The Old Town Historic District of Huntsville, Alabama has been a residential area since the 1820's. Leroy Pope, John Brahan, and Samuel Adams were the original developers of the area. When Huntsville (original name Twickenham) was founded in 1805, Leroy Pope named the city after an English town, the hereditary home of his family.
Fueled by the war of 1812, anti-English sentiment prevailed and the city was renamed after the first settler, John Hunt.
The first two residential areas were: Twickenham -1805 ca. and Old Town 1820 ca. Old Town consists of approx. 262 houses built between 1820's and 1940's, with the majority built in the last half of the 19thcentury. There are 125 Victorian Homes, 44 Colonial/Greek Revival, 72 Arts and Crafts as well as Federal, Art Deco and Spanish styles.
The first residents of Old Town were merchants, tradesmen, and workers in the various businesses that were established around the town square. The early denizens of Old Town were part of the societal revolution which was changing America, from an agrarian-based to an industrial/service society. The residents were full-time citizens of the city, making their living in the town. The lots and houses in Old Town were smaller than that of the first residences, reflecting the fact that times were changing. They would walk to the town square and buy the essentials, instead of making or growing them.
Old Town is still a walking neighborhood. You will see residents walking to grocery stores, entertainment venues, and restaurants. The abundant pecan trees scattered throughout the district is testament to the fact that Old Town was built in an old growth pecan orchard.
Historic Districts are good investments.
Old Town homeowners have seen their property values rise faster than anywhere in Alabama, except the Gulf Coast (that may have changed since the hurricanes). Average prices for Old Town homes are continuing to rise. The reason is two-fold:
- The Historical Committee that oversees all building permits must make sure that the character or "street scenes" of the neighborhood remain as they are. If 25, 50 or 100 years from now, someone is walking down one of the streets in Old Town-it will look as it is today. By enforcing these concepts-property owners can rest assured that the front porches, quaint sidewalks, and landscaping remain constant.
- Supply and demand: There are only 262 houses and a great demand for them maintain and increases value.
Occasionally a building lot will become available but must be single-family dwelling and meet the guidelines of the Historic Committee. In the last 3 years, there has been only one new house built.
Old Town is in the National Historic Registry-What this means:
"National Register properties are distinguished by having been documented and evaluated according to uniform standards. These criteria recognize the accomplishments of all peoples who have contributed to the history and heritage of the United States and are designed to help state and local governments, Federal agencies, and others identify important historic and archeological properties worthy of preservation and of consideration in planning and development decisions.
The historic district is 3 blocks wide and 7 blocks long and is on the National Registry of Historic Places, protected by Federal and local statues. Listing in the National Register contributes to preserving historic properties in a number of ways:
- Recognition that a property is of significance to the Nation, the State, or the community.
- Consideration in the planning for Federal or federally assisted projects.
- Eligibility for Federal tax benefits.
- Qualification for Federal assistance for historic preservation, when funds are available." -National Parks website
The Old Town Historic Committee:
Is a volunteer group that plans and oversees the various neighborhood activities that add to the quality of life in the district.
- The luminaries that are displayed at Christmas in Old Town and Twickenham are sponsored jointly by Old Town and Twickenham.
- Every year an Old Town Christmas Party is held by and for the Old Town community.
- In June a district-wide Picnic is held at the E. Clinton Elementary School.
- Thorough-out the year various streets throw block parties and enjoy getting to know their neighbors.
- The Old Town Historic Committee is currently working on turning a vacant lot at the end of Walker and White into a small park where those walking through the area can grab a park bench and just enjoy nature's beauty.