Huntsville is the largest core city of the four-county Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area. Huntsville is named after Revolutionary War veteran John Hunt, the first settler of the land around the Big Spring. However, it was renamed "Huntsville" (after first settler John Hunt) during the War of 1812, and it has grown across nearby hills and along the Tennessee River, adding textile mills, then munitions factories, to become a major city, hosting the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal. In 1811, Huntsville became the first incorporated town in Alabama. In 1819, Huntsville hosted a constitutional convention in Walker Allen's large cabinetmaking shop. In 1855, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was constructed through Huntsville, becoming the first railway to link the Atlantic seacoast with the Mississippi River. During the 1930s, industry declined in Huntsville due to the Great Depression. By 1940, Huntsville was still a small quiet town with a population of only 13,150 inhabitants. This quickly changed at the onset of World War II, when Huntsville was chosen as the location of Redstone Arsenal, with its numerous munitions manufacturing plants.
In 2005, Forbes Magazine named the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area as 6th best place in the nation for doing business, and number one in terms of the number of engineers per total employment. There are over 100 languages and dialects spoken in Huntsville, thanks in part to the large number of international corporations doing business in the area.
In 1950, General Toftoy brought German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and his colleagues to Redstone Arsenal to develop what would eventually become the United States’ space program. Huntsville continues to play an important role in the United States' Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. The city continues to be the center of rocket-propulsion research in the United States, and is home to large branches of many defense contractors.
Written by Lyndsey Morgan