Historic Huntsville

Historic Huntsville

The Rocket City celebrates its past during Huntsville History Month

Words by Paige Townley

Huntsville may be best known for its out-of-this-world attractions like the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, but the North Alabama gem has just as much history as it does rockets and space-focused memorabilia. The city is celebrating that storied past throughout the month of October with Huntsville History Month.

Huntsville’s historic past goes well back to the early 1800s. In fact, the city played a prominent role in Alabama officially becoming a state. In July 1819, Congress sent 44 delegates to Huntsville to draft a state constitution. Over time—and well before it became the nation’s hub for space exploration—Huntsville established itself as a critical center for railroad and river-based trade and commerce thanks to its locale near the Tennessee River and the Historic Huntsville Depot, which is known as one of the country’s oldest existing railroad depots. This history and more is taking center stage throughout October with a variety of events and celebrations focused on the city’s heritage.

Essentially every day of October has multiple events planned, from reflection of historic photographs at the Huntsville Museum of Art and Oktoberfest-style beer from local breweries and pubs. There’s also the Rocket City Civil Rights Driving Tour, a virtual tour that features places and properties that played an important role during Huntsville’s Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and an art walk that will feature art and artisan goods from dozens of local vendors.

The scarier side of the city will be explored all month long with the Huntsville Ghost Walks and Rocket City Rover “Boos” Cruises. Huntsville’s spooky history dates back to the early 1800s, when the city was actually known as Twickenham. Tours will peruse one of the city’s three distinct historic districts—Twickenham, Old Town, and historic downtown—to share stories about the ghosts from the Civil War era, the haunted history of the antebellum homeowners, stories about a late 1800s murder, and spirits dating back to the Native Americans.

Another nod to the city’s heritage is the annual pilgrimage known as the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll. Although paused for 2021, the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll has become one of the largest living history strolls in the country where history comes to life by way of 75-plus costumed characters that share Huntsville history. The stroll includes music, exhibits, and more, all of which serve to reflect the city and the cemetery’s past.

Another highlight of the month will be the free, guided historic district tours. Attendees can choose from two routes for the guided tours, both led by local residents. Attendees can experience the charm of Huntsville’s Five Points district, learn about the legacy of the city’s historic downtown, and check out the beautiful Victorian homes in the Old Town district.

History in Huntsville is celebrated well beyond the month of October. It’s always on display at a variety of its museums, including the famed U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Historic Huntsville Depot, Burritt on the Mountain (a 14-room mansion built in the shape of an X and encompasses restored farm buildings, nature trail, and more), Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park & Museum, and Weeden House Museum and Garden (which was once home of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John McKinley).

With so much going on, every day spent in Huntsville in October is sure to be a fun and eventful time. And no matter which events attendees choose to partake in during October, one thing is certain: Huntsville’s past is as unique as its future.