Historic Huntsville Depot makes for great family outing - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Historic Huntsville Depot makes for great family outing

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The Depot is a family-friendly outing where you can learn about area history. The Depot is a family-friendly outing where you can learn about area history.
Some of the many fine historical relics on display at the Depot. Some of the many fine historical relics on display at the Depot.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

In the 1850s, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was the first to connect the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. 

"It is the oldest train terminal still in existence in the state of Alabama and one of the oldest in the country, opened in 1860," explained Tom Giles. He is our tour guide on this day. And who better than the director of operations for the Early Works Family of Museums. He said Huntsville was a strategic position for both sides during the Civil War. Northern forces occupied Huntsville.

"Officers didn't want to stay and camp out on the ground, so they stayed in the fine antebellum homes that we have in the Stickmen District in Huntsville. They didn't burn everything down like they did in most of the other cities," said Giles.

He said there were many firsts here. "The first interior gas lights in the city were in this facility. Also had one of the first indoor facilities, rest room facilities," he described.

Time seems to stand still in 1912, with a few inanimate characters which bring personality to the place.

"This is where the conductors would stay. They had a small area where they would stay. They had the main waiting room," Giles said.

Exquisite finds are on each floor, including models of hotels such as the Russell Erskine, complete with bellhop uniforms.

Remnants unearthed during a downtown dig help explain why Huntsville was so progressive.  "These are actually some of the original water lines that were put in the city of Huntsville in 1823," said Giles.

Time yellowed telegrams and photographs give a glimpse into life at that time. The jail was also here. "If they had prisoners of war before they shipped them out they would house them in this room. When they did the restoration of the property in the late 70s, and were taking off coats of paint, they were actually able to find graffiti that dates back to the Civil War from some Union soldiers and some Confederate soldiers."

There are so many artifacts here. Some are going to be familiar and some are not. Like a lantern used to signal the train's engineer. 

"When you come and visit the depot you can find out the types of uniforms they wore. The type of blankets they had", adds Giles.

A window to the past in Bobby's Bama.

Learn more about the Depot at their website.

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