Bicentennial signs honor legacy street names and heroes

single-meta-cal October 9, 2019

Times have changed exponentially from the early days of Huntsville. However, in some cases, Huntsville citizens are traveling the same roads as their predecessors did in the early 1800s.

One of the more unique aspects about the Twickenham Historic District in downtown Huntsville is that the layout of the roads and the names of those roads have been largely unchanged since the city was founded.

“There are a lot of other cities in the state, Madison for example, that don’t have any of their original streets,” said Sally Warden, Executive Director of Alabama’s Bicentennial for Madison County. “Their streets have changed. Our streets are almost identical. There are some very slight changes, like Fountain Road used to go down to Church Street and now it curves. Once, Gallatin didn’t connect. There are just some very slight changes from 200-plus year old streets. We decided we needed to honor that somehow.”

As you will see…most were Revolutionary War heroes.”

Warden and Bicentennial Chairman Julian Butler approached the Huntsville Traffic Engineering Department to ask for assistance in telling the story of the downtown streets. After receiving approval from Director of Traffic Engineering Kathy Martin, they went to work.

“We went to (Traffic Operations Manager Karen Brown) and her department and said we’d love to have new signage on these streets,” Warden said. “Our original idea had been to put this logo on the green signs, so people could know. They said, “Let’s see what else we can do, let us go back and think.’”

What it became was much more than simple signage.

The signs are different colors – red, white and black – than regular street signs and are located at every one of the original downtown streets. Most are marked with more than one sign. In addition, there are ‘Did you know’ signage placed on the streets.

Brown and Warden say an important part of the project is educating Huntsville citizens and visitors on how the streets were named.

“One of the great stories is that everyone thinks that Lincoln Street is named for Abraham Lincoln,” Warden said. “When these streets were plotted out, Abraham Lincoln was like 1-year-old. It is not for him, it’s for General Benjamin Lincoln, who was a Revolutionary War hero. As you will see, a lot of the ones, especially the obscure ones who you have not heard before, most were Revolutionary War heroes.”

The Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau helped further tell the story, putting together a walking tour pamphlet that tells the story more thoroughly. It tells the story of the history behind ‘The Heart of Huntsville’ and explains the names for 14 of the downtown streets.

“It’s been a fun project,” Warden said. “It was a great partnership between our Bicentennial Committee, the Convention of Visitors Bureau and the City of Huntsville.”