Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County, Alabama. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city proper was 158,216, with a metropolitan statisical area population of 342,376.
Huntsville is named after John Hunt, the first Anglo-Saxon owner of the land around Big Spring. However Hunt did not properly register his claim, which was later sold to Leroy Pope, who imposed the name Twickenham on the area to honor the home city of his relative Alexander Pope. The name was later changed to Huntsville to honor Hunt. In 1811, Huntsville became the first incorporated town in Alabama. However, the recognized "birth" year of the city is 1805, since the sesquicentennial anniversary was held in 1955 and the bicentennial was celebrated in 2005.
Twickenham is one of three of the city's Historical Districts and features homes in the Federal and Greek Revival architectural styles which were introduced to the city by Virginia-born architect George Steele ca. 1818, and has the most dense concentration of antebellum homes in Alabama. The 1819 Weeden House Museum, is open to the public, as are others in the area. The other two historical districts are : Old Town and 5-Points. Old Town has varied style houses dating from the 1850's-wide tree-lined streets make Old Town especially attractive. 5-Points predominates with bungalows from the turn of the 20th century.
Huntsville's quick growth was from wealth generated by the cotton industry. In 1819, Huntsville hosted a constitutional convention in Walker Allen's large cabinetmaking shop, and forty-four delegates wrote a constitution for the state of Alabama. Huntsville was Alabama's first capital when it was admitted to the union; the capital was moved to Cahawba in 1820.
In 1855, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was constructed through Huntsville. On April 11, 1862, during the American Civil War, Union troops led by General Mitchell seized Huntsville to sever the Confederate's railroad communications. Union troops then used Huntsville as a base for operations in the area.
After the Civil War, Huntsville became a center for cotton textile mills such as Lincoln and Merrimack. Several of Huntsville's earliest neighborhoods were built to house mill workers.
By 1940, Huntsville was still a small town with a population of only 13,150, which changed at the onset of World War II when Huntsville was chosen as the site of several military manufacturing plants. The plants were almost shut down in 1949 when they were no longer needed, but instead, the military used the area for missile research. In 1950, the military brought German rocket scientist Werner von Braun and his colleagues to Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal to work on the United States' fledgling 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 the facility on July 1).
Huntsville is home to the Redstone Arsenal and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and is nicknamed "the Rocket City," because of its history with U.S. space missions. Huntsville has been important in developing space technology since the 1950s, when a group of German scientists headed by Dr. Werner von Braun were brought to the United States through Operation Paperclip and developed rockets for the U.S Army. Their work included designing the Redstone ballistic missile, a variant of which, the Jupiter-C, carried the U.S. first satellite and astronauts into space. The Saturn V, was utilized by the Apollo program manned moon missions and 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 line 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 as the Watercress Capital of the World, because watercress was harvested in such abundance in the area.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center is also home to Aviation Challenge, Space Camp, and the only Saturn V rocket designated a National Historic Landmark.
Hampton Cove is one of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course Trails featuring three 18 hole courses - two championship and one par three.
Monte Sano State Park  has over 2,000 acres (8 km²) and features hiking and bicycling trails, rustic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, campsites, full RV hook-ups, and a recently reconstructed lodge.
The Von Braun Astronomical Society has two observatories and a planetarium on 10 acres (40,000 m²) in Monte Sano State Park.
The Huntsville Madison County Public Library founded in 1818, is Alabama's oldest continually operating library system with 12 locations throughout the county including one bookmobile. The Main 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.
Big Spring Jam  is an annual three-day music festival held on the last full weekend of September in and around Big Spring International Park in downtown Huntsville. It features a diversity of music including rock, country, Christian, kid-friendly, and oldies.
Panoply of the Arts  is an annual springtime arts festival held at Big Spring International Park.
Alabama Constitution Village features eight reconstructed Federal style buildings, with living-museums displays downtown.
Burritt Museum and Park  located on Monte Sano Mountain, is a regional history museum featuring a 1930's mansion, nature trails, scenic overlooks and more.
Clay House Museum  is an antebellum home built ca. 1853 and showcases decorative styles up to 1950 and an outstanding collection of Noritake Porcelain.
Early Works Museum  is a child friendly interactive museum in downtown Huntsville.
Harrison Brothers Hardware Store  established in 1879, is the oldest operating hardware store in Alabama. Though now owned and operated by the Historic Huntsville Foundation , it is still a working store, and part museum featuring skilled craftsmen who voluteer to run the store and answer questions.
Huntsville Museum of Art  in Big Spring International Park offers permanent displays, traveling exhibitions, and educational programs for children and adults.
Huntsville-Madison County Botanical Garden features educational programs, woodland paths, broad grassy meadows and stunning floral collections.
Huntsville Symphony Orchestra  is Alabama's oldest, continuously-operating professional symphony orchestra, featuring high quality performances of classical, pops and family concerts, and extensive music education programs serving public schools.
Land Trust of Huntsville  is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the natural heritage of the area, and has preserved more than 2,300 acres (9 km²) of open space, wildflower areas, natural springs, and local caves in Madison County, including 600+ acres (2.4 km²) on Monte Sano Mountain.
The National Speleological Society  is headquartered in Huntsville on Cave Street.
Sci-Quest  is an interactive premiere hands-on museum for early childhood education, aged four through sixth grade.
Professional Sports Teams
Huntsville Stars  - AA Baseball for Milwaukee Brewers
Huntsville Speedway - NASCAR sanctioned stockcar racing
Tennessee Valley Raptors - United Indoor Football (UIF)
Huntsville Havoc - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL)
Bobby Eaton, professional wrestler, one half of the Midnight Express with Dennis Condrey & Stan Lane, also teamed with Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, Steve Keirn, Koko Ware & George Gulas.
Dr. Jan Davis, former Astronaut; among crew on three Space Shuttle missions in 1992,1994 and 1997.
Jimmy Key, former MLB All-Star pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees
John Stallworth, former Pittsburg Steelers player and 2002 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder