Athens is a city in Limestone County, in the U.S. state of Alabama. The city is the county seat of Limestone County and is included in the Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, AL Combined Statistical Area. Athens is midway between Nashville and Birmingham on Interstate 65. Athens shares a boundary with Huntsville.
Founded in 1818 by John Coffee, Robert Beaty, John D. Carroll, and John Read, Athens is one of the oldest incorporated cities in the state, having been incorporated one year prior to the state's admittance to the Union in 1819. Limestone County was also created by an act of the Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818. The town was first called Athenson, but was incorporated as Athens after the ancient city in Greece. Many homes in the central part of modern Athens date to the antebellum period, and are part of historic preservation districts.
Athens was traditionally a cotton and railroad town, but since the local aerospace boom of the 1950s and 1960s, it has increasingly entered the orbit of nearby industry center Huntsville as the area's cotton production has steadily declined. Athens is the home of Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant, a Tennessee Valley Authority installation first operated in 1974, that was once the world's largest nuclear plant. It provides many jobs to the area and most of the electricity for the Huntsville-Decatur Metro Area.
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