Huntsville is a city in Madison County, Limestone County, and Morgan County, Alabama, United States. It is the county seat of Madison County. Located in the Appalachian region of northern Alabama, Huntsville is the most populous city in the state.
Huntsville was founded within the Mississippi Territory in 1805 and became an incorporated town in 1811. When Alabama was admitted as a state in 1819, Huntsville was designated for a year as the first capital, before that was moved to more central settlements. The city developed across nearby hills north of the Tennessee River, adding textile mills in the late nineteenth century.
Its major growth has taken place since World War II. During the war, the Army established Redstone Arsenal near here with a chemical weapons plant, and nearby related facilities. After the war, additional research was conducted at Redstone Arsenal on rockets, followed by adaptations for space exploration. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command, and most recently the FBI's operational support headquarters all came to be located at nearby Redstone Arsenal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Huntsville to its "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010" list.
The city's population is 215,006 as of the 2020 census, making it Alabama's most populous city. Birmingham had been the largest since the growth of its coal and steel industries earlier in the 20th century. Huntsville is the largest city in the five-county Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, AL Combined Statistical Area. The Huntsville metropolitan area's population was 491,723 as of 2020, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in the state after the Birmingham metropolitan area. In 2022, it was named the best place to live in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
Together with settlement pressures after the United States gained independence, this area had become largely empty of indigenous peoples by the turn of the 19th century. Revolutionary War veteran John Hunt was a pioneer in 1805 on land around the Big Spring. The US negotiated an 1805 treaty with the Chickasaw and an 1806 treaty with the Cherokee who ceded their claims to land to the federal government.
The area was subsequently purchased by LeRoy Pope, who named it Twickenham after the home village of his distant kinsman Alexander Pope. Twickenham was carefully planned, with streets laid out in a northeast to southwest direction based on the flow of Big Spring. Given anti-British sentiment during this period after the Revolution and with tensions leading to the War of 1812, in 1811 the town name was changed to "Huntsville" to honor pioneer John Hunt.
Both John Hunt and LeRoy Pope were Freemasons and charter members of Helion Lodge #1, the oldest lodge in Alabama.
In 1811, Huntsville became the first incorporated town in what is now Alabama. However, the recognized "founding" year of the city is 1805, the year of John Hunt's arrival.
David Wade settled 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 Wade House was measured as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) for preservation of historic buildings in the government's Archive. It was photographed by Frances Benjamin Johnston for the project, which was part of the Roosevelt administration's programs to hire workers during this critical period. The HABS project put architects, draftsmen, and photographers to work to create an inventory of documentation and photographs of significant properties across the country. The Wade house had already been abandoned for years and was considerably deteriorated. It was torn down in 1952. Today only the antebellum smokehouse survives at the property.
Huntsville's initial growth was based on wealth generated by sale of cotton from plantations, for which there was international demand, and trade associated with railroad industries. Many wealthy planters moved into the area from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas to develop new cotton plantations. The invention of the cotton gin in the late eighteenth century meant that uplands areas could be profitably cultivated with short-staple cotton, which could be grown in a much larger area than the long-staple cotton of the Sea Islands and Low Country.
In 1819, Huntsville hosted a constitutional convention in Walker Allen's large cabinet-making shop. The 44 delegates 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 in the state; to Cahawba, then to Tuscaloosa, and finally to Montgomery.
In 1855, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was constructed through Huntsville, becoming the first railway to link the Atlantic seacoast with the lower Mississippi River.
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. They were also present when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. Nine generals of the war were born in or near Huntsville; five fought for the Confederacy and four for the Union. Other Huntsville residents joined the Union Army and helped establish the Union Army's 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment.
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. By controlling this railroad, the Union had struck a major blow to the Confederacy.
During the first occupation, Union officers took over many of the larger homes in the city while the enlisted soldiers camped in tents mainly on the outskirts. In the initial occupation, the Union troops searched for both Confederate troops hiding in the town and weapons. There was not a lot of resistance and they treated Huntsville residents in a relatively civil manner. However, residents of nearby towns reported harsher treatment. Union troops were forced to retreat a few months later. In the fall of 1863, they returned to Huntsville, using it as a base of operations for the war in the South until the last months of 1864. According to the journal of a nearby resident, Union troops burned many homes and villages in the surrounding countryside in retaliation for the active guerrilla warfare in the area. Many houses and buildings were burned, although most of Huntsville was kept intact as it housed both Union officers and troops.
After the Civil War
During the Reconstruction era, three delegates from Huntsville attended the 1867 Constitutional Convention including Andrew J. Applegate, originally from Ohio, who went on to serve as Alabama's first Lieutenant Governor. Councill Training School, which eventually became William Hooper Councill High School, was established for African American students. It was named for educator and school founder William Hooper Councill.
Huntsville became a center for cotton textile mills, such as Lincoln, Dallas, and Merrimack. Each mill company constructed worker housing outside the city, creating communities that eventually included schools, churches, grocery stores, theaters, and hardware stores, all within walking distance of the mill. In many such company towns, workers were required to buy goods at the company stores, which sometimes overcharged them. The mill owners also established rules for behavior and could throw out workers from housing if they violated these policies. Initially only whites were allowed to work in the mills, which offered better wages than farm work.
In 1892 a local dairy cow called Lily Flagg broke the world record for butter production. Her Huntsville owner, General Samuel H. Moore, painted his house butter yellow and organized a party to celebrate, arranging for electric lights for the dance floor. Before 1906 an area south of Huntsville was named Lily Flagg in the cow's honor. 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 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 (D-AL), the U.S. Army Air Force considered this for a major testing facility, but 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.
As the Korean War started, the Ordnance Guided Missile Center (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. Brigadier General Holger Toftoy commanded OGMC and the overall Redstone Arsenal. In early 1956, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under Major General John Medaris was formed.
Resettlement of German scientists
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 from Nazi Germany to the United States by Colonel Holger Toftoy under Operation Paperclip following World War II. Assigned to the center at Huntsville, they settled and raised families.
Early American space flight
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 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 become 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.
Since 2000, Huntsville has become 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 cities for defense jobs. It is the number one United States location for engineers most satisfied with the recognition they receive, 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.
The city has a total area of , of which are land and , or 0.68%, are water. Huntsville has grown through recent annexations west into Limestone County, a total of () in the early 2000s, and south into Morgan County, a total of 1.03 square miles (2.67 km2) (659.1 acres (266.73 ha)) in 2018.
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.
Huntsville is primarily surrounded by unincorporated land. The following incorporated communities border parts of the city:
There are also several unincorporated communities and census-designated places that border or neighbor Huntsville, including Harvest (northwest), Meridianville (north), Moores Mill (northeast), New Market (northeast – oldest Alabama settlement), and Redstone Arsenal (U.S. Army base, south).
Huntsville also borders Marshall County in its lands in Morgan County near the unincorporated Lacey's Spring area, and Hobbs Island within the Tennessee River.
Huntsville has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa). It experiences hot, humid summers and generally mild winters, with average high temperatures ranging from near in the summer to during winter.
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 May, with (on average) nearly or over 5 or more inches of precipitation most of those months. On average, August to October represent slightly drier months (see climate chart, showing less than 3.6 inches of precipitation these months). Droughts can occur, primarily August through October, but usually there is enough rainfall to keep soils moist and vegetation lush. 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.
On April 27, 2011, the largest tornado outbreak on record, the 2011 Super Outbreak, affected northern Alabama. During this event, an EF5 tornado that tracked near the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant destroyed many transmission towers and caused a multi-day power outage for the majority of North Alabama. That same tornado also resulted in considerable damage to the Anderson Hills subdivision and in Harvest, Alabama. In total, nine people were killed in Madison County, and many others were injured. Other significant tornado events include the Super Outbreak in April 1974, the November 1989 tornado that killed 21 and injured over 460, and the 1995 Anderson Hills tornado that killed one person and caused extensive damage. On January 21, 2010, an EF2 tornado struck Huntsville, resulting in moderate damage. Because it was not rain-wrapped and was easily photographed, it received extensive media coverage.
Since Huntsville is nearly 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 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 of snow, and on January 9–10, 2011 it received at the airport and up to in the suburbs.
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 215,006 people, 88,930 households, and 52,166 families residing in the city.
As of the 2010 census, there were 180,105 people, 77,033 households, and 45,416 families residing in the city. The population density was 861.5 people per square mile (332.7/km2). There were 84,949 housing units at an average housing density of 405.3 per square mile (156.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 61.3% White, 30.7% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 2.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 2.9% from other races, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 6.2% 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.
As of the 2000 census, 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 people 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.
Huntsville's main economic influence is derived from aerospace and military technology. Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park (CRP), and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center comprise the main hubs for the area's technology-driven economy. CRP is the second largest research park in the United States and the fourth largest in the world. The University of Alabama in Huntsville is a center for technology and engineering research in the area. There are commercial technology companies such as the network access company ADTRAN, computer graphics company Intergraph and designer and manufacturer of IT infrastructure Avocent. Cinram manufactures and distributes 20th Century Fox DVDs and Blu-ray discs out of their Huntsville plant. Sanmina-SCI has a presence in the area. 57 Fortune 500 companies have operations in Huntsville.
There are several strip malls and shopping malls throughout the city. Huntsville has one enclosed mall, Parkway Place, built in 2002 on the site of the former Parkway City Mall. A larger mall built in 1984, Madison Square Mall, was closed in 2017 and the site is being redeveloped into a lifestyle center, named Mid City. There is also a lifestyle center named Bridge Street Town Centre, completed in 2007, in Cummings Research Park.
Space and defense
Huntsville remains the center for rocket-propulsion research in NASA and the Army. The Marshall Space Flight Center has been designated to develop NASA's future Space Launch System (SLS), and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) is responsible for developing a variety of rocket-based tactical weapons.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama is located in North Huntsville Industrial Park and is separate from the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA facility, which is located in Greenbrier. The plant has 1,350 employees as of 2019. The plant has plans to expand, and to employ 1,800 individuals by 2021. The plant manufactures engines for Toyota vehicles.
The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA recently opened in mid 2021, and is planning to hire 4,000 employees. The facility produces Toyota and Mazda SUV's, and Pickup trucks. The majority of the plant is located in Huntsville, however the southern third is located in the unincorporated community of Greenbrier.
Arts and culture
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, including 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.
Founded in October 1962 as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, the Arts Huntsville (TAC) includes over 100 local arts organizations and advocates. Arts Huntsville sponsors the arts through five core programs:
Arts Huntsville promotes the visual arts with two galleries: art@TAC, using the walls near the Von Braun Center offices and the JavaGalleria. TAC supports The Bench Project and the strategic planning effort to support Huntsville-Madison County's economic development goals through expanded arts and cultural opportunities known as Create Huntsville.
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 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.
Huntsville is home to a number of comedy shows, including:
Current sports franchises
Past sports franchises
Parks and recreation
There are more than 60 parks within the city limits of Huntsville. In 2013, for the fifth time in seven years, Huntsville was named a 'Playful City USA' by KaBOOM! (non-profit organization) for their efforts to provide a variety of play opportunities for children that included after school programs and parks within walking distance of home.
The current mayor of Huntsville is Tommy Battle, who was first elected in 2008 and then re-elected in 2012, 2016, and 2020. 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. 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 in Madison County by large margins in 2008. In the general election, John McCain carried Madison County with 57% of the vote. In the 2016 general election, Donald Trump (R) carried Madison County with 55% of the vote. With Hillary Clinton (D) receiving 38%, and Gary Johnson (I) receiving 4%. Huntsville is represented in Congress by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-5th Congressional District, AL) who won re-election in 2016 with 60% of the vote.
Most 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:
For grades 6–12, there are 11,696 students enrolled in the following schools:
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.
Approximately 21 private, parochial, and religious schools serve grades pre-K–12. The city has several accredited private Christian schools, including Saint John Paul II Catholic High School, Faith Christian Academy, Oakwood Adventist Academy, Whitesburg Christian Academy, Grace Lutheran School, and Westminster Christian Academy. Randolph School is Huntsville's only independent, private K-12 school.
In 2007, 60% of HCS teachers had at least a master's degree.
Huntsville's higher education institutions are:
The University of Alabama in Huntsville is the largest university serving the greater Huntsville area, with more than 7,700 students. About half of its graduates earn a degree in engineering or science, making it one of the larger producers of engineers and physical scientists in Alabama. The Carnegie Foundation ranks the school very highly as a research institution, placing it among the top 75 public research universities in the nation. UAHuntsville is also ranked a Tier 1 national university by U.S. News & World Report.
Alabama A&M University is the oldest university in the Huntsville area, dating to 1875. With over 6,000 students, it is home to the AAMU Historic District with 28 buildings and four structures listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places. 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:
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 seven 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 fifteen counties in north Alabama and six counties in southern Middle Tennessee.
A few feature films have been shot in Huntsville, including 20 Years After (2008, originally released as Like Moles, Like Rats), Air Band (2005), and Constellation (2005). Parts of the film SpaceCamp (1986) were shot at Huntsville's U.S. Space and Rocket Center at the eponymous facility. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center stood in for NASA in the 1989 movie Beyond the Stars. Columbia Pictures filmed Ravagers (1979) in The Land Trust's Historic Three Caves Quarry, at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and at an antebellum home next door to Lee High School. The city was also referenced in Captain Marvel.
Huntsville's legacy in the space program continues to draw film producers looking for background material for space-themed films. During the pre-production of Apollo 13 (1995), the cast and crew spent time at Space Camp and Marshall Space Flight Center preparing for their roles. Space Camp was mentioned in the film Stranger than Fiction and was featured in a 2008 episode of Penn & Teller: B.S.! on NASA.
Huntsville has six movie theaters:
Huntsville is served by several U.S. Highways, including 72, 231, 431 and an Interstate highway spur, I-565, that links Huntsville and Decatur to I-65. Alabama Highway 53 also connects the city with I-65 in Ardmore, Tennessee. Major roadways include University Drive, Governors Drive, Airport Road, Memorial Parkway and Research Park Blvd.
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 for a direct connection to Downtown, and extending Weatherly Road to the new Grissom High School.
Public transit in Huntsville is run by the city's Department of Parking and Public Transit. The Huntsville Orbit 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.
Huntsville has two active commercial rail lines. The mainline is run by Norfolk Southern, which runs from Memphis to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The original depot for this rail line, the Huntsville Depot, still exists as a railroad museum, though it no longer offers passenger service.
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 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 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.
Huntsville International Airport is served by several regional and national carriers, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Silver Airways and American Airlines. Delivery companies have hubs in Huntsville, making flights to Europe, Asia, and Mexico. The airport was reported to have the highest fares in the United States in 2014.
Huntsville is also served by the Meridianville–located Madison County Executive Airport, sometimes denoted as Huntsville Executive Airport due to its proximity to the city. The airport is a general aviation airport and does not have any regularly-scheduled commercial services.
The inland Port of Huntsville combines the Huntsville International Airport, International Intermodal Center, and Jetplex Industrial Park for truck, train and air transport. The intermodal terminal transfers truck and train cargo to aircraft. The port has on-site U.S. Customs and USDA inspectors. The port is Foreign Trade Zone No. 83.
There are several bicycle routes in the city. In 2015, Alabama and Huntsville were not considered bicycle friendly. There are bike paths for exercise available. Huntsville's government is working to improve bicycle network within the city limits. In 2020, Huntsville released a master plan for a 70-mile bicycling and walking trail, named Singing River Trail of North Alabama, to connect downtown Huntsville to the cities of Madison, Decatur, and Athens.
Electricity, water, and natural gas are all provided in Huntsville by Huntsville Utilities (HU). HU purchases and resells power from the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA has two plants that provide electricity to the Huntsville area- Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Limestone County and Guntersville Dam in Marshall County. A third, Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Jackson County, was built in the 1980s but was never activated. TVA plans to eventually activate the plant.
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. AT&T and Google offer fiber internet service across the city.
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 $106.5 million.
The Huntsville Fire and Rescue provides fire protection for the city. On a daily basis the department staffs and coordinates twenty-one 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 has two volunteer public safety organizations in their city. The Huntsville-Madison County Rescue Squad is the county wide volunteer rescue organization with tasks ranging from vehicle extrication to water rescues. The other is the Huntsville Cave Rescue Unit which is the region's only all-volunteer cave rescue organization. It is tasked with cave, cliff and high angle rope rescues. These organizations are located in Huntsville but operate both in the city and outside with HCRU responding to many cave rescue calls coming from caves well outside the city limits.
Emergency medical services
Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (HEMSI) provides emergency medical services to Huntsville and surrounding Madison county. HEMSI operates from 12 stations with a fleet of 36 ambulances.
The Huntsville Police Department has three precincts and one downtown headquarters, over 500 sworn officers, 200 civilian personnel, and patrols an area of approximately 220 square miles. The department also boasts its own academy, which has been in operation since 1965.
Huntsville spent $1.2 million in 2015 to buy body cameras to be used by the Huntsville Police Department. Mayor Tommy Battle pushed for the purchase of the body cameras, saying: "We can provide a trust situation with police and our general public." He also said: "Having that body cam there, having the police video there record what actually happens, and when people come in with complaints against Huntsville police officers, they get to see the action that actually happened."
Following the conviction of a former Huntsville police officer for murder, after he was originally cleared of any wrongdoing by the Police department, the City of Huntsville voted to change the way police shootings are reviewed. Beginning in August 2021, all shootings that result in death that occur by Huntsville Police are to be investigated by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency instead. The first investigation following the policy change started in January 2022 after an off-duty Huntsville police officer allegedly killed his girlfriend. The officer had initially reported the death as a suicide, however it is being investigated as a homicide.
An advisory council created by the city described actions by Huntsville Police department (HPD) as being "in a manner that was, at a minimum, unprofessional and on multiple occasions in violation of HPD policy."
Huntsville Hospital in the downtown area is the largest hospital and trauma center. In 2021, Huntsville Hospital opened the Orthopedic & Spine Tower, a seven-story building with 24 surgical orthopedic suites, which brings the total bed count to 881 for Huntsville Hospital.
Located further south, Crestwood Medical Center is a smaller, 180-bed teaching hospital that is ranked nationally in two specialties.
Huntsville's sister cities include:
This page uses material from the Wikipedia article Huntsville, AL, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 4.0.