HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — From the emergence of the space program to the establishment of Redstone Arsenal in the 20th century, the Rocket City is no stranger to some of America’s richest history.
McThornmor Acres is a link between the people and the events that helped shape the Rocket City into what it is now. On Sunday, the neighborhood that was once home to the early space and rocket program’s workforce was historically recognized.
“The past is sitting right here and this is what got us here today,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
According to city officials, McThornmor Acres is Alabama’s first historic district to be listed to the National Register of Historic Places that is directly linked to the space race.
The neighborhood got its historic marker unveiled Sunday, and its unique story is intriguing for many. Scientists, engineers, and military families, the ones responsible for early space innovation in Huntsville called McThornmor Acres home.
“We had all kinds of people living here because it was a lot of military and then a lot of scientists that would come from all over the country and of course the Germans,” said George Allen who’s been living in the neighborhood for decades.
“Some of Von Braun’s team lived in this neighborhood as well,” he said.
People like Allen say it was a privilege to share the neighborhood with some of Huntsville’s earliest innovators. In fact, the brown street signs with rockets and moons in the neighborhood symbolize its historic standing in the city.
Ken Hovanes’ father worked on the Saturn 1B’s rocket engine, known as the J2. Although Hovanes is now a former resident, he says for his childhood neighborhood to be historically recognized is significant.
“I’m happy to see that the neighborhood gets a little bit of recognition and says hey this is where a lot of engineers helped contribute to a time that was very different and very important to America,” Hovanes told News 19. “It’s just kind of exhilarating to see you know, it was just pure engineering it was a real feat of humanity.”
Those like Allen who still reside in the area after all these years have made it a point to preserve its historical significance. “It’s important for me along with my friends in the neighborhood association of maintaining the security and the cleanliness of the neighborhood,” Allen said.
Current and former residents joined city officials during the unveiling as they observed the history of the neighborhood, that holds a deep meaning in the Huntsville community.