The Madison Roundhouse

Madison was once well known for an unusual landmark called "the little roundhouse". It was built in the 1880's, over the well that supplied the town's water needs. The well pump was a double hand-lever pump, operated on the order of a railway handcar.

The octagon-shaped building was erected while Captain John B. Floyd, a Civil War veteran, was mayor of Madison.  The Building was located on the south side of the railroad tracks and caused considerable comments from train passengers and others traveling through the community.  Above the well was constructed the odd-shaped, one story building, perched on top of eight foot stilts. The roundhouse served as the city hall and many activities were held there including elections, card playing and hair cutting when the barber visited once a week. A stairway led to the tiny offices.  Unfortunately, this historic landmark was sold and dismantled about 1938. The foundation still stands in downtown Madison next to the former police station.

At one time Madison's economy depended on cotton. Practically all businesses were directly related in one way or another to this product. Cotton remained all important until the late 1950's when Redstone Arsenal was reactivated. Since that time cotton planting has declined steadily.  Madison's area population remained steady over a period of many years with little variation between four and five hundred. Businesses remained about the same with later additions of service stations and a telephone office. Madison did not see any appreciable growth until 1955. At that time Redstone Arsenal began to enlarge and the population began a steady increase. Lands were surveyed for modern subdivisions the first of which was called Hughes Heights, in 1956. By 1957, Madison officials were instigating modern improvements for the town. Modem curbs and gutters were installed as well as street lights, and the city purchased its first police car.

The reproduction roundhouse was built in 1986 to coincide with the first street festival. Most of the supplies and labor were donated. Today it is operated as a museum of Madison.

203 Church Street

The Haney-Gillespie house is one of the oldest houses on Church Street.  It was built circa 1885 by Dr. Haney a Madison physician.  Mr. Haney lived there until 1903.  The house changed hands several times until Mr. and Mrs. William C. Gillespie purchased it in 1928.  Mr. Gillespie was superintendent of Madison Waterworks for many years.

The L-shaped house is a good example of a late nineteenth century cottage with its Victorian gingerbread decoration.  Decorative brackets are attached to the ends of the wooden version of a string course which extends across the front of the house.  The corner porches at front and back have partially turned posts with brackets that connect the gingerbread decorations on the cornice boards.

The house remained in the Gillespie family until Mrs. Gillespie's death in 1994.  Her husband died in 1985.  

127 Church Street - Madison United Methodist Church

The Madison United Methodist Church was organized in 1828. A deed was issued in 1837 to the ''Trustees of the Methodist Church in U.S. of America" by Rowland and Elizabeth Gooch and was recorded in 1838. The church was located at the crossroads of the present Old Madison Pike and Hughes Road intersection, also known as Riddle's Corner and the "Old Triana Road." The church was one office churches on the circuit and remained on the circuit until 1913 when it became a full pastorate under Rev. J. Duncan Hunter who later became District Superintendent. The church was originally known as "The Methodist Episcopal Church, South."

The present site was purchased in 1873, and the church was rolled on logs to the present lo­ cation. At that time, it was a one­ room frame building. In 1947, under the leadership of Rev. Thelmer Vaughn, the building was brick veneered and the first educational units were built, including the kitchen, dining room, pastor's study and Memorial Windows. This effort was completed in April 1948. Rev. S. Allen Balch, a native of Madison, held the official opening. The Dedication Service was held on Sunday, September 2, 1951, with Bishop Clare Purcell, who served the circuit from 1910-1913, leading the service.

A second addition included classrooms, a kitchen and a fellowship hall. It was completed in 1964 under the leadership of Rev. Howard Collins. In 1987, under the leadership of Rev. Joe Estes, the vestibule was remodeled including a new floor, doors and steps. On the north side, a ramp was installed where the old entrance was located.

About 56 pastors have served the church from Alexander Little Page Green in1828 to our present
pastor, Rev. Bobby Ray Halbrooks, who came to the church from St. Luke United Methodist Church in Decatur, Alabama in 1996.

The following statement was made by one of the pastors to the Quarterly Conference:
"No better people can be found anywhere than those of the Madison United Methodist Church."

And this still applies today.
Contributed by: Percy Keel
Church Historian

114 Church Street - Morrison Home

114 Church Street Morrison Home - 1959

The Madison County Tax Assessor's website shows this house as having been constructed in 1959. It is the home of Louese Angel Morrison. Older photos of the house show that Morrison has greatly improved the grounds over the years, resulting in almost a park-like environment.

19 Front Street


(A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin)
Originally written May 23, 2010
Updated November 19, 2012

Madison Belles -2010
Several years ago I wrote of the mansion built by James Edward Williams at 19 Front Street in the historic original downtown part of Madison, on the north side of the railroad tracks between Sullivan Street and Church Street.  

The impressive multi-story home with wrap-around porches on two levels proudly graces the Front Street line of old houses reflecting the glory of Madison in the early 1900s.  The back wing of this house was built around 1869 by William B. Dunn, Madison’s first railroad depot agent, who was also a physician.  Dunn was a brother of Jackie Dunn Wiggins, who lived on a plantation east of today’s jetplex.  The two-story part of the house was constructed by Jim and Mattie Whitworth Williams around 1904, incorporating Dunn’s house as part of the dwelling, which makes it probably the oldest house standing within the historic town limits of Madison.  

The home was purchased and saved from decay by Chris and Lynn Crumbley in January of 2011.  They have restored the structure to its former glory, making interior improvements that considerably added to its modern functionality and decor while retaining the historical features.
J. E. Williams, raised in Madison, forms a splendid example of what an ambitious man may accomplish by grasping opportunities that abound in this community.  He started in young manhood (at age 16) sharecropping on the farm of Dr. W. F. Pride in 1883.  In the year 1892 he had accumulated enough funds to purchase a farm of 180 acres, from the proceeds of which he bought in 1896 another tract containing 640 acres.  In 1900 he added 280 acres to  his possession.  In 1903 he added another parcel of 560 acres and still more all along the way.  Commencing without funds he has pushed forward.  He has surmounted every difficulty, gradually building upward all the time until he now owns four large farms aggregating about 1900 acres.  His farms are worth an average of about $20 per acre.  The annual production of the farms is conservatively estimated to be about $18,000.  Mr. Williams also raises considerable livestock, especially cattle, which he uses in his own market in connection with his mercantile establishment.  Thereby he assures his customers the best meats at lowest possible prices.  Aside from a full and complete line of merchandise, in which may be found just about anything that could possibly be needed in the home or on the farm, he also handles farm implements.  He has just now begun supplying a long-standing need of the town by establishing a first-class livery stable.  Mr. Williams has assisting in his business those two ‘old reliable’ clerks, Tom W. Carter and Arthur H. Lewis.

The June 2010 Madison street tours sponsored by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau began across Front Street at the nearby Roundhouse.  The “Madison Belles” (young ladies in antebellum costume) assisted.  That particular year of the street tours included access to the first floor of the unoccupied Williams mansion.  Because of inclement weather that arose, a slide show of selected historic Madison photos was presented for the touring public in the dining room of 19 Front Street as a substitute for walking in the rain to see other historic homes.

The 1913 newspaper misstated Williams' childhood to a degree.  He was not “raised in Madison,” but rather on a farm in Limestone County near Madison.  On the other hand, the newspaper included not only the life story article, but it also printed a photo of the house and a photo of the man, with the caption “Mr. J. E. Williams, Alderman, Merchant and Planter”.

After the newspaper's  publication, Williams incorporated
Madison Telephone Company on March 4, 1919.  This was at a time when most towns in the South had no such instruments.  

For those who want to know more about the man and the mansion, additional details and connections can be found on CD-ROMs or DVDs available from the Madison Historical Society.  There is also related coverage in the sesquicentennial book of Madison, available at Main Street Cafe and Madison Station Antiques on Main Street in Madison.

Jim and Mattie Whitworth Williams
in their home, circa 1910

112 Church Street Wann - Curry Home

This is the home of Gordon and Monica CurryThe tax assessor's records show it as having been built in 1935but often it is known that structures are older than those records show. It is also known that this was the home of William and Vida Wann. William was a merchant at 206 Main Streetpreviously the store of Dea Theodore Thomas. Wann operated the store with general merchandise from 1917 to 1940. Thomas had it from 1904 to 1917. Considering the time of Wann's merchandising on Main Streetit is believed that he may have constructed this house before 1935, but research of the history is not yet completed.

The census of 1920 shows William as age 33, born in Alabama around 1887. His wife Vida was listed then as 32, also born in Alabama. In the 1930 census, Vida was living on Front Street as a widow, making a living as a bookkeeper in a dry goods store.

110 Church Street Canterbury - Keebler Home

This distinct and impressive house was the home of William E. Canterbury and his wife Matilda BinfordWilliam was listed in census records as a farmer in 1920but as a salesman and clerk in a general store in 1900 and 1910. He was born at the end of the Civil War in 1865, a son of Thomas Canter­bury who was a Confederate Army veteran. William married Matilda in 1904, and in 1905 they bought the house and lot on Church Street from Frank G. Hertzler and Harvey Anderson.  This purchase was recorded in Deed Book 91, page 598.

When William Canterbury had a store, it was located in what has more recently been Hughes Hardwarethe two-story building south of the railroad tracks216 Main Street. Matilda died before the 1930 censuswhen William was listed as a widower. William was a nephew of an older William Canterbury in the townbut that one had the middle initial "J." William J. Canterbury lived on the west side of Sullivan Street, in the Pension Row area when it had a Masonic Lodge that shared a building with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church thereWilliam J. was listed in the 1900 census as a farmerbut in 1910 and 1920 he was shown as a preacher or minister. Perhaps he preached in the Presbyterian Church near where he lived. His wife was Katie K., who was about 15 years younger than William J., who died in 1941 at approximately age 98.