Huntsvillians come in many flavors; transplants, Army brats, retirees, natives and people like me; I’m a sixth-generation native. As you may know, that’s a pretty uncommon story around here.
I’m such an endangered species, I guess you could call me a “Rocket City Platypus”. Come to think of it, I might insist on it. But I digress…
Even though I’ve been around these parts forever, it used to sort of be my job to know such things, and I spend a fair amount of time out enjoying all the things Huntsville has to offer, there is one thing I never quite understood; what’s with all the historical societies?
Great news! I did the homework, so you don’t have to. Here’s the deal.
Their mission statement says, “We promote the preservation of historic sites, buildings, houses and neighborhoods in Huntsville and Madison County, Alabama. From the courthouse square to rural farmhouses, historic places make our community a better place to live, work and play.” This all true. But, they’re also responsible for some fun activities you can enjoy right now.
- These are the folks behind Harrison Brothers Hardware, the oldest continually-operating hardware store in Alabama. Located on the downtown Huntsville courthouse square, it’s a great place for Huntsville souvenirs, local art, vintage toys and housewares.
- Coming soon: They’ve also created the Finding Huntsville: A Kid-Friendly Field Guide to Huntsville’s Historic Architecture activity book for learning more about the art of architecture in our city.
- New this year, they’ve worked with three super-talented local artists to create the Color Me Huntsville coloring book featuring lots of beautiful Huntsville landmarks.
About HMCHS: “The members of the Historical Society are dedicated to preserving the past to enrich the future through local education and preservation. Recently the Society has partnered with UAHuntsville, adding an element of youthful enthusiasm to our history.”
- They meet each quarter at the Huntsville Public Library and always welcome visitors to attend.
- You know those distinctive metal historic markers you see all around the county? The Historical Society does these too! As if they planned it that way, right in time for the Alabama Bicentennial this year, they turned those iconic markers into trails just for me and you! Madison County Marker Challenge
Get out there and learn your local history by visiting the Historical Markers of Madison County!
Their mission: “The Normal Historic District Preservation Association (NHDPA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate the preservation and revitalization of Alabama A&M University National Historic District and other historic artifacts of the University. The Normal Historic District is located on the campus of Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama. ”
- Keep an eye on this group! They’ve done African-American History Bus Tours and other such events in the past. I hope we see more opportunities like this soon.
Photo Courtesy of NHDPA
What they say: “Established in 1822 when the city of Huntsville purchased two acres of land from Leroy Pope, Maple Hill Cemetery now extends over 76 acres and houses the graves of many historic and political figures. Located in the heart of downtown Huntsville, from Wells Avenue south to McClung Avenue, it includes more than 80,000 graves. More than 1,600 grave markers have been restored to date thanks to your generous donations to the annual Cemetery Stroll and your participation in the Angels of Maple Hill Cemetery.” Maintaining the beauty and legacy of Maple Hill Cemetery is now the charge of the Huntsville Pilgrimage Association.
- I DO NOT have favorite Huntsville events. But the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll is TOTALLY one of my favorite Huntsville events!! If you’ve never been, you owe yourself an apology. Make it up to yourself this October.
The story: “The City of Huntsville has four locally-designated historic districts – Twickenham, Old Town, Five Points, and Alabama A&M University.” Stay tuned and look for new district additions in the coming years.
“Historic district designation means these neighborhoods are recognized by the National Park Service, the State of Alabama, and the City of Huntsville as being architecturally and/or historically significant to the community. The purpose of the Commission is to ensure these historic districts are preserved for the future.”
- May is Preservation Month and the Commission does a fantastic #ThisPlaceMattersHSV campaign so you can learn the significance of places you pass right by each day. Look for events and announcements about this year’s festivities to kick-off on April 29th.
- Stay tuned, because they’re currently working to finalize some cool panel-discussion events with folks actively preserving sites in our area right now.
Photo Courtesy Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission
We’ve only just scratched the surface of all these valuable organizations do to preserve and improve this home we all hold so dear.
If this little bit of knowledge has piqued your interest at all, there’s no need to sit on the sidelines, they would love to have you join in the fun!
Volunteer, join a board, buy a ticket, bring your friends and I’ll keep an eye out for all my Huntsvillian friends…whatever YOUR story.