The Huntsville History Collection started as a long term plan to have something to do when I retired. Then I was bitten by the history bug.
Retirement remains a vague notion of something that might occur at an undetermined time in the future. In the meantime all of my spare time has been consumed conceiving, executing and promoting the Collection. It is what I think, talk and dream about outside of my job.
Fortunately, my wife, Carol, has also caught the bug. She actually seems to enjoy the long debates about the design of minor features of the Collection, or the newly discovered Huntsville history tidbits that are frequent topics of dinner discussions. And she has graciously overlooked the long list of items on the “Honey Do List” to allow me to spend endless hours squirreled away amongst my computers in the back of our house.
She has also been the inspiration, promoter and researcher for the ‘’People of Huntsville,’’ a major component of the Collection. Since catching the People bug a few months ago, she has spent hundreds of hours searching the internet to find references to less well known Huntsvillians or a delightful recording of Tallulah Bankhead laughing. And she is just getting started.
My attempt to trace the inspiration for the Collection leads back to a single key individual - Harvie Jones. If it were not for Harvie, I doubt that the Huntsville Historic Districts or the Huntsville History Collection would have existed. His passion for architectural preservation led to the creation of the Twickenham District, the Historic Huntsville Foundation, the Harvie Jones Architectural Collection at UAH, and ultimately, the Huntsville History Collection. Harvie’s enthusiasm and energy, along with the tireless efforts of his wife Lynn and a long list of dedicated editors (such as Linda Bayer Allen, Elise Stephens, Mickey Mahoney, Margaret Vann, Heather Cross) played a key role in the 30+ year run of the Historic Huntsville Quarterly which documented the history and architecture of Huntsville.
My thanks to Lynn Jones, Anne Coleman and the UAH Salmon Library Archives and Special Collections for allowing me to incorporate materials from the Harvie Jones Architectural Collection into the Huntsville History Collection. Those materials allowed the History Collection to become much more than some recent pictures of houses in the historic districts.
The support of the Huntsville Madison County Historical Society in allowing the reproduction of their journal articles is a key to the future expansion of the Collection. Particular thanks go to President Gary Wicks and to Bob Adams, whose basement has yielded many of the hard to find issues of the Huntsville Historical Review issues.
One of the great personnel benefits of this project has been the opportunity to meet and get to know some of Huntsville’s personalities. One of my favorites is Nancy Rohr, whose melodic voice can quickly spin a fascinating and factually accurate story of early Huntsville that fits nicely into the short attention spans of those of us who suffer from attention deficit disorder. I consider Nancy to be a local treasure. Then there are the local artists who have captured scenes of Huntsville in both realistic and abstract forms. Some of them have been visually documenting Huntsville for decades. Of particular note are Lee Harless, Jr., Albert Lane, L. Trice Hinds, Yuri Ozaki, Jerry Brown and Ashley Brody Vaughn. My thanks to them for allowing us to include their work in the Collection.
And then there are the people that are best described as enablers, whose support have been critical to the success of the Collection. Among these are:
- Ralph and Linda Allen who are a great source of information about the Architecture of Huntsville and the Engineering facilities at Marshall Space Flight Center.
- Approximately 2 dozen other local preservationists, historians, artists or association officers who have patiently succumbed to a demonstration of the Collection in our living room or their work space, as we have solicited their cooperation with the project.
Finally, I am particularly grateful for the Huntsville Madison County Public Library and its personnel who have recognized the value of the Collection and proposed that it be undertaken as a joint venture. Of particular note are:
- Susanna Lieberman who arranged the original meeting at the library
- Mary Moore who instantly saw the value of the collection to the library and the community and provided the vision and orchestration required for the joint venture
- Rosaland Left, Susan Markham & Sue Moyer who supported the idea
- Laurel Best and the HMCPL Board of Directors who approved the joint venture
- Raneé Pruitt for support and years of contribution to the capturing of Huntsville’s History.
- Erica Ortiz for handling the promotional details and assisting with the process of gathering the required authorizations for use of the materials.
Deane K. Dayton
Huntsville History Collection Webmaster
September 21, 2011