The Cave City? Yes, that was another of Huntsville's nicknames before the rockets came in, according to Camille Mueller, the Realtor for the National Speleological Society.
This was why: By her count, there are more than 240 caves within the Huntsville city limits.
The Cave City? Huntsville still has something of a claim to that title after a recent real-estate deal has ensured that the National Speleological Society's headquarters will remain in Huntsville.
The National Speleological Society, an organization devoted to the study, exploration and conservation of caving resources, has purchased the Cahaba Shrine Temple at 6001 Pulaski Pike in northwest Huntsville.
The sale was finalized on Dec. 15, Mueller said.
"It was a good deal," she said.
For $1.75 million, the National Speleological Society bought the Cahaba Shrine Temple building - about 32,000 square feet, by her estimate - and 90 acres.
It took more than a year to complete the deal, she said.
"We had to sell it to our members, and we had to sell it to the Cahaba Shriners," said Mueller, the society's operations manager from 1995-2000. "They had to get their members on board."
The building and property was put up for sale in September 2010. A month later, the National Speleological Society became interested in buying the Cahaba Shrine Temple - originally priced at just under $2 million, Mueller said.
The National Speleological Society had a pressing need for a new national headquarters. The old one, built in 1972, was in a small building on Cave Avenue, just a few miles south of the Cahaba Shrine Temple.
"They're squashed in there," Mueller said.
The first meeting of the Huntsville chapter of the National Speleological Society was in 1955, according to a 2001 story in The Huntsville Times. Bill Varnedoe was the founder of the Huntsville Chapter, according to the story.
About 15 or 20 people attended the original meeting, believed to be in the old Madison County Courthouse or the Carnegie Library. Varnedoe advertised the meeting by publishing a notice in The Times.
Since then, the Huntsville chapter has been named the Huntsville Grotto. Its membership has expanded to 200, Mueller said.
Among the contents of the society's old location was the largest cave research library in the world, Mueller said.
But there was no possibility of expanded the building because it was located near the Shelta Cave, a legendary cave on Cave Avenue.
"It would have been over a cave system," Mueller said, "and it would not have been good for the Shelta Cave."
Now, with a 32,000-square-foot building, an 11,000-square-foot auditorium and 90 acres, there is plenty of room for expansion.
In March, a renovation of the main building is scheduled to begin. The projected cost is about $500,000, she said.
"It will allow us to expand our services to members and serve as an international conservation group," Mueller said. "We'll do a lot of education, and the facility will allow us to generate revenue by renting."
Photos:The current National Speleological Society property on Cave Ave. will be retained as a nature preserve for Shelta Cave, but the offices and library will be housed at the new building. The National Speleological Society buys the Cahaba Shrine building on Pulaski Pike in North-West Huntsville. The new space will host future national conventions of the caving group.
Source: Huntsville Times