Big Spring Park (Huntsville, Alabama)
Big Spring Park
|Location||W. Side Sq., Huntsville, Alabama|
|Area||12.5 acres (5.1 ha) (park)|
|MPS||Downtown Huntsville MRA|
|NRHP Reference #||80000704|
|Added to NRHP||September 22, 1980|
Big Spring International Park (also known as Big Spring Park) is located in downtown Huntsville, Alabama. The park is built around its namesake "Big Spring", the original water source that the city of Huntsville was built around. The park is also notable as the venue for the Panoply Arts Festival, held the last full weekend in April, and the Big Spring Jam, an annual music festival held on the fourth weekend in September from 1993 to 2011.
The Big Spring
|"Huntsville is situated around the finest spring in the world; the spring forms a semicircle 100 feet wide, and at a trivial expense the stream can be made navigable for batteaux to the Tennessee river; which is only ten miles distant."|
|- future U.S. Senator John Williams Walker, 1815
to his friend and US Secretary of War William H. Crawford
Big Spring Park is named after a large, underground karst spring, referred to by the indigenous Cherokee and Chickasaw as "the big spring". Hearing of the abundant water source and plentiful big game, John Hunt, Huntsville's founder, sought out the spring and settled near it in 1805 on the bluff above, which later became the site of the First National Bank of Huntsville. Isaac and Joseph Criner had previously reached the Big Spring and considered settlement, but due to the presence of bears and mosquitoes left to settle New Market instead. During the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the spring was Huntsville's water source, due to its massive flow. The Big Spring is the largest limestone spring in North Alabama, with its usual flow between 7 and 20 million US gallons (76,000 m3) per day, depending on the time of the year.
From 1827 to the early 1840s, what would later become the park grounds served as the site of the Fearn Canal, built from 1821 to 1824. The canal was built by the Indian Creek Navigation Company, led by local resident Dr. Thomas Fearn. It linked downtown Huntsville and the spring to the Tennessee River, allowing traders to bypass a costly wagon haul of about 11 miles South to the nearest river port, Ditto's Landing in the town of Whitesburg. The canal eventually became obsolete upon the construction of railroads.
The original park site is situated in downtown Huntsville, starting from the west side of the courthouse square, and extending about two blocks southwest. This part of the park includes the spring itself and a canal extending to the rest of the park. The park expanded across Church Street to the space which now has the park's lagoon. In 2005, the park underwent additional expansion across Monroe Street to include a $284,000 fountain and a canal alongside the Von Braun Center.
Today the park prominently features gifts given by other countries and foreign nationals to the city of Huntsville, including a 1903 light beacon (often referred to as "the lighthouse") and a 1929 fog bell given by Norway in 1973. Other smaller gifts included a bench from the United Kingdom and a sundial from Germany.
The most recognizable gifts, however, are the iconic red Japanese bridge and cherry trees, given by Japanese Major General Mikio Kimata. From 1964 to 1966, Kimata, then a Lieutenant Colonel, attended Redstone Arsenal's Ordnance Guided Missile School program. As thanks to the city for its hospitality when hosting him, Kimata donated the original 60 Yoshino Cherry trees. He followed up on this gift with the donation of a "friendship bridge" to celebrate the United States Bicentennial. The bridge was formally dedicated on May 3, 1977. In 1998, Kimata and the Japanese Society of Alabama partially financed a major $36,000 renovation of the bridge. The bridge was restyled, expanded, and given a gentler slope.
The park served as a major filming location in Constellation, a 2005 feature film.
- Betts, Edward Chambers (1916). Early History of Huntsville, Alabama: 1804 to 1870.
- Bonvillian, Crystal (October 17, 2010). "Bridge fans give park landmark fresh look". The Huntsville Times.
- Cure, Sarah (November 3, 2011). "Big Spring Jam officials evaluating new ideas after disappointing turnout in 2011". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
- Doyle, Steve (December 7, 2008). "City father Hunt no mere pioneer". The Huntsville Times.
- Doyle, Steve (October 10, 2010). "Volunteers will repaint Huntsville's iconic Japanese bridge next weekend". The Huntsville Times.
- LaMoreaux, P.E.; Powell, W.J. (1963). Stratigraphic and Structural Guides to the Development of Water Wells and Well Fields in a Limestone Terrain (PDF).
- Peck, John (October 13, 2005). "Fountain centerpiece to honor civic leader". The Huntsville Times.
- Richardson, L.W. (March 20, 1976), "Fearn Canal (Indian Creek Nav. Co.)", American Canal Society Canal Index (PDF)
- Sallee, Rebecca (April 2005). "Beautiful Reminders of Friendship: International Exchange is Huntsville's Heritage" (PDF). Initiatives (Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce).
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