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Councill School Alumni Association Hosts Ceremonial Groundbreaking for new Memorial Park

Published on December 14, 2018

Photo of Councill alumni and leaders at groundbreaking

The William Hooper Councill Alumni Association held a ceremonial groundbreaking today to celebrate the memorial park that will be constructed in 2019 on the historic site of the former school at 620 St. Clair Avenue.

Councill was the City’s first public school for African-American students. It served the Huntsville community from 1867 until closing in the 1960s era of desegregation.

“The Councill School Memorial Park reflects the partnership which started post-emancipation between African-Americans and the City of Huntsville to extend access to education for all races,” said Brenda Chunn, president of the William Hooper Councill Alumni Association (WHCAA).

Photo of Councill School classmates

The school was named after Dr. William Hooper Councill, a former slave and founder and first president of what would become Alabama A & M University. Councill rose to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, legislator and Alabama Supreme Court Justice.“May this Councill High School Park serve as a place of reflection on how far we have come regarding access and equality in education and the work that is yet to be done,” said Chunn.

Mayor Tommy Battle reviewed City plans for the park and thanked the alumni association for guiding the design, which pays homage to Dr. Council and provides more green space and a center for activities in downtown Huntsville.

“This park allows us to preserve the legacy of Dr. Councill’s ideals and to honor the dreams of hundreds of high school graduates who dared for a better life,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.

Key elements of Councill School Memorial Park include:

  • Design and layout will mirror the floor plan of Councill High School.  The gym, auditorium, cafeteria, courtyard and classrooms will be represented in the layout of the new park.
  • The park will include historic markers.
  • Bricks from the school will be repurposed as seat walls and columns throughout the park.
  • A fountain and sculpture will be included in the former courtyard area.  The sculpture will represent the schoolhouse door with children walking up to the school.
  • The design will include a new parking lot and sidewalk connectivity to the surrounding areas.
  • The park will be heavily landscaped and provide open spaces where the footprint of the previous gym and auditorium were located.
  • The former cafeteria location will include a new seat wall with provisions for water and electrical infrastructure to host events.

“This signifies a huge step to memorialize and recognize an important part of not just District 1’s history but more specifically Huntsville’s history,” said City Council President Devyn Keith. “I’m just blessed to be a part of such a special city project.”

Contractors will begin salvaging bricks from the old school for the memorial park in the coming weeks, with construction starting in early spring.

Photo of Councill School