way, Huntsville and Madison would be sharing a futuristic wonderland known as Space City USA.
Space City USA
In the early 1960s, residents of the Tennessee Valley and much of the southeast were aflutter with talk of the proposed theme park that would rival Disneyland.
Guests would enter the park through the “time machine” and find several themed areas to explore. The Old South, Dead Man’s Island, Space Plaza, Moon Colony, Land of Oz and Lost World were proposed to thrill and amaze visitors from up to 150 miles away.
The 800-plus acre site was also set to be home to more than 20 rides such as jet cars, a skyway, glass-bottomed boats, flying saucers, a train and a paddle wheeler. In addition, a mushroom-shaped lunar restaurant, a miniature active volcano, a moon base, and even a lagoon were in the plans for Space City USA.
Knowing that a theme park of this magnitude would require supporting infrastructure, a hotel and shopping center fronting Alabama Highway 20 were included in the development plans.
Construction began on the much-anticipated $5-million theme park, which was to be built around Lady Ann Lake. We know the area today by the landmarks of Edgewater, Zeirdt Raod, I-565 and the upcoming Town Madison development. Some concrete paths, four-time capsule structures, and train tracks were built before the park slid into obscurity.
Part of the concrete path for the Cave Man Car Ride remains to this day, worked into the Edgewater subdivision clubhouse sidewalk.
It is one of the few reminders of Huntsville’s almost theme park, which was predicted to bring 1.2 million people to the area each year.
So what happened to the much-hyped project?
A business was formed in 1963 to sell stock in the theme park to fund its development. This raised about $2 million and got construction kicked off in 1965 with grading on the site, lowering the water level of Lady Ann Lake, and construction on park projects.
Bad weather led to delays, which then led to the project’s slow death. Newspaper articles from the time don’t pinpoint one reason for the project’s failure. The causes typically listed were mismanagement, bad weather, cost overruns and difficulties in the site preparation.
Late in the year of 1967, assets of the failed park went onto the auction block along with Huntsville’s dream of a Disney-like tourist destination.