Presidents Day has a special meaning in Madison County

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Here’s a Presidents Day fact: Madison County was named after President James Madison just six days after Madison took office. (Hville Blast)

As we celebrate Presidents Day today, lets not forget that folks here in Madison County are in a special place when it comes to honoring United States presidents. I mean, it all starts with the county name itself, which honors the 4th President of the United States, James Madison.

But James Madison is far from the only president honored with his namesake in the Huntsville area. Check this out:

Madison County’s (and the city’s) namesake

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Madison County — and the city — being named for James Madison means there are several homages in the area to the 4th president. (James Madison Museum)

Let’s start our Presidents Day history lesson by looking at the obvious: Why Madison County has its name. According to the historical marker in Downtown Huntsville, the area that would become Madison County was ceded to the U.S. in 1805 by the Cherokee and Chickasaw tribes.

The area was named for President James Madison just six days after he took office. James Madison, of course, is known as the “Father of the Constitution,” having drafted the Bill of Rights in 1789.

In March of 1817, Alabama was organized by Congress as a territory and a constitutional convention was held in Huntsville in 1819. In December of that year, Alabama was admitted into the Union, and Madison County officially came to be.

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The area known as Madison County was named for James Madison, years before Alabama became a state. (Hville Blast)

Streets in Huntsville named for presidents

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Adams Street in Huntsville is named for President John Quincy Adams. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

James Madison is not the only president honored in Madison County. Multiple roads in Huntsville are named for presidents, mostly in the downtown area. This was something I noticed immediately when I was just a visitor to Huntsville years ago.

I stumbled across a book by Dex Nilsson called Why Is It Named That?, and became enthralled by the stories behind the names of so many streets, buildings, neighborhoods, schools and more in the Huntsville area.

According to Nilsson, these streets really are named for former presidents:

  • Adams Street: Created in 1825 and named for President John Quincy Adams, who was elected the same year.
  • Andrew Jackson Way: This was originally 4th Street, but was renamed for the former president, who owned a significant amount of land in Madison County and visited the area often.
  • Jefferson Street: Named for the 3rd POTUS, Thomas Jefferson.
  • Madison Street: Like the county and the city, the street is named for the 4th POTUS, James Madison.
  • McKinley Avenue: Located in the 5 Points area, this was once known as Melette Avenue, but was renamed to honor President William McKinley after his assassination in 1901.
  • Monroe Street: Some believe the street was named for one of Huntsville’s early businessmen, Damill Castello Monroe. However, historians have confirmed that the street was named for President James Monroe.
  • Washington Street: Like Washington Park, the street is named for the 1st POTUS, George Washington. 

Here’s another interesting Presidents Day fact: While we know that several streets and buildings in Huntsville bear the last names of presidents, not all of them are actually named for a former POTUS. For instance:

  • Clinton Avenue: Named well before President William Jefferson Clinton was elected in 1992, the Downtown Huntsville street is actually named for George Clinton, who was President Madison’s vice president.
  • Harrison Avenue: This street is not named for either President William Henry Harrison or President Benjamin Harrison. It is named for brothers James and Daniel Harrison, of Harrison Brothers Hardware fame.
  • Lincoln Street: Believe it or not, Lincoln Street was not named for President Abraham Lincoln. According to Nilsson, the street was named before Honest Abe became president (which shows you just how old Huntsville really is!). The street is actually named for Benjamin Lincoln, a major general in the Constitutional Army who accepted Gen. Charles O’Hara of the British Army’s surrender, which ended the Revolutionary War.
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Yet another Presidents Day fun fact: Neither Clinton Avenue nor Lincoln Street are named for presidents, despite having presidential names. (Michael Seale / Hville Blast)

So however you wish to celebrate Presidents Day, we should at least recognize the POTUS namesakes throughout the Huntsville area. It’s a cool part of this area’s history.

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You may be celebrating Presidents day without even realizing it, by strolling through Washington Park. (Hville Blast)

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Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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