I am very proud to live in Helena and Hewy posted an article that was written for The Birmingham News (Birmingham's newspaper) about living in Helena. It is awesome that Helena is so nationally recognized! I posted it as well! We should all be thankful we are so blessed with the privilege of living in such a magical place! For those who have never been here, we are most often compared with Fairhope, AL. Just smaller and not as much shopping! LOL
Take a minute to read. It is facinating to know the history of our "little piece of the world"
Residents take pride in Helena's family atmosphere
Posted by By Dana C. Crisson December 28, 2008 1:58 PM
Helena residents are justifiably proud of their city. You can hear the affection and pride in their voices whenever they talk about their award-winning community.
"Helena won three major accolades in the last year, and I am so proud of that," said Mayor Charles "Sonny" Penhale. "Business Week named Helena the 13th Best Place to Raise Your Kids; the city was ranked 91st in Money Magazine's 2007 list of Best Places to Live: Top 100 in the U.S.; and the Alabama League of Municipalities awarded Helena the 2008 Municipal Achievement Quality of Life Award."And the tributes continue to accumulate for the thriving city in North Shelby County. "Helena has been called 'the safest city in Alabama,'" Penhale said. "Our city has the eighth lowest crime rate per capita in the U.S., for cities with a population of 10,000-20,000."Helena offers an unbeatable blend of big-city conveniences combined with a warm family atmosphere. The city's prime location close to two major interstates, I-65 and I-459, offers opportunities for business growth in retail, wholesale, and manufacturing."The average age in Helena is 34, so we are a young city," he said. "My number one priority is to provide for the children. The school system, which consists of Helena Elementary, Intermediate, and Middle School, is top-notch. High school students attend neighboring Pelham High School."Recreation opportunities are plentiful. "We have great parks and nine excellent ball fields, with programs in football, soccer, cheerleading, baseball, softball and basketball," Penhale said. "Over 800 kids enrolled in our Little League last season."The city is building a new recreational facility with a basketball court, upper-level walking track, meeting rooms and a full kitchen with banquet capabilities. Four ball fields are completed and tennis courts will be added. The facility is slated to open in spring 2009.The Jane B. Holmes Public Library in Helena is one of the most popular libraries in Shelby County.The library has a meeting room, public access computers, and programs for seniors, adults, youth, and children. They stock the largest and most diverse collection of DVDs, videos, and music CDs in Shelby County. "We also have the best Alabama collection of materials about Alabama or by Alabama authors. We can offer our patrons hundreds of selections," said Library Director Victoria Ashford.Helena homebuyers have a variety of residential areas to choose from, including older established neighborhoods and newer developments. Area home prices range from the $120,000s to upwards of $500,000.Helena was little more than a crossroads stage stop when it was first settled.According to early post office records from the 1850s, the town was originally named Cove, then Hillsboro. During the Civil War, a rolling mill was built in the area to produce arms for the Confederacy. Classified as "top secret", it operated throughout the war until the famous federal troops known as "Wilson's Raiders" burned it to the ground.During reconstruction, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad sent an engineer named Pete Boyle to survey the land and build a new train station. Boyle asked that the town be named "Helena Station" in honor of his sweetheart, Helen Lee, the daughter of a prominent local judge. As the area around the train station grew, it eventually incorporated as the city of Helena. M.H. Williams, a railroad agent, was elected the first mayor.In addition to a large railroad yard, Helena had a steel mill, a grist mill powered by Buck Creek, a cotton gin next to the train station, several active coal mines, and a variety of retail stores, hotels, boarding houses and a school. After a filing error was discovered in the original incorporation papers causing them to be invalid, the city was reincorporated in 1917. Charlie Hinds, grandfather of present mayor Penhale, served as the new city's first mayor following its reincorporation.Although the city has seen its share of hard times, including the closing of the coal mines, the relocation of the steel mills and a devastating tornado in 1933 which killed 13 people and destroyed more than 100 homes, the dedicated residents of the community have built a city even stronger than before. "I have seen a lot of changes over the years, and let me tell you--it is our citizens who make our community so special," said Penhale, who has served as the mayor for more than 40 years.Old Town Helena, a district including the original city jail and railroad freight depot as well as other commercial buildings from the 1800s, celebrates the city's colorful past. The Old Town Amphitheater, built along the banks of Buck Creek, is a combination outdoor concert hall, festival grounds, movie theater, and special-event location. Residents gather year-round at the amphitheater for family events, starting in May with the annual Helena Buck Creek Festival. In eight years the festival has grown from one day and one band to two days, 10 bands, and more than 120 vendors. It attracts visitors from all over the South, with an estimated 2008 attendance of 20,000 people. The centerpiece is a duck race held above the dam of Buck Creek in Old Town Helena. Ducks can be sponsored for $5 each and proceeds benefit SafeHouse of Shelby County.Other events at Old Town Helena include Kidsfest, a one-day celebration with games and rides; the Summer Sundown Cinemas Movies in the Park series which shows free family movies; the Helena Summer Concert Series; and the July 4th Celebration.The final event of the year is City of Helena Christmas Parade. "We were the first city in Shelby County to start a parade, and this is our 38th year," Penhale noted. "We are a real family community. Everyone pitches in where they are needed. Everyone takes pride in Helena."