Helena – Then & Now

Helena Alabama

Old Town Helena is considered one of the most iconic and historic sections within the Helena city limits, but how has this part of town changed within the last 100 years, and become known what it is today?

The city of Helena has a rich history, and a lot of the history is centered around Old Town Helena and the railroad tracks.

Old Town Helena

In 1863, the Confederate government built a rolling mill and around that same time the railroad came through.

After the Civil War, the railroad was rebuilt around 1872, and that’s when most of the stores and major activity moved down toward the railroad tracks, according to Helena Museum director and curator Ken Penhale.

“Five or six years after the Civil War is really when things started flourishing,” said Penhale. “When they rebuilt the railroad, that’s when things really broke loose down here in Old Town. It flourished, and there was quite a lot going on here until the 1920s. You had a number of stores, barbershops, doctor’s office, dentist office, cleaners, shoe shops and more down here.”

In 1933, Helena was hit by a devastating tornado that destroyed much of the town, but miraculously the majority of Old Town Helena was not affected by the storm.

“The only thing the tornado really damaged was one brick building in Old Town, it sucked the front out of it and it got the top of the Davidson house behind it,” said Penhale. “Other than that, it didn’t bother any of the other structures or the railroad tracks.”

Although the actual buildings weren’t physically destroyed by the tornado, Old Town still took a hit after the tornado in an economic form.

The tornado displaced many families and destroyed many businesses. Because of this, it took Helena many years and decades to recover to what it once was.

In the late 1990s, there were plans in the works to try and make Old Town Helena an attractive place for those to visit, and Joseph Habshey was one of those responsible for helping to restore some of the buildings in Old Town. He believes Old Town will continue to flourish and praised the current City Council members for their work and interests in Old Town.

“Old Town is definitely a plus for Helena,” said Habshey. “I think Old Town is on its way. The future of Old Town is dependent upon the citizens of Helena shopping there, and if they want this to stay what it is today, they will support the merchants that’s down there.”

Old Town Helena AL

Present day Helena is now home to many of the city’s most popular restaurants and businesses. The Coal Yard Bar and Grill in Helena shows off much of the town’s history with coal, and is located at one of the original restored buildings. The Depot is considered another Helena favorite.

The annual Buck Creek Festival is held near the railroad tracks, and this past year the festival raised the most money in more than a decade and is another reason residents find Helena special.

Times change and businesses come and go, but for the city of Helena, Old Town is a staple and will continue to flourish as long as there’s support. Read more…

Homes for sale Helena AL

Helena Ranks Third In State

Six Shelby County cities are among the best in Alabama for homeowners, according to a list compiled by a national consumer advocacy website.

On its list of the best places for home ownership in Alabama, website Nerdwallet.com named Chelsea first, Calera second, Helena third, Pelham fifth and Alabaster seventh. Leeds, which is partially in Shelby County, ranked 10th on the list.

The list ranked Alabama cities with more than 10,000 residents based on three criteria: Available homes, home affordability and growth in the area.

Nerdwallet touted Chelsea’s growth over the past several years, and said the city’s 2012 population of 10,161 was more than double what it was in 2000.

“Chelsea is in Shelby County, about 20 miles southeast of Birmingham, the largest city in the state,” read the city’s entry on the list. “Residents who live near Birmingham have access to job opportunities all over the region.”

The website also praised Calera’s growth of 11.6 percent from 2010-2012 as the highest on its list.

“Calera High School was recently named the 15th best high school in Alabama by U.S. News and World Report,” read Calera’s entry. “Calera is also home to the Shelby County Airport and features weekly summer farmers markets.”

Nerdwallet said 91.7 percent of homes in Helena are occupied by owners rather than renters.

“Vulcan Materials Co. is one of the city’s largest employers and the company describes itself as the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates — crushed stone, sand and gravel,” read Helena’s entry.

Helena AL real estate

Pelham’s population increased by about 4.8 percent from 2010-2012, and is central to a plethora of offerings, according to the website.

“Pelham is nestled in the foothills of Oak Mountain and is close to Oak Mountain State Park,” read Pelham’s entry. “The Pelham Civic Complex features an ice-skating rink, banquet hall and arena.”

At just 23.4 percent, Alabaster boasts a low percentage of household income spent on monthly mortgage and utility costs, according to the list.

“Alabaster is home to the (Propst) Promenade Alabaster, the largest retail center in Shelby County,” read the list.

Leeds homeowners pay an average of $1,121 per month on home ownership costs, which is the second lowest on Nerdwallet’s Alabama list, according to the site.

Read more…


New Helena High School To Offer Sports Medicine Classes

The new Helena High School (set to open it’s doors in the fall of 2014) will offer classes in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training via partnership with Larry Lemak.

Helena High School Partners With Larry Lemak

When the new Helena High School opens its doors this fall, students in grades 10th through 12th will have the opportunity to participate in a sports medicine curriculum. The health sciences program with a sports medicine focus is part of the district’s career-technical education.

“It’s the first in the state,” said Rene Day, the district’s coordinator for career and technical education, college and career planning, and community partnerships. “There are other health science programs in the state. This is the first to have someone of the caliber of Dr. Lemak and the caliber of his group, and also to have that sports medicine focus.” read more…

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