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Historic Helena Rebuilds To Offer Relaxing Tourist Experience

Updated on September 27, 2019
Wayne Ruple profile image

Wayne Ruple has been writing about travel for several years and many of his videos can be found on YouTube.

Buck Creek and Dam
Buck Creek and Dam | Source

Helena Alabama is located south of the state's largest city.

A Historic Town

A town that was once a center for steel production and coal mining went into its own depression after tornadoes in 1933 and the nation's worst depression from 1929-1939

Beginning in 1849 the town was known as Cove and at that time was nothing more than a cross-roads stage stop.

In 1856 the name changed to Hillsboro and became the site of a very productive rolling mill manufacturing material for the the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The mill was actually classified as "top secret" and continued to operate until 1865 when Wilson's Raiders (federal troops) raided the plant and burned it to the ground.

The area saw growth again after the war when the L&N railroad sent an engineer to survey the land and following construction of a new train station, the engineer named the station "Helena Station" after is sweetheart who was the daughter of a local prominent judge.

With the coming of the railroad, the area developed, absorbed Hillsboro and was incorporated as Helena with the railroad agent serving as the mayor..

The old steel mill was eventually rebuilt and reopened and played vital rolls in the development of the steel industry in nearby Birmingham, Alabama.

In addition to the mill, the town contained coal mines, retail stores, hotels, boarding houses, school, railroad yard, cotton gin and a grist mill powered by Buck Creek.

But in 1920 hard times struck the town again and the coal mines closed their operations as the steel mill moved to Birmingham, businesses closed and people moved away. The highly destructive tornado that hit in 1933 destroyed 110 homes and killed 13 people.

But the people who remained worked and kept the town alive and today much of it has become a tourist attraction that focuses on Buck Creek and the dam.


Trains were important to the early development of the town
Trains were important to the early development of the town | Source

Attracts Tourists and Locals

"Old Town Helena" as now a portion of the town is called, has been restored and offers several unique shops and "quaint" restaurants. It was featured in the "Top Places to Raise Kids,"Business Week 2007, 2008 and the "Top 100 Places to Live in the U.S," by Money magazine.

To help attract tourists and serve locals, the Helena Amphitheater Park was established in 1999 within the district and includes an outdoor concert hall, festival site, movie theater and nature park that is home to numerous events.

An annual Buck Creek Festival is held and the Kenneth R. Penhale City of Helena Museum houses many historic displays and items.

Visitors can leisurely walk through the historic section and visit restaurants and shops along with relaxing on the banks of Buck Creek and listening to the waterfall created by the dam.

There is a nice park on the banks of the creek and after visiting shops and restaurants the outdoors setting can help anyone unwind.

Throughout the year you can catch special events, celebrations and bands as they perform.

Main street as it looks today
Main street as it looks today | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Wayne Ruple


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