Skip directly to content

Alabama Constitution Village

Julie Slaten, Huntsville, Alabama
Alabama Constitution Village Entrance
Alabama Constitution Village is a living-history park located in downtown Huntsville, Madison County that commemorates the events leading up to Alabama's statehood. The park also provides a glimpse into the life of Alabamians during the Federal Period. It consists of 16 structures that represent the years 1805 to 1819, showcasing five major structures. The buildings were rebuilt on the original site of the 1819 Constitutional Convention, where the constitution that prepared the way for Alabama's statehood was debated, written, and on August 2, ratified.
In preparation for the state's sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, the Huntsville Madison County Historical Society began to research the location of the original Constitutional Convention in 1968. Out of this effort, the Constitution Hall Park committee was formed that year. Archeologists located the correct area, and during the formal dig, the foundations of the original buildings were found along with numerous other artifacts. Local architect Harvie P. Jones and others extensively researched what the buildings would have looked like and how they should be built and prepared for reconstruction. The state purchased the site upon which the village was built and the buildings were constructed if as new in 1819.
Constitution Hall in Huntsville
In October 1975, the site was listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The city of Huntsville established the first board of directors to govern the site in 1980, and by May 1982, the Village was opened as the Museum Village at Constitution Hall Park.
Delegates to the territorial legislature assembling in Huntsville during the summer of 1819 found a booming, crowded town. The local cabinet shop was likely the only available building large enough to accommodate the meeting. The two-story frame building, now known as Constitution Hall in its location in Constitution Village, served as a meeting place for the 44 delegates who organized Alabama as the 22nd state. The upper floor of the building, incidentally, had served as the location of the first professional theater in Alabama.
The Clay Building housed the law office of Clement Comer Clay. After serving in Alabama's Territorial Legislature, Clay won a seat to the Constitutional Convention and chaired the important committee of 15, which wrote the first draft of the Constitution. In the fall of 1819, he was commissioned as the first chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and later served as Alabama's governor and U.S. senator. The Clay Building also served as the Huntsville Post Office and the office of the Federal Land Surveyor's team, which mapped thousands of acres of land for sale by the federal government.
Cabinetmaking Demonstration
The Boardman Complex housed the newspaper office of the Alabama Republican, one of the earliest newspapers of the Alabama Territory. Editor and publisher John Boardman printed the official journal of the 1819 Constitutional Convention, and on August 3, 1819, issued the first complete printing of the Constitution of the State of Alabama adopted on August 2, 1819. This newspaper also printed the laws of the state passed by the first legislative assembly that met in Huntsville, the temporary Alabama capital. Boardman was also home to the first incorporated library in the state, housed in the law office of John N. S. Jones. On October 22, 1819, the books of the Huntsville Library Company were first made available to the library's patrons. Subscribers were allowed to check out and return books two days per week, while Jones was out to lunch.
The fourth main building on the site is the Neal residence. This two-story frame house was built by Stephen Neal, Madison County's first sheriff, and was occupied by his family for many years. Neal, who was appointed on December 9, 1808, by the governor of the Mississippi Territory and served until 1822, was prominent in the early development of Huntsville and Madison County. The house is a typical family town home of the 1819 period, complete with adjoining kitchen, well house, carriage house, necessary house, gardens, and dairy keep.
Candle-making Demonstration
A number of live demonstrations are presented regularly both in the reconstructed buildings and on the grounds such as spinning, weaving, cooking over an open fire, fabric dyeing, and candle making. Craftspeople such as blacksmiths, basket makers, and potters show visitors how they create their wares. An average of 15,000 children visit each year during field trips to experience life in the early 1800s. Between Thanksgiving and December 23, the buildings and grounds offer programming and demonstrations related to the holiday season, including musical entertainment, live reindeer, the North Pole elves, and appearances by Santa Claus.
Alabama Constitution Village, along with the EarlyWorks Children's Museum and the Huntsville Depot and Museum, is part of the EarlyWorks Family of Museums, a non-profit agency of the city of Huntsville. Annually, more than 50,000 visitors attend the EarlyWorks Family of Museums.
Published:  February 22, 2017   |   Last updated:  February 22, 2017