Huntsville is full of history and a very important part of our past is over in West Huntsville. One building that has been a pillar in our city is now turning one hundred years old. Despite all the changes Huntsville has seen, Merrimack Hall, at it’s roots, has always been a place for friendship and community.
Singing, strumming, and laughing – those are three things you will hear during a visit to Merrimack Hall. It’s a place where friends gather and support each other.
“They help me out with my monologues and stuff,” shares Anna Roth, a Merrimack Hall Participant. “They say you got it girl, keep going.”
Merrimack Hall is a performing arts center for people with special needs, and has over three hundred participants in their programs.
“I visit my friends, I like to sing, I like hip-hop, I like yoga, I like everything,” smiles Anna Chilton, a Merrimack Hall Participant.
“My favorite is going on field trips and drawing and singing,” says Keyon Leslie, a fellow participant.
But it’s not just the sounds of drums and guitars that fill these walls, there is one hundred years of Huntsville history.
“Merrimack Hall was the community center for the Merrimack Mill, which was right down the street from where our building is located,” explains Andrew Skinner, the Strategic Operations Director of Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center.
Merrimack Hall was opened in 1919 in the Merrimack Mill Village, which was home to hundreds of mill workers and their families. The hall is where people came to take showers, get coffee, and enjoy community.
“Upstairs there was also a gym with a small stage where activities would happen,” shares Andrew Skinner. “So people would come here to play basketball, and we actually have have an old photo of some sort of production on the stage.”
Some people say the ghost of a young mill boy named Charlie Foster still roams the building. Although there is no evidence of that, there are still traces of the once bustling working class village.
“We have boxes of thousands of spindles from the cotton gins that were here in the building,” says Skinner.
When the building was renovated in 2008 by current owners Debra and Alan Jenkins, they wanted to honor the history of the building and the village.
“They didn’t want to just change the entire landscape of the Westside of Huntsville, but they really wanted to bring a revitalization to the area while preserving what the building used to be,” says Skinner of the renovation.
Now one hundred years later, a lot has changed. But at the same time, the building seems to have the same purpose. It is a place that brings people together, it is a place for fun, friends, and family.
“This place served as the center of the Merrimack Mill Village,” smiles Andrew Skinner. “Now in 2019 it serves as the center of life and community for hundreds of families of people with special needs on a weekly basis, it’s incredible.”
For more information on Merrimack Hall, click here.