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Huntsville, Alabama
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Town Nicknames: Industrial City Of North Alabama

Huntsville is named after John Hunt, the first settler of the land around the Big Spring. However, Hunt did not properly register his claim, and the area was purchased by Leroy Pope, who imposed the name Twickenham on the area to honor the home city of his distant kinsman Alexander Pope. Twickenham was carefully planned, with streets laid out on the northeast to southwest direction based on the Big Spring. However, due to anti-English sentiment during the War of 1812, the name was soon changed to Huntsville to honor John Hunt, who had been forced to move to other land south of the new city. Both John Hunt and Leroy Pope were Freemasons and charter members of Helion Lodge #1. In 1811, Huntsville became the first incorporated town in Alabama. However, the recognized "birth" year of the city is 1805, the year of John Hunt's arrival. The city's sesquicentennial anniversary was held in 1955 and the bicentennial was celebrated in 2005.

Twickenham was chosen as the name of the first of three of the city's historical districts. It features homes in the Federal and Greek Revival architectural styles introduced to the city by Virginia-born architect George Steele about 1818, and contains the most dense concentration of antebellum homes in Alabama. The 1819 Weeden House Museum, home of female artist and poet Howard Weeden, is open to the public, as are several others in the district. Huntsville's additional historical districts are "Old Town" and "Five Points". The Old Town Historical District contains a variety of styles (Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and even California cottages), with homes dating from the late 1820s through the early 1900s. Five Points, the newest historical district, consists predominantly of bungalows built around the turn of the 20th century, by which time Huntsville was becoming a mill town.

Huntsville's quick growth was from wealth generated by the cotton industry. Many wealthy planters moved into the area from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas. In 1819, Huntsville hosted a constitutional convention in Walker Allen's large cabinetmaking shop. The forty-four delegates meeting there wrote a constitution for the new state of Alabama. Huntsville became Alabama's first capital when the state was admitted to the union. However, the following year the capital was moved to Cahawba. (Today, the capital is Montgomery.)

In 1855, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was constructed through Huntsville, becoming the first railway to link the Atlantic seacoast with the Mississippi River. Huntsville initially opposed secession from the Union in 1861, but provided many men for the state's defense when Abraham Lincoln called for an invasion of the South. The 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment, led by Col. Egbert J. Jones of Huntsville, distinguished itself at the Battle of Mannasas/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 and were present at the end when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox in April 1865. Ironically, eight generals of the war were born in or near Huntsville, evenly split with four on each side.

On the morning of April 11, 1862, Union troops led by General Mitchell seized Huntsville to sever the Confederacy's rail communications. The Union troops were forced to retreat some months later, but returned to Huntsville in the fall of 1863 and thereafter used the city as a base of operations for the remainder of the war. While many homes and villages in the surrounding countryside were burned in retaliation for the active guerrilla warfare in the area, Huntsville itself was spared because it housed the occupying Union Army.

After the Civil War, Huntsville became a center for cotton textile mills, such as Lincoln and Merrimack. Several of the city's present neighborhoods were built to house the mill workers.

By 1940, Huntsville was still a small quiet town with a population of only 13,150 inhabitants. This quickly changed at the onset of World War II, when Huntsville was chosen as the location of Redstone Arsenal, with its numerous munitions manufacturing plants. The Arsenal was almost closed in 1949 when it was no longer needed, but it saw new life when the U. S. Army chose to use it for missile research. In 1950, the United States Army brought German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and his colleagues to Redstone Arsenal to develop what would eventually become the United States' space program.

On September 8, 1960, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower formally dedicated the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. (NASA had already activated this facility, which adjoins Redstone Arsenal, on July 1 of that year.)

Huntsville is thus home to both Redstone Arsenal and the Marshall Space Flight Center, and is nicknamed "the Rocket City" for of its close history with U.S. space missions. Huntsville has been important in developing space technology since the 1950s, when the German scientists headed by Dr. Wernher von Braun, brought to the United States at the end of World War II through Operation Paperclip, arrived to develop rocketry for the U.S Army. Their work included designing the Redstone ballistic missile, a variant of which, the Jupiter-C, carried the first U.S. satellite and astronauts into space. The Saturn V, utilized by the Apollo program manned moon missions, was developed from the Redstone Arsenal. Huntsville continues to play an important role in the United States' space shuttle and International Space Station programs. It is estimated that 1 in 13 of Huntsville's population are employed in some engineering field of work.

Huntsville is also the location of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM). Huntsville's contributions to United States Cold War missile armament and technology earned it a "red star" designation as a target of the Soviet Union in the event of a nuclear exchange, fourth behind only New York City, Washington, DC, and NORAD.

Before Huntsville earned the moniker "Rocket City" and accompanying rapid growth, it was known for a time as the Watercress Capital of the World, because watercress was harvested in such abundance in the nearby area. - Wikipedia

During the 1960's, IBM was a huge contributor to the NASA program by developing computer technologies for the space program. It was around 1964-1965 that IBM moved several key IBM personnel to the Huntsville area to specifically work on the space program with NASA. In the early 1970's, NASA was no longer in need of the IBM manpower for their space program, and families then moved away from Huntsville to other cities in the United States. - R. Goercke

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