Main Streets 2016: Alabama
Everyone loves a comeback story, and Gadsden has a great one.
After rebuilding from two devastating fires in the 1880s that destroyed dozens of businesses and homes on or near Broad Street, the city became one of Alabama’s major industrial and shipping centers by the mid-20th century, serving as the home to steel, textile, and manufacturing facilities. In the 1970s and 80s, however, most of its major industries closed, and the city became known as a place with some tough challenges. The community knew it needed to rally — and that’s what it did.
Today, Broad Street is a vibrant thoroughfare at the center of Gadsden, connecting residents and visitors to economic, educational, social and cultural activities. On First Fridays, Broad Street closes to traffic, and thousands gather to enjoy a festival-like atmosphere with antique cars, live entertainment, special events, food and artists from throughout the area. From May to October, the Third Thursdays concert series offers the chance to kick back and enjoy some great local music.
Broad Street is also home to the Gadsden Museum of Art and the Mary G. Hardin Center for the Cultural Arts. Located in an old department store, the Hardin Center is a catalyst for revitalization that draws droves of visitors to its art exhibits, its Imagination Place children’s museum, its Courtyard Concerts from April through August, and to events staged by its Etowah Youth Orchestra and Downtown Dance Conservatory. Other popular community events include ghost and history walks, RiverFest, and live performances at the Historic Mort Glosser Amphitheater and Gadsden Convention Hall.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find lots to do in and around Gadsden, including the James D. Martin Wildlife Park and Noccalula Falls Park — home to a dramatic, 90-foot waterfall — as well as camping, hiking and other recreation activities.
All photos courtesy of Downtown Gadsden Inc.