Recognized as the birthplace of Alabama, the county’s economic history has revolved around agriculture. Madison County was one of the largest cotton-producing counties in the state, but that changed in 1950 when a group of German rocket scientists, led by Wernher von Braun, arrived at Redstone Arsenal.
As the state’s fastest-growing metropolitan area and the third-most-populated county, Madison County’s population is projected to increase even more over the next several years.
Madison County covers 813 square miles in northern Alabama. The southern and eastern portions of the county are dominated by the dissected remnants of the Cumberland Plateau. Nearby is Monte Sano Mountain — Spanish for “mountain of health”— which rises nearly 1,000 feet above the floor of the Tennessee Valley. Monte Sano State Park lies on its eastern slopes. The northern and western portions of the county are flatter. Morgan County lies to the southwest, Jackson County to the east, Marshall County to the southeast and Limestone County to the west.
The county boasts trails for exploring Monte Sano State Park, with adjoining trails to one of the largest trail systems in the state. For more information, check out a Madison County trails website at www.bamatrails.com/pages/madison-county-trails.asp.
Communities in Madison County near Redstone Arsenal include Huntsville, Madison and New Hope.
308 Fountain Circle
Huntsville, AL 35801 256-427-5000
Centrally located in Madison County and extending west into neighboring Limestone County, Huntsville lies in the northernmost part of Alabama. Huntsville is part of the greater Tennessee Valley Region and Madison County. It is nestled between the Tennessee River and the Appalachian Mountains, which provide a varied terrain of mountains and valleys that hold valuable water resources. Huntsville is the county seat.
Huntsville sits 9 miles northeast of Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Huntsville’s relationship with Redstone Arsenal spans seven decades and is an enduring economic success story of a partnership that strongly supports the U.S. Army mission and the quality of life of soldiers, veterans and civilians who call this region home.
The city’s 209 square miles are home to 194,585 residents, according to 2017 Census estimates.
John Hunt settled in the area in 1805. The town site was originally named Twickenham after poet Alexander Pope’s English home at the request of Leroy Pope, another early settler who bought much of the land on which downtown Huntsville stands. He was a distant relative of Alexander Pope and was called the “father of Huntsville.”
In 1811, the Legislature renamed the town Huntsville in honor of its first settler. The city has grown across nearby hills and along the
Tennessee River, building textile mills and eventually, munitions factories.
Technology, space and military defense industries are a major presence in Huntsville with Redstone Arsenal, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Cummings Research Park. The community has a large defense sector and a diverse and broad-based market of other industrial sectors. Huntsville ranked No. 1 on the list of “Best Affordable Places to Live” by Livability in 2016.
Huntsville offers abundant cultural and recreational opportunities. In 2016, outdoor gear retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. included the city among its top five destinations “to get you psyched for hiking” for its opportunities to explore unique geologic features, dense forests, historical landmarks and beautiful parks. Classic hikes include Blevins Gap and the Rainbow Mountain Run.
Newcomers to the community will find that housing is readily available and affordable. Median gross rent in 2017 was $773 a month, and median selected owner costs with a mortgage were $1,195. Mean travel time to work is 19 minutes.
100 Hughes Road
Madison, AL 35758 256-772-5644
Just 6 miles northwest of Redstone Arsenal, Madison is known for its high-quality schools, well-educated residents and high-tech companies.
More than 1,000 businesses call Madison home, enjoying a low cost of doing business, educated professionals and a hard-working labor force. The largest employers include Intergraph Corp., STI and Tyonek and other growing corporations.
The first known white settler in the area was John Cartwright, who in 1818 arrived in the Tennessee Valley, which was part of the Mississippi Territory. Cartwright liked what he saw and received a land grant from the federal government for a place that eventually was called Madison Station, then just Madison.
The history of Madison as a town began in 1856 when tracks were laid by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. In 1858, a “Judge Clemons” was among the original landowners. He planned the town lots fronting the railroad. A depot was constructed on one of Clemons’ lots, and a house was built for T.J. Clay, the first station agent.
As more families moved into this fertile region, merchants followed and a business district was founded on what later became Main Street. The first business was a saw and grist mill, followed by a blacksmith shop and merchants.
During the Civil War, the town’s growth stalled, and one battle, referred to as “the Affair at Madison Station,” was fought in 1864 when federal soldiers took over the railroad to cut off a direct route for soldiers and supplies to Georgia.
Today, Madison is one of the fastest-growing cities in the southeastern United States, with one of the highest per capita incomes and a school system that is recognized for scholastic excellence.
Madison is 29 square miles with an estimated population of 48,861 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census. Median gross rent was $879 in 2017, and median selected owner costs with a mortgage were $1,577 a month. Mean travel time to work is just under 20 minutes.
Attractions include Insanity Skate, which offers all-night skate events, Madison Bowling Center and Madison Golf Center. Natural amenities include greenways and trails, among them Mill Creek Greenway, Bradford Creek Greenway and Indian Creek Greenway, plus Rainbow Mountain Preserve, with its beautiful rock formations, fossils, caves, hardwood forests and a waterfall.
5484 Main Drive
New Hope, AL 35760 256-723-2616
Originally named Cloud’s Town in 1829 by its founder, William Cloud, the settlement was incorporated in 1832 as Vienna. The town was destroyed during the Civil War, and all that survived was the post office and Masonic Lodge. From that destruction, the town was rebuilt and named New Hope, taking its name from the local New Hope Methodist Church, since there was already a post office called Vienna.
New Hope lies 24 miles southeast of Redstone Arsenal and boasts a population of nearly 3,000 people — a quiet, laid-back community in which to live and work.
Attractions in the area include Cathedral Caverns State Park, where daily tours are held throughout the stalagmite mountain. Frozen waterfalls are also on view, with year-round tours as the caves maintain a 60-degree temperature. The Madison County Nature Study Center is in nearby Huntsville and offers walking trails, picnic areas and a replica of a historic covered bridge.