TAKING ACTION: What’s to come to renovate Constitution Hall Park in Huntsville

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- A viewer recently contacted WHNT News 19 to ask about Constitution Village in Huntsville. That person cited peeling paint that's visible on Constitution Hall from the road, wondering if renovations would be ready by Alabama's Bicentennial celebration.

We met with Bart Williams, Executive Director of the Earlyworks Family of Museums, to ask him about it. The first thing he'd like visitors to know about the cosmetic problems at the park: "We see it, too. And we're not ignoring it."

He said an estimated $2 million is necessary for grounds improvements, paint, rotting wood, and building renovations needed to get it ready for the bicentennial. It's taken so long because, he admits, paying for all that has been a problem.

"It just catches up, and being short on funding in different areas has caused us to sort of put things off," he said. "But now, it's absolutely a priority."

He added that other work, including some roofing and AC work, has already been done on the Constitution Village site. It may be less obvious to the public, though. A bigger project is coming, and that will begin next March.

What may help moving forward is that Constitution Village has the attention of the state's bicentennial committee. Williams told WHNT News 19 that committee is including it in a statewide fundraiser for the big event, so he expects Constitution Hall could see a chunk of change when that wraps up to be applied to its many renovations.

Also, the city of Huntsville will pay the museum $150,000 for the next three years. Williams said grants and their own fundraisers should help, too.

The bicentennial celebrations begin in Alabama in March 2017. The actual bicentennial is in the summer of 2019. The energy of the bicentennial, Williams explained, will culminate in Huntsville in the place where Alabama's statehood began. He added, it's also the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon, so Huntsville will have much to celebrate. He expects Huntsville and surrounding communities to be packed for weeks and months, as history comes alive at Constitution Hall.

Williams also admits to feeling the heat, as the big event's deadlines are closer than they appear.

"Don't let us off the hook, we need to get this done. And I need the community wanting it done," he commented. "People can make an argument that it was maybe a little bit past time [to do this,]" he said, "and that we should have been doing it. And I'm not going to argue with that. I agree. But it's going to be ready. This is not going to be an issue."