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Five Points Historic District

Established October 28, 1999

Five Points is a community within a community, 
where the past blends with the present, and has a character 
that gives its residents a shared sense of history and 
connection with a “ spirit of place.”


 HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE

The Five Points Historic Preservation District began as part of the 1892 East Huntsville Addition, and developed slowly over the course of a century.  For this reason it illustrates the change in style and building type for both commercial and residential structures.

Neighborhood housing began with types popular at the end of the 19th century and spanned the entire 20th century stylistic range as infill development occurred.

Rather than a museum-like concentration of one period, the area illustrates the evolution of middle-class housing in 20th century Huntsville.  These dwellings range from modest one and two-story vernacular Victorian homes displaying a minimum of decorative woodwork to an endless variety of bungalows that experienced great popularity in the 1920's.  The bungalow is primarily identified by a low, quiet roofline, stick brackets under the eaves, broad front porches, and one or one-and-a-half stories with front dormers.  Some bungalows demonstrate Arts and Crafts details while a few homes revived the English Cottage tradition with a few distinctive details focused on entryways and chimneys.

Mid-century housing for the masses tended toward simple and plain designs based on the Cape Cod house and was constructed primarily of wood.  In the 1950's Huntsville experienced tremendous growth, and houses were built wherever there were vacant lots.  These houses of the 50's and 60's illustrate the popularity of the ranch style.  In a neighborhood of forty-foot wide lots, these long low brick homes required a minimum of two lots to stretch across.


 HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE

The collection of buildings in the Five Points neighborhood is significant because of what it can tell us of our city's historic and architectural past as well as illustrate the continuing need for housing.  More specifically:

  • The East Huntsville Addition was created as part of the effort of local businessmen to revitalize Huntsville and attract industry and jobs following the destruction brought by the Civil War.  The subdivision's beginnings are tied to 19th century events, but they also contributed to the initial effort to shape the city's future through active recruitment of jobs and businesses rather than a continued reliance on agriculture.
  • The Five Points neighborhood retains its 19th century grid layout of broad, parallel streets, narrow but deep lots, and rear service alleys which permit pedestrian-oriented streets since most lots have rear parking access, or in some cases shared driveways straddling property lines.   It is in fact the prototype of the New Urbanism that shows up in planned communities like Seaside, Florida and locally in the Providence community now under construction, where architects try to recreate the neighborhood feeling of the past.
  • East Huntsville was the first true suburb in Huntsville made feasible by the construction of a streetcar line, which allowed working people to live farther than walking distance from jobs and shopping without owning an automobile.
  • At over 100 years old, the mature subdivision features large trees and substantial plantings, sidewalks, front porches, a comfortable scale, a unity of street line, and a variety of housing styles, materials, sizes, and massing–features which are impossible to achieve when a neighborhood is built up over a relatively short time span.

THE CREATION OF A DISTRICT

The establishment of an Historic District requires that petitions requesting historic status be signed by at least sixty percent of the property owners in a defined area and be submitted to the city.  A public hearing before the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission follows receipt and verification of the petitions.  The commission's recommendation is forwarded to the city council, which considers the request and votes on the ordinance to establish the district.

A possible Five Points Historic District was seriously considered in 1982 when the Historic Huntsville Foundation sponsored a meeting with area residents to assess whether there was sufficient interest on the part of owners to pursue the process.  The area targeted extended from Oakwood Avenue to Maple Hill cemetery and from Maysville Road to Andrew Jackson Way.  Petitions were circulated, but the scope was too large and was unworkable--in part due to large numbers of absentee landowners.  Later the target area was reduced to south of McCullough, and work began again.  The requisite number of petitions was still unobtainable.  The quest lay dormant until 1994 when the city again received inquires about the procedure from several homeowners.  This time they succeeded in securing the necessary support, but only by restricting the boundaries to a smaller area where interest was concentrated.  The hope was that if a smaller district could be established, then adjoining blocks might later be encouraged to join the district by following the same procedure. 

It took five years for a group of dedicated neighbors to secure the necessary petitions for a district that ran from Ward Avenue to Wells and Eustis Avenues and from Russell Street to Minor Street.  The following year it was expanded by the addition of five more blocks to the East and Grayson Street is now the boundary. 

Although The Five Points Historic Preservation District does not cover all of the area known as Five Points, nor the entire East Huntsville Addition, it does encompass prime examples of vernacular domestic architecture from the late 1890's through the 21st century. When walking its streets, one can see how tastes have changed and evolved over time while fitting into the Victorian framework that initially formed its character.

This was adapted from a Public Hearing presentation, given by Linda Allen, Huntsville Planning Department, to the Huntsville Historic Preservation Commission, 1999.


FIVE POINTS HISTORIC DISTRICT LOGO DESIGN

At the first meeting called to establish the Five Points Historic District Association November 16, 1999, a great amount of interest was shown in the design of a Logo for our newly formed Historic District. Among the 40 some people present, it was decided that we would have an open contest for the design that would represent our District, and would be voted on at the next meeting, called for November 30, 1999.

Enthusiasm was high when 13 different designs were presented for a vote. The winning Logo is truly representative of Five Points.

The picket fence symbolizes the sidewalk friendly community.
The star represents the "Five Points"……
And the style of font used for the words "Five Points" was derived from the 1921 and 1928 Sanborn Maps of Huntsville, which is the era that brought the East Huntsville Addition into the City.


FIVE POINTS, OUR STREETS AND AVENUES

Download a PDF of the series by written by Judy Perszyk that ran in the Five Points Historic District newsletter.

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