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Historic-places fans should plan a visit to tiny Mooresville

Mooresville, Alabama, is an easy-to-get-to tree-filled historic village that feels detached from today’s fast-paced world. Although it’s only about 1,000 feet from I-565 — barely six miles from Decatur and seven miles from the Huntsville International Airport — it’s isolated with a beautiful setting that allows you to feel as if you have drifted back in time.

If you will be traveling across north Alabama, you’ll be glad you stopped at Mooresville if you ...

  • like historic streetscapes with picket fences
  • are a historic-places or Civil War enthusiast
  • are looking for inspiration for an early- to mid- 19th-century themed novel or screenplay (some say Margaret Mitchell visited Mooresville before completing Gone With the Wind)
  • like visiting places where movies were filmed

A self-guided walking or bike-riding tour is the sensible way to enjoy Mooreville. A few annual events provide opportunities to enjoy it in group settings, so that’s a hard-to-beat option if you are able to plan for it. There’s 12 public parking spaces at the village entrance (MAP). From there you can see most of the historic streetscapes during a walk or bike ride of only about 1.5 miles in length. Add another half mile to see the red house (pictured above), the matching barn and the dance hall on North Street. Examples of events sponsored by the town itself include the Saturdays in April Walking Tours and some events focusing on the Christmas decor at some of the homes. See

With only 50 to 55 persons living there today, Mooresville’s current population is very close to the same as it was 210 years ago. You’ll see 20 or 21 houses with a mixture of historic and newer homes that were designed to blend in to the historic setting. There are also two small historic churches, a historic post office and a historic tavern.

Above, the Peebles-Zeitler-McCrary House is one of the remaining c. 1820s structures you’ll see in Mooresville.

Know a little Mooresville history before you go

The entire 29-acre village was listed as one entity with the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

The first white settlers came while the lands were part of the Mississippi Territory. Where Mooresville sits still belonged to the Chickasaw Nation at the time which would have been around 1805 to 1808. Robert and William Moore were believed to be among the first, and Mooreville was named after them. Another account says the town was named in honor of Dr. David Moore after it was incorporated. 

In November 1818 — just 13 months before Alabama became a state — the settlement was incorporated by an act of the Alabama Territory House of Representatives. There were at least 40 white residents at that time, according to the application.

Many of the 1820s-1850s houses were built by people who were involved in the cotton industry. Merchants would have moved in to take advantage of the growth during those years.

Check out these excerpts from the Mooresville National Register application:

  • “Settlers ... were attracted to the area because of its natural spring and good location. The town was built on high ground several miles away from the swamps.”
  • “The town was on an important route of travel through the Tennessee Valley and the tavern was a popular stage coach stop.”
  • “Most of the present residents are descendants of the original settlers.”

A wetland wildlife refuge stretches into the Mooresville town limits

Being hedged in on the south by the water must be one of the factors which has shielded Mooresville from development. The swamp referred to above would have been the low areas just south of the village where Piney Creek and Limestone Creek flows into the Tennessee River.

When the TVA’s Wheeler Dam was completed in 1936, the swamp became part of Wheeler Lake. On maps today, you see the Limestone Bay/Piney Creek portion of Wheeler Lake just below Mooresville. The bay is part of the 35,000-acre Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. A portion of the refuge is actually inside the Mooresville town limits.

The wetland setting makes it easy to combine activities like birding, fishing and kayaking with a visit to historic Mooresville. The Arrowhead Landing stop on the North Alabama Birding Trail is found on Limestone Bay, just 2.5 miles from the Mooresville entrance. A public boat ramp is just south of there. The Beaverdam Peninsula Tower is also nearby. These two spots are among the best places in north Alabama for birding, especially when sandhill cranes and snow geese visit the refuge during the winter. Spotting bald eagles, deer and other wildlife is also likely.

The nonresidential structures you will see in Mooresville

The c. 1821 Stagecoach Tavern & Inn on High Street, pictured above, is only a few yards from the public parking spaces near the town entrance. Donated to the town government and restored in the 1990s, it now serves as the town hall and museum.

Many of the other structures in Mooresville are also between 170 and 205 years old including the two churches and the post office. 

Across from the tavern, you will see the quaint cottage that is currently home to Lyla’s Little House, a shop featuring candy, ice cream and vintage gifts. It’s open only on Fridays and Saturdays: 

It was originally built around 1890 by carpenter Zack Simmons for his wife Mandy. Affectionately known in the village as Uncle Zack and Aunt Mandy, they were descendants of freed slaves.

Located at the corner of Lauderdale and High Street, the c. 1840s post office was donated to the town a couple of decades ago. Easily the oldest still-in-use post office in Alabama, it’s only open two hours per day, from 8 to 10 a.m., Monday through Saturday. According to the town website, the mailboxes and office furnishings you see inside were transferred from an older post office which was in the tavern.

Another interesting non-residential building is located out on Old Highway 20 to the right of the village entrance. Currently home of the Southern Carnage bike shop, what was the Bedingfield General Store was originally built in the 1890s but must have had some modifications since the 1930s: mentions that the adjacent wildlife refuge has some gravel roads that are great for bicycling.

The building at the corner of North Street and East Street is currently home to the Dogwood & Magnolia Bakery which is open from Wednesday to Saturday, for four hours only. The oldest part of the building may date back to the 1820s:


In preparation for an Alabama Bicentennial event that was held there around the time of Mooresville’s birthday in 2018, a Bicentennial Garden was built at the Old Brick Church. The garden is the perfect spot for enjoying the serenity of the village. Be sure to see the bronze plaque showing the layout of the town. Also be sure to check out the church steeple. Instead of a cross sitting atop it, there is a wooden hand pointing toward heaven.

The c. 1839 Old Brick Church on Lauderdale Street in Mooresville. You may see it referred to as the Union Church or the Cumberland Church.

The Old Brick Church was sold to the town for $10 in 1994. It’s frequently used as a wedding venue.

The other historic church is the c. 1854 Church of Christ located on Market Street. Also now property of the town, regular services are no longer held there.

The non-historic house next door was painted yellow and the church was painted dark red when a major motion picture was filmed there in the mid-1990s.

Disney converted part of Mooresville into a movie set for the filming of Tom and Huck

Child star Jonathan Taylor Thomas portrayed Tom Sawyer in Tom and Huck during the peak of his popularity. He’s best known for his role as the middle son in the hit TV show, Home Improvement. The movie was Disney’s family-friendly, made-for-the-big-screen depiction of Mark Twain’s 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Other stars that you may recognize in the movie that was filmed mostly in Mooresville include Rachael Leigh Cook and Charles Rocket.

One scene of the 1995 movie clearly shows the Mooresville Church of Christ and the adjacent yellow house as Tom Sawyer walked along Market Street. In addition, both churches, the yellow house and the tavern were used for some interior scenes and other brief shots. Some outdoor scenes were filmed down at the creek. The fence used for the notorious white-washing scene, along with some of the other wooden structures seen in the movie, are probably no longer found in the town. Much of the filming took place during humid summer weather. They made quite a mess when they covered the pavement with mulch so the streets would look the part of 1840s small-town Missouri. The dramatic cave scenes at the end of the movie, and probably some of the other outdoor scenes, were filmed 48 miles away at Cathedral Caverns

Tour the residential area respectfully

Above, this Federal-style house near the Church of Christ on Market Street was built in 1850s as a blacksmith and cabinet shop. It was transitioned into a residence in the early 1900s. Located next door to the yellow house, it can be seen for a few seconds in the movie.

As is the case with any residential historic district that makes you feel as if you’re in an open-air living museum, please stay away from Mooresville if you aren’t willing to leave little to no evidence of your visit behind while quietly respecting the privacy of the homeowners.

One of the most interesting old houses, the Woodroof House on the south side of the village, was built in the 1820s: 

Major James W. Woodroof his and wife, Harriett, moved into the house in 1853. By 1861, they owned 3,400 acres in the area. Some riveting Civil War drama took place there in 1863-1864.

Take a look at some of the other historic houses of Mooresville:

Pictured, from top left:

  • The c. 1826 Corner House was originally a commercial building. It was converted to a residence in the 1930s.
  • The c. 1890 Victorian cottage on Market Street.
  • The c. 1820s house at the corner of Old Highway 20 and Market Street is now known as The Cottage at 1818 Farms.
  • The c. 1880s or 1890s Martin-Smith-Davis House near the corner of Piney Street and East Street.

Three of the other 1800s houses are not viewable much of the year due to thick vegetation. Not all houses in Mooreville are from the 1800s. Several were built in the mid- to late-20th century, and at least one in the 21st century. One of the most-interesting newer homes of Mooresville, the Zeitler House was started in 1927 and completed in 1945:

The front portico with its grand columns are shrouded by leaves for much of the year. You’ll find it across the street from the Brick Church.

These four houses were also built in the 20th, or even the 21st, century:

PIctured, from top left:

  • The c. 1940s Peebles-Wilson-Eadon-Barran House.
  • This house was built in 2005 to fit in with the 1820s vibe of its surroundings on the south side of the village.
  • A mid-20th-century brick cottage located on High Street.
  • Another newer home found on East Street provides one of Mooresville’s most beautiful streetscapes. 

POTUS 17 and 20 each spent time in Mooresville

Before they were Presidents of the United States, both Andrew Johnson, number 17, and James A. Garfield, number 20, spent short amounts of time in the village. Johnson, a tailor, was there to learn from another tailor. Garfield was an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War while his unit was camped in the area.

Johnson lived in Mooresville for only a few weeks in the 1840s. He was there to learn how to make the Prince Albert-style frock suit at Joseph Sloss’s tailor shop on Market Street. Garfield, a Union brigadier general and also a gospel preacher, accepted an invitation from the citizens of Mooresville to preach at the Church of Christ when his troops, the 20th Brigade of the Army of the Ohio, were camped nearby in 1862. The invitation to preach was confirmed in a line from a letter he wrote to his wife, Lucretia: “There is a church in the village of Mooresville near by and they have sent up inviting me to speak to them on Sunday. If I am not too unwell I have a notion to speak to them.”

Sources say he preached there several times.

In other Civil War news, the 123rd Illinois Regiment — part of Wilder’s Lightning Brigade — occupied the Mooresville area for 14 weeks starting in November 1863. They used the wood and chimney stones from the Mooresville Female Seminary to build winter quarters for their officers. They would have also taken from the locals livestock for food and other supplies.

Also in, or near, Mooresville

In 2019, the three-acre 1818 Farms, above, opened on the northwest corner of the village. One of the best times to go to Mooresville would be during an event at the farm. They have sold-out workshops in the spring, and large groups can book private tours.

A c. 1840s house which is now a wedding venue known as Creekside at Collier’s End is just east of Mooresville. See their Facebook page.

The c. 1826 Bella Mina house is only 1.6 miles north of the village. You can see it while traveling either direction on Mooresville Road. Just above it, the old white Bella Mina Methodist Church and an old wooden train depot are found. The c. 1839 Woodside house is across from Belle Mina, but several hundred feet from the road.

Related articles about nearby historic places

Don’t dodge Decatur’s historic downtown

Huntsville historic places part 2: Twickenham Historic District

The historic village at the heart of what is now Alabama’s ninth largest city


Story told by Jerry R. Barksdale during the state bicentennial event in June 2018.