It’s difficult to say if any one sector of Huntsville uniquely embodies the zeitgeist of the Apollo era, but one neighborhood has offered itself for precisely that role. Huntsville’s McThornmor Acres is poised to become Alabama’s first historic district dating from the dawn of the Space Age.
When the Von Braun rocket team came to Huntsville, a number of them nested atop Monte Sano — word was the landscape’s Bavarian air reminded them of their homeland. As the Apollo era dawned, scientists and technicians by the hundreds flooded into town, and Monte Sano wasn’t going to hold them all.
In 2015, reported the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission, “a joint effort between local residents, Historic Huntsville Foundation, City of Huntsville, Alabama-Government, and Alabama Historical Commission resulted in the procurement of grant funding to complete a historic sites survey … to evaluate the McThornmor Acres neighborhood for its National Register of Historic Places – NPS (NRHP) eligibility.” A grant was secured to fund the NRHP nomination for McThornmor Acres with hopes that the process might be completed in 2018.
The neighborhood was deemed worthy of preservation as it “reflected the goals of city planning to create a modern neighborhood for the workforce of the rocket and space program. The houses of McThornmor Acres represent the architecture of their time, including post war rancher, split level ranches, and mid-century contemporary.”
Huntsville.org’s “Guide to the Historic Districts” adds that
“McThornmor Acres was originally a peach orchard. It now has shady streets and 3 bedroom homes built in 1957 and 1958.”
While McThornmor Acres has yet to receive its official status on the National Register of Historic Places, the City of Huntsville’s historic preservationist, Katie Stamps, confirms that the process is on track, with no impediments encountered so far. As history itself wisely counsels, some things just can’t be rushed.