Marshall Space Flight Center

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Aerial of Marshall Space Flight Center

Contents

[top] Cultural Resource Management and Historic Preservation at MSFC

Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), as a federally owned property, is charged with protecting and managing the cultural resources on its 1,841 acre facility through a series of laws and executive orders, some specific to federal installations. Located in Huntsville Alabama, to the north of the Tennessee River, the site is rich in both prehistoric and historic resources. The Cultural Resource Management program at MSFC is responsible for both historic structures and archaeological sites to ensure that any activities in or near these resources are responsibly conducted in compliance with state and federal regulations. The Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan (ICRMP) is a comprehensive study that outlines compliance measures and guides any work that must be undertaken involving MSFC’s cultural resources. As a ‘living’ document, this plan can be updated and amended as needed in response to both new cultural discoveries and the evolving mission of both the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Marshall Space Flight Center. Other documents, including Programmatic Agreements and Memoranda of Agreement, are maintained between the appropriate State Historic Preservation Office, the National Council of State Historic Preservation Offices, NASA and MSFC to insure proper treatment of historic structures and sites.


[top] History

President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated Marshall Space Flight Center in 1960, two years after the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. MSFC is surrounded by the US Army’s Redstone Arsenal, along the Tennessee River and the southern Appalachian foothills, and takes part in a diverse array of NASA missions and initiatives. Marshall traditionally has been known for propulsion systems development for NASA spacecraft, and the industrial landscape which resulted has largely become historic in its own right. Buildings, test stands, and the rockets themselves supported successful American space flight and missions to the moon. However, the history of both the development of the MSFC and human occupation of the Center’s property goes well beyond NASA’s fifty year history.

[top] Land Prior to US Army Purchase

The Tennessee River Valley is known for its fertility and biological diversity, which likely drew large numbers of Native Americans to the area nearly 12,000 years ago.[1] These early peoples developed complex habitation and burial systems which resulted in extensive archaeological deposits along the Tennessee River representing the earliest phases of human habitation in North America.[2] The area was later dominated by the Cherokee and Chickasaw, and Marshall Space Flight Center lies within once disputed land that formed a border in the Middle Tennessee Valley between the two groups.[3] The regular floods appear to have provided the basis for a yearly economic cycle and pattern of habitation, rather than nomadic subsistence.[4]


The Cherokee and Chickasaw cultures were first exposed to European settlers in the late eighteenth century, although there is conjecture that a population decline between 1400 and 1500 was the result of spreading European diseases from early contact with explorers.[5] Land speculation parties first arrived in 1783 and the Chickasaw forced the party out of Muscle Shoals, to the west of MSFC, but not before speculators purchased land from the Cherokee.[6] The area continued to be dominated by Native Americans until the first decade of the nineteenth century, when both tribes signed treaties with the federal government in 1806 that opened land for Euro-American settlement. [7]


As with many territories throughout the United States, squatters settled on lands still under Native American control before the treaties were finalized. John Hunt was the first Euro-American on record to build in the Huntsville area, near the Big Spring in the current downtown district of the city.[8] Settlement pressures and conflicts intensified by the War of 1812, became so severe that on August 30, 1813 the Creek Nation attacked the Fort Mims settlement in south Alabama, killing nearly all 550 inhabitants.[9] This action prompted rapid reaction by the federal government, and United States troops traveled throughout Alabama to confront the Creeks. Troops in the Huntsville area were charged with setting up and maintaining supply lines for engagements taking place farther south.[10] The Creeks were defeated at the battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814 and forced to sign a treaty ceding their lands to the United States.[11] The Cherokee temporarily held control of a portion of that territory until the federal government forcibly removed the tribe to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears in 1831. A camp in Huntsville served as a holding center for Cherokee that were forced out of their homes before their tragic march West. [12]


After the conclusion of the War of 1812, settlement in the Huntsville area rapidly increased and Alabama became a separate territory by default on August 15, 1817 when Mississippi became a state.[13] The population continued to grow and, as it was one of the few legally settled areas, land sales took place in Huntsville. People funneled in from neighboring states like Tennessee and Georgia, or slightly more distant Kentucky and Virginia.[14] Native Americans were unable to stop the progression of change initiated by Euro-Americans as a result of war, territory loss, and population decline.


The fertile valley drew farmers and planters to the area and frontier settlement agriculture transitioned to cultivation of the most famous southern cash crop – cotton. Smaller farmers vied for profits with plantation owners that had brought large-scale slavery to the region, but over half of the population owned slaves in 1815 regardless of the size of their holding.[15] By the 1850s, Huntsville was a commercial center with prominent businesses and an architectural heritage to match the cotton economy. George Steele arrived in 1818 and became a prominent architect, designing many antebellum structures including the second courthouse and several grand homes.[16] Huntsville’s roads and architectural legacy developed during this period, as communities built around the Big Spring represented the wealth and complex social ramifications of the cotton industry. Local businessmen established a tradition of cotton processing within the town in response to navigation problems along the Tennessee River, and large processing buildings were constructed near the Big Spring.[17] Rail, waterways, and roads all provided means of transporting the cash crop, and just prior to the Civil War the area was laced with carts, trains, and ports.[18]


However, the prosperity that Huntsville enjoyed in the 1850s was soon disrupted by the Civil War, initiating a boom-bust economic cycle that came to typify the area’s history even after the establishment of the US Army’s arsenal complex in the early 1940s.[19] Although actions at Fort Sumter in South Carolina seemed relatively remote, the Tennessee River became a prized access route to the Deep South, and Federal forces focused on seizing the area in order to control both supply lines and troop movements.[20] Huntsville was occupied several times and homes throughout the area were heavily damaged or destroyed.[21] Moreover, Union soldiers blocked and pulled apart the hard won transportation lines to prevent Confederate advance and support, even burning the Tennessee River railroad bridge that was a crucial North-South connector.[22]


The conclusion of the Civil War meant both a dramatic societal and economic reorganization through African-American emancipation and Reconstruction doctrine. The state fell under martial law and the agricultural system was in ruins. Local companies and federal money only gradually restored the economy of the region; the railroad even began rebuilding after several confiscated railcars were returned by the federal government.[23] Land patterns shifted as sharecropping became the dominant farming practice in Madison County. In some cases, farmers who had operated without slaves prior to the war enjoyed a period of prosperity during this adjustment phase.[24] Smaller farming plots typified the landscape after the Civil War with clusters of community buildings to serve residents. Rural farming communities dominated the land that became Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center, with only a few plantation-sized farms existing into the twentieth century.[25]


Economic troubles continued through the 1890s until northern investors began moving cotton mill operations from famous locations like Lowell Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts to the South. Labor availability and the proximity of raw materials made relocation a profitable venture for mill owners like MJ O’Shaughnessy. O’Shaughnessy’s Huntsville Cotton Mills opened in 1881 and initiated the industrialization of the greater Huntsville area. The mills became successful and Huntsville eventually was home to Lincoln, Lowe, Merrimack, and Dallas Mills. Lincoln was the largest, constructed in 1918.[26] Mill investors shaped the landscape both with their businesses and their involvement in land development elsewhere in Huntsville. O’Shaughnessy’s involvement in community planning on Monte Sano, a popular mountain community and Victorian resort, demonstrates how cotton processing shaped many of the land use patterns that exist today.[27] However, the prosperity of textile manufacturing crumbled during the Great Depression, The labor force that was trained in cotton mills would later serve as an enticing incentive for the US Army to locate a weapons arsenal in Huntsville.[28]

[top] Government Purchase and Development of Redstone Arsenal

Through the early decades of the twentieth century, Marshall Space Flight Center property was rural and largely dedicated to agriculture. Small communities grew along the principle roads and established transportation patterns that have persisted into the present. Although buildings constructed prior to the US Army land purchase are no longer extant, routes such as Rideout Road remain the principle means of accessing the site. Surveys conducted in 1937 indicate significant settlements along Rideout Road. This thoroughfare now provides direct access to the site from major highways and bisects the property along the administrative heart of Marshall in Buildings 4200, 4201, and 4202.[29]


The United States government identified large rural land tracts throughout the country that were well suited for the development of support facilities which preempted the nation’s engagement in World War II.[30] The Great Bend region of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama adjacent to Tennessee Valley Authority lands provided a relatively remote location for the construction of chemical munitions plants. TVA’s neighboring property insured that civilian settlement could not take place along large swaths of the perimeter surrounding the government’s newest arsenal and offered easy access to electric power.[31] The location’s proximity to Huntsville, and the decline of the cotton industry during the 1930s and 1940s, provided a willing potential workforce.[32] However, nearly six thousand people were relocated to construct the Huntsville Arsenal and Redstone Ordnance Plant.[33] Multiple towns existed within the boundaries of the arsenal and the land was extensively farmed. Those uses ended suddenly when the Army began construction in 1941 and completed the project in 1942.


The relatively small houses and churches that were typical of the pre-government landscape soon gave way to large buildings for the production and storage of chemical agents. These buildings, rather than featuring designs with some consideration of exterior fenestration, were shells that responded to the size and location of the machinery needed to produce the munitions.[34] Several of the buildings at Huntsville Arsenal and Redstone Ordinance Plant represent an early stage in the development of World War II arsenals despite their plain appearance. The Army used structural steel and other permanent materials during construction before the necessity to rapidly and cheaply construct a massive support infrastructure for the war effort forced a transition in building design to temporary construction and inexpensive materials.[35]


By 1942 the arsenal became a major economic influence in the region, employing both men and women on the production lines..[36] These employees produced over twenty seven million munitions and the arsenal won numerous accommodations.[37] In 1945, at the height of wartime employment, there were 4,252 civilians working in the ordnance plant and at Huntsville Arsenal.[38] However, the decline of the facility came almost as rapidly as its development. Arsenals from throughout the nation transferred their remaining resources to Huntsville Arsenal and closed in the mid 1940s. The Alabama complex was eventually closed in 1947 and advertised for sale over a year later, however no buyers could be found for the massive property that featured its own airstrip, one hundred miles of roads, and massive buildings.[39]


As the military transitioned from World War II to the developing Cold War era and the Korean War, influential members of the Army’s rocket research and development team, lead by Colonel Holger N. Toftoy and supported through the advocacy of Alabama Senator John Sparkman, persuaded officials to reactivate the facility in 1949 and consolidate under one name: Redstone Arsenal.[40] The arsenal became the center for the Army’s rocket programs and earlier activities located at Fort Bliss, Texas were relocated to the large rural facility that featured an established infrastructure.[41] The economic decline of the area was averted by the redevelopment of the arsenal, but Huntsville and the surrounding counties would rapidly change through the influence of government contracts, Redstone Arsenal employees, and the development of the American space program.


For more information about the history of the Huntsville Arsenal/Redstone Ordnance Plant and the subsequent contributions of the consolidated Redstone Arsenal see: Redstone Arsenal Historical Information

[top] Army Rocket Development and the Paperclippers

While Redstone Arsenal developed throughout World War II and transitioned to a research and development facility at the war’s conclusion, Colonel Toftoy assembled the team that defined the early years of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Both the Russian and American militaries sought former German rocket engineers as Germany fell to Allied forces. [42] This group of engineers had developed the infamous V-2 rockets that had fallen on London during the conflict. Lead members of the team, including director Werhner Von Braun, made the conscious decision to surrender to American forces with the hope of better treatment and potential opportunity to pursue dreams of building a rocket that could support human space exploration. [43] Von Braun attempted to negotiate with Toftoy to transfer nearly five hundred of his former rocket development team to the United States to develop missiles for the US military. [44]
Wernher von Braun
The government required that the group be significantly reduced and the hand-picked group of one-hundred and eighteen was represented by a stack of carefully paperclipped documents during the negotiation process between Toftoy and Von Braun, lending the group the moniker “the Paperclippers.” Despite cuts, the core of the German team was brought to the United States between November 1945 and February 1946 to work for the Army at Fort Bliss, Texas. [45] Their time was spent recreating and improving upon the V-2 design, and they were subsequently offered contract extensions with the US Army and transferred to the newly created Ordnance Guided Missile Center at Redstone Arsenal in 1952. [46]


Von Braun, known for his impressive leadership abilities and feverish desire to explore space, later reflected on his work for Nazi Germany as a product of necessity to protect home and self. [47] However, the cultural background of the researchers remained a subtle point of contention throughout their affiliations with the United States government. The Huntsville community accepted the new arrivals carefully as Von Braun’s desire to promote space flight made him a curious lecturer and guest. [48] However, as the programs at Redstone Arsenal developed, he became imminently respected in the community and many affirmed their belief that Von Braun could achieve any goals he established. [49] Most concerns were alleviated when the majority of the German rocket team, including numerous family members, became United States citizens in 1955. [50]


Under Von Braun’s guidance, rocket development continued and ultimately produced the Redstone Missile. The Redstone was known for its reliability after initial development frustrations during Cape Canaveral test launches in 1953. [51] The Redstone Test Stand located at Marshall Space Flight Center represents this early period of rocket development while the Paperclippers were still affiliated with the Army. Built by the same engineers working to produce the rocket itself, the labor divisions that began with this program persisted in later projects. The government engineers used contractors after initial development was completed, but only under heavy supervision. Yet the success of the Redstone model insured the persistence of this government/contractor management style.[52] Indicative of the growing changes in Huntsville and expansions at Redstone Arsenal, Lincoln Mill closed in 1956 and was adaptively reused as an office facility for firms working under government contracts including Boeing, Chrysler, and IBM. [53] Simultaneously, Huntsville was experiencing severe housing shortages as the population jumped from 16,437 in 1950 to over 50,000 in 1956. [54]The successful Redstone project boosted Von Braun’s stature within the rocketry community and was followed by the Jupiter missile project in 1955, capable of sending a satellite into orbit around the earth. Both programs were moved to the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in 1956 with Von Braun as head of the Development Operations Division. [55] Von Braun’s dreams were gradually coming to fruition.


[top] Organization of NASA and Marshall Space Flight Center

Although satellites and space flight had become increasingly popular within the US scientific and defense communities, and the general public, advancement came at a frantic pace after the 1957 launch of Russia’s Sputnik. [56] Von Braun promised that the missiles developed at Redstone Arsenal could be repurposed to place a satellite, and eventually a manned craft, in earth’s orbit within ninety days. [57] The team picked up on projects that had been delayed by competition with other branches of the military. [58] On January 31, 1958 the satellite Explorer I was successfully launched by a Juno I (Jupiter-C) rocket and began sending radio signals back to stations across the country. [59] Concurrently, Von Braun won approval from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and officials in Washington DC to pursue a design for manned space flight. [60]


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed in 1958 and assumed responsibility for diverse projects and facilities related to the research and development of space flight vehicles. For two years the Army’s rocket program, lead by Von Braun, worked cooperatively with NASA while the director resisted the transfer of his entire team to then new agency. Production of the Jupiter rocket, with its 1,500 mile range, had been stalled. [61] However, NASA immediately focused on the potential and reliability of the Redstone and capabilities of the larger Jupiter rockets. Project Mercury was the first man in space program established by NASA in 1958 and the Army’s long range rocket program was transferred to the new center cut from the center of Redstone Arsenal lands. [62]Originally 1,346 acres, NASA inherited Army buildings and land upon the formation of Marshall Space Flight Center. [63] Named for General George C. Marshall, the facility was dedicated in 1960 with Von Braun as the first director of the complex that was now home to 4,500 former army personnel. [64]


Although the transfer was questioned, developing vehicles for human space flight continued. The first successful test flight came in December 1960 when the chimpanzee Ham was recovered alive after spending over a month in orbit. [65] Alan Shepherd became the first American man to achieve suborbital flight on May 5, 1961 a month after the Russian Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth. [66] In the face of the mounting success of the Russian program, President Kennedy issued a deadline on May 25, 1961 to complete a manned mission to the moon by the end of the decade. [67] Marshall Space Flight Center became engrossed in meeting the President’s directive

[top] Saturn and Apollo

The mission to the moon required the unprecedented development of the largest series of operational rockets of the space race. The Saturn V rocket was the culmination of decades of work in rocketry standing 363 feet tall, 60 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. [68] There were more than three million parts in a vehicle that could generate the energy equivalent to eighty-five Hoover Dams during launch. [69] Von Braun worked with his team and those charged with developing the Apollo capsule to increase the payload capacity of the rocket and certify the reliability of each component. The scientists and engineers at Marshall closely supervised the production of each section of the Saturn V and supervised Rocketdyne and other contractors as challenges arose in engine development. [70]


The Saturn V project required rigorous testing and massive facilities, including the test stands that could withstand the massive forces exerted by the F-1 engines completed for the program. The West Test Area at Marshall Space Flight Center features the two largest test stands for the program, buildings 4670 and 4696. Because of earlier contamination, nearly two feet of dirt was removed from three acres of the West Test Area in preparation for construction and likely eliminated any remnants of pre-government occupation of the site. [71] In the East Test Area, the Dynamic Test Stand ([4550 Dynamic Test Stand|Building 4550]) was constructed to analyze the effects of vibration forces upon the structure of the rocket. Errant vibrations during flight could jeopardize Apollo’s astronauts and the entire program. [72]


Other test and support facilities for Marshall’s work were located in California including Canoga Park and Santa Susana Field Laboratory. Canoga Park was home to the Pacific Furnace that formed the characteristic configuration of the bell of the rocket engines. Santa Susana, meanwhile, provided a remote location for testing engines that were still in the early stages of development. Both remained active through the subsequent Space Shuttle program.


The first launch of the Saturn V took place at Cape Canaveral on November 9, 1967 and the Apollo 8 crew orbited the Moon after a successful December 21, 1968 launch. [73] The Saturn and Apollo programs ultimately met President Kennedy’s goal to reach the Moon in July 1969 when the Apollo 11 crew landed on the surface of the moon and returned safely home. [74] With Moon landings within the capabilities of the American space program, NASA was faced with undertaking new directives and expanding its mission as the Apollo missions came to a close. Marshall was particularly vulnerable to changes in directives because of its intense focus on rocket development and propulsion.

[top] Reorganization, the Space Shuttle, and Adapting for the Future

Several initiatives began that helped NASA and Marshall survive significant reorganization and cutbacks during the 1970s. [75] In August 1965 the Apollo Applications Office was created to investigate further uses for the technologies developed as a result of the Apollo program. [76] The development of Skylab, an orbiting scientific laboratory, allowed the staff at Marshall to refocus their efforts. However, Marshall still faced significant reductions in funding and workforce. Huntsville had fallen into a recession by 1969 with the decrease in federal spending, and Werhner Von Braun left the directorship at the center for a position for Washington DC. [77] As the German team dispersed, the managerial system during Saturn V program changed dramatically as contractors gained control over components and in-house production was limited. [78]


The economic decline and the threat to close Marshall gradually lifted as NASA’s programs continued to develop, particularly the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. Development of the Space Shuttle required Marshall’s abilities in propulsion and engineers at the center were responsible for the Space Shuttle Main Engine, the solid rocket boosters, and the external tanks. [79] The Payload Operations Center for the International Space Station is located at Marshall and provides support, planning, and management for experiments and data collection. [80] Marshall emerged from the post-Apollo period a more diversified center still capable of advancing propulsion technologies while supporting a diversity of NASA missions including: Spacelab, Hubble Space Telescope, GLAST Burst Monitor, Gravity Probe B, and SERVIR.


Marshall Space Flight Center strives to provide:
...discoveries that increase our understanding of the cosmos and our place in it; improve our ability to safely live and work in space; and deliver practical breakthroughs here on Earth that protect the planet and improve life for all humanity. [81]


[top] Federal Historic Preservation Regulations

The Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan for Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, Alabama 2009-2014, Programmatic Agreements, and the Historic Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center create a triad of management and compliance documents for guiding the treatment of prehistoric and historic resources which exist on the Center’s property. Responsibility for the management of Marshall Space Flight Center’s cultural resources and the implementation of these documents is split between MSFC’s Historic Preservation Officer (HPO) and MSFC’s Cultural Resources Manager (CRM). The CRM is responsible for the protection and assessment of archaeological resources on the property while complying with the conservation measures outlined in successive acts including the Antiquities Act of 1906, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA), and the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). The Historic Preservation Officer manages historic structures and objects, including any projects that may impact these resources. The Historic Preservation Officer follows procedures and regulations outlined in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), Executive Order 11593 (Protection and Enhancement of the Cultural Environment), and Executive Order 13287 (Preserve America) among other documents. These regulations create a package of legal guidance and mandates for the responsible treatment of cultural resources on federal properties. The precedent for historic preservation legislation was established with the Antiquties Act of 1906 which gave the authority to the President “to designate historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” [82]


HPO and CRM at Marshall work with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation when proposed projects have the potential to impact historic resources. These projects include:


• Additions or changes in use for historic buildings and structures
• Demolition of portions or the entirety of a resource
• Landscape modifications
• Hazardous waste mitigation
• Utility modifications or upgrades
• Replacement of building materials (such as windows, doors, siding etc.)


The State Historic Preservation Offices were created under the NHPA as a means to manage preservation for each of the fifty states. These offices review projects that may impact historic resources and nominations for properties to be included on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). This list, maintained by the National Park Service, provides honorary recognition of the nation’s historic resources, and is the basis for some federal grants supporting historic preservation. Federal regulations state that resources identified as eligible for the NRHP must be treated in the same manner as those properties already listed. In addition, the National Park Service also maintains the National Historic Landmarks list, which features the most significant cultural properties in the nation. Marshall is home to four National Historic Landmarks: The Dynamic Test Stand and Control Building (Buildings 4550 and 4551), the Redstone Test Stand (Building 4665), the Static Test Stand and Gantry Crane (buildings 4572 and 4573) and the Neutral Buoyancy Facility located within building 4705. Marshall’s Historic Preservation Officer reviews projects for each of the National Register of Historic Places Eligible or Potentially Eligible properties and the four National Historic Landmarks within that Center’s boundaries.


In managing cultural resources, the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are closely linked. NEPA requires compliance with the regulations in the NHPA, particularly through a process known as Section 106 review. The Section 106 review process requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and afford the Council a reasonable opportunity to comment on such undertakings. This section of the NHPA requires that federally funded actions that adversely affect historic properties must seek ways to avoid or minimize the adverse effect and allow the SHPO to comment on the proposed action.


The Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan, completed by NASA in August of 2007 (with September 2009 revisions) is an internal document that identifies the federal and state laws, regulations, and supervisory boards that manage the treatment of cultural resources on federal properties. Its stated intent is to provide “legally approved compliance procedure(s) with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Alabama State Historic Preservation Office.” This document also includes a broad history of the site with significant events from the region’s history and the development of Marshall Space Flight Center. A preface to this history includes a overview of the geographic and environmental features of the site that is particularly useful for assessment of archaeological resources. The document features an inclusive Cultural Resources Inventory and guidelines for mitigating the impacts of any projects that might adversely affect any resources identified in the inventory.


The Programmatic Agreements established by Marshall Space Flight Center include the 1989 Programmatic Agreement for the four National Historic Landmarks and the Programmatic Agreement for National Register Eligible or Potentially Eligible properties. A new PA, for the structures other than the National Landmarks, was signed in 2010. Each PA outlines the standard operating procedures for assessing the impact of potential projects on cultural resources and the methods for mitigating those impacts. Standard mitigation measures include the production of architectural drawings, creation of a detailed history of the resource, and the compilation of an extensive photographic record.


The Historic Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center, completed by EDAW, Inc in November 2003 with revisions in 2004, outlines in detail the history of the buildings and structures that exist on Marshall’s property. This document also assesses each building for qualities that make it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the determination of which provides the basis for procedures to comply with federal historic preservation regulations. There are four major criteria for eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places: A) An association with events significant to the broad patterns of history, B) An association with the lives of persons significant to the past, C) An embodiment of the characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction; a representation of the work of a master or one that possesses highly artistic values; or a distinguishable entity with components individually undistinguished, D) The ability to yield information important in prehistory or history.[83] The criteria consideration most commonly applied when evaluating structures at MSFC for NRHP eligibility is criterion (g) “A property achieving significance within the past 50 years if it is of exceptional importance.”[84] While it is standard for properties only fifty years old and older to be assessed for the NRHP, that guideline is often inadequate for properties that have exceptional significance. Recognition irrespective of age is particularly relevant at Marshall for resources relating to NASA’s Man in Space program and the structures that supported development of the Saturn generation of rockets. This assessment was paired with a review and update of the center’s facilities Master Plan.

[top] Archaeology


Twenty-two archaeological sites have been identified at Marshall Space Flight Center. Of the 22 sites recorded, eight were determined ineligible for the NRHP and 14 were determined eligible or potentially eligible. Management of these resources is guided by the Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan and is administered by the CRM. This internal document outlines procedures for mitigating any proposed impacts to identified resources and compliance with all federal regulations. The periods of significance for the archaeological resources at MSFC range from prehistoric to historic deposits inclusive of Native American settlement, pre-government community infrastructure, and government occupation.


A timeline for human interaction on the site is established through the ICRMP report, allowing cultural resource management professionals and archaeologists to track when different peoples or objects could have been introduced into the landscape. This background assists in understanding the various layers of deposits and serves to provide guidelines for dating sites and establishing terminus ante quem (limit before which) and terminus post quem (limit after which) dates from which researchers can suggest the approximate age of an artifact.


Investigations of the historic archaeological sites at MSFC have provided more detailed information on the small towns and infrastructure on the property prior to the development of the United States Army’s Redstone Arsenal. Rural in character, the homes, roads, and community buildings were not documented prior to constructing the Arsenal. MSFC’s archaeological investigations and associated oral history research has insured that the history of the property prior to World War II has been collected and recorded. These efforts have identified two family cemeteries along with several residences and secondary structures.

[top] Historic Structures and Objects

While there are no significant pre-government architectural resources remaining on the land that is now Marshall Space Flight Center, buildings relating to the earliest phases of arsenal development during World War II are representative of early efforts to prepare for engagement in the conflict.[85] As a result, architectural data spans from World War II era chemical munitions production through the most recent historic buildings associated with the development and continuing evolution of Marshall Space Flight Center.


There are over forty National Register of Historic Places eligible or potentially eligible structures and four National Historic Landmarks on the site. Among these buildings, there are numerous architectural and engineering firms represented including:


Aetron/Aerojet. Buildings 4670, 4674, 4696
Burns and Roe, New York
Fritz A. Vandersee. Building 4665
Giffles & Rossetti, Detroit
Holmes & Narver and Ralph M. Parsons (Parsons-Aerojet), Los Angeles
Maurice H. Connell & Associates, Miami, Buildings 4550, 4551, 4560, East Test Area Observation Bunkers
Parsons-Aerojet. Building 4588
Parsons-Aerojet/ Betchtel. Buildings 4570, 4583
Parsons-Aerojet/ Maurice H. Connell. Buildings 4572, 4573
Ralph M. Parsons et. al. Buildings 4566, 4666, 4610, 4612, 4619, 4663, 4708
Robert & Company, Atlanta, Building 4705
Stearns-Rogers Corporation, Denver
Sverdrup & Parcel, St. Louis, Building 4476,
Whitman, Requardt, & Smith. Buildings 4313, 4471, 4732
Wyatt C. Hendrick. Buildings 4200, 4201, and 4202[86]


In addition to historic buildings there are eight National Register of Historic Places eligible objects on Marshall Space Flight Center property including:


Poseidon Barge (currently located at Stennis Space Center)
F1 Engine (at Building 4200)
Space Shuttle Main Engine (at Building 4200)
Spacelab Mission 1 Mockup (Loaned to the Cradle of Aviation Museum)
RL 10 A-1 Engine (at Building 4583)
Saturn I block I Mockup (at Building 4572)
14” Transonic Wind Tunnel (in Building 4732)
Saturn I SA-D (at Rocket Park, Owned by Smithsonian)

[top] Films

Marshall Space FLight Center

Documentation for Apollo and Saturn Programs

[top] Educational Resources

For a detailed history of Marshall Space Flight Center see Power to Explore: A History of Marshall Space Flight Center 1960-1990 by Andrew J. Dunar and Stephen P. Waring. This work served as an important resource during the compliation of the materials for this website.
NASA Education Homepage
NASA Education Programs
MSFC History Office
US Space and Rocket Center & Space Camp
Univeristy of Alabama Huntsville: Oral History Collections on Space History and the Saturn Rocket Development
Von Braun Astronomical Society, Huntsville AL
NPS Teaching with Historic Places: America's Space Program

[top] References

  1. Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan for Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, Alabama 2009-2014. Revised 2009. Prepared by CH2M HILL with assistance from Brockington and Associates, Inc. Denver CO: 2007, 27.
  2. Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan 28
  3. Ibid 32
  4. Ibid 29-30
  5. Ibid 27
  6. Ibid 32
  7. Ibid 32-33
  8. Ibid 33
  9. Ibid 34
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. Eden of the South: A Chronology of Huntsville, Alabama 1805-2005. Ed. Ranee’ G. Pruitt. Huntsville AL: Huntsville Madison County Public Library. 2005. 22
  13. Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan 34
  14. Ibid 35
  15. Ibid 36-37
  16. Dooling, Dave and Sherry. Huntsville: A Pictorial History. Virginia Beach VA: Donning Company Publishers, 1980 22 and Eden of the South: A Chronology of Huntsville, Alabama 1805-2005 6
  17. Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan. 37-38
  18. Ibid 38
  19. Ibid 40
  20. Ibid 38-39
  21. Ibid 39 See also Eden of the South: A Chronology of Huntsville, Alabama 1805-2005 for further description of the impact of the Civil War on the lives of people in Huntsville and Madison County.
  22. Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan 39
  23. Ibid 39, 42
  24. Ibid 40
  25. Curry, Beverly S. The People Who Lived on the Land that is Now Redstone Arsenal: Pond Beat, Mullins Flat, Hickory Grove, The Union Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church Area, and the Elko Area. Unpublished. December 2006. This lengthy report contains oral history interviews and historic summaries of the pre-Arsenal communities on current Redstone Arsenal property, including communities that were once on Marshall Space Flight Center land.
  26. Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan 42
  27. Ibid and Monte Sano History and Photographs. Compiled by Jane Barr. Heritage Room, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library. 1-7
  28. Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan 42-43
  29. ICRMP 43
  30. Historical Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center 18
  31. Ibid 19
  32. Ibid 18
  33. Ibid 20
  34. Ibid 30
  35. Ibid 30-31
  36. Ibid 30-31
  37. Fisk, Sarah. “The Early Years of Redstone Arsenal.” The Huntsville Historical Review. Ed. Elbert L. Watson. Huntsville AL: The Huntsville Historical Society, July 1971. 39
  38. Ibid 38
  39. ICRMP 43
  40. NASA-MSFC Retiree Association. 50 Years of Rockets and Spacecraft in the Rocket City. Paducah KY: Turner Publishing Company 2002. 12
  41. Ibid
  42. Ward, Bob. Dr. Space: The Life of Wernher von Braun. Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 2005. 57
  43. Ward 52-53
  44. Ibid 58
  45. Ibid 59, 62
  46. ICRMP 43
  47. Ward 36, 39-40, 227-229
  48. Ibid 76-77
  49. Ibid 77
  50. Ibid 86
  51. Ibid 80
  52. Dunar, Andrew J. and Stephen P. Waring. Power to Explore: A History of Marshall Space Flight Center 1960-1990. Washington, DC : National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA History Office, Office of Policy and Plans : For sale bt the U.S. G.P.O., Supt. of Docs., 1999. 68
  53. Dunar and Waring 127
  54. Baker, Michael E. , Dr. Kaylene Hughes, James D Bowne. ‘’Redstone Arsenal Complex Chronology- Part II: Nerve Center of Army Missilery, 1950-62 - Section B: The ABMA/AOMC Era (1956-62).’’ Redstone Arsenal, Alabama: Historical Division, Secretary of the General Staff, US Army Missile Command, 1994. 6
  55. Historical Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center 37
  56. Ward 111-112
  57. Ibid 111
  58. Dunar and Waring 20-21
  59. Ward 115
  60. Ibid 114
  61. Dunar and Waring 21
  62. ICRMP 44
  63. Ibid
  64. Ward 111
  65. ICRMP 44-45
  66. Ward 127
  67. Ibid 128
  68. Wright, Mike. A Chronology of the Marshall Space Flight Center- 1960-2000 : Milestones in Space Exploration. Photographs by Bob Jaques. Huntsville AL: Marshall Space Flight Center, 2000. 13
  69. Ibid
  70. Dunar and Waring 87-88.
  71. Historical Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center 89
  72. Saturn V Dynamic Test Stand History. Historic American Engineering Survey.
  73. ICRMP 46
  74. Ibid
  75. Dunar and Waring 158-159
  76. ICRMP 46
  77. Dunar and Waring 151 and Historical Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center 110-111
  78. Dunar and Waring 165
  79. Ibid 271
  80. ICRMP 51
  81. http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/home/index.html
  82. Tyler, Norman. Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000. 35.
  83. EDAW, Inc. Historic Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center. November 2003, Revised 2004. 7-8
  84. http://www.nps.gov/nr/publications/bulletins/nrb15/nrb15_2.htm
  85. EDAW, Inc. Historic Assessment of Marshall Space Flight Center. 30-31
  86. Ibid 8
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