The town of Athens in North Alabama's Limestone County has a history dating back before the Yellowhammer State even joined the Union.
The small town about 30 miles west of Huntsville started out as an agricultural community that drew settlers with its rich earth and agricultural possibilities where they could sow their dreams.
Now, residents and visitors can take in an afternoon on the Limestone County Courthouse Square with a snack and cool drink from local shops, or tap a toe to music at the town's festivals and sporting events.
• Population: 24,966
• Date incorporated: 1818
• Biggest employer: Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
• Landmark: In 1822, a group of Athens citizens formed Athens State University to serve women. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in Alabama and was first called the Athens Female Academy, then Athens College, and finally it became Athens State University in 1998.
• History: The first settlers in 1807 were attracted to the area by a rich potential for agriculture following the Unites States’ purchase of the Mississippi Territory from the Cherokee in 1806. Robert Beaty and John Corriell obtained a 160-acre land grant and were followed by others as the community flourished. Athens was the first city in Alabama to get its electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
• Famous residents: Members of the Athens-based rock band Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard and Zac Cockrell came together in a high school psychology class in Athens. The pair soon teamed up with Steve Johnson, who worked at a local music store and since have joined forces with Heath Fogg and Ben Tanner, touring nationally and internationally. They played Bonnaroo in 2015 and the Alabama coast’s Hangout Festival in 2016.
Source: encyclopediaofalabama.org, City of Athens, Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, alabamashakes.com
Where to eat
LuVici’s at 105 North Jefferson Street serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu of favorite breakfast items, some with an Italian twist, a variety of specialty sandwiches, meats and veggies, and daily lunch specials. There are also frequent special dishes so check their Facebook page. The restaurant is housed in a quaint historic retail space downtown a few steps from the courthouse square. They’re open 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Wednesday.
What to do
• Athens’ four historic districts date back to the early 1800s. Historic walking tours are given on Saturday mornings in April and information about the homes can be found at the Athens Visitors Center at 100 North Beaty St.
• The Donnell House on South Clinton Street is one of Athens’ historic homes built around 1845 as the home of the Rev. Robert Donnell. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
• College Inn Gulf Station Museum at 125 East St. is a restored, full-service gas station built in the 1920s. It was a bus stop for many headed to and from military service. Private tours are available.
• Athens Courthouse Square in the downtown area offers shopping, restaurants and a venue for many of the art and music events.
• The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention this year will be held on Oct. 7 and 8. Fiddlers come from near and far to test their mettle against the best in bluegrass.
• The Athens Storytelling Festival is Oct. 27-29 downtown on the square.
Source: City of Athens website and the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, athensdulcimerclub.wordpress.com