Friday, July 11, 2014

Fairhope, Alabama

The beautiful city of Fairhope Alabama sits on a sloping plateau amidst the shoreline of Mobile Bay. Population is around 14,000. You aren't likely to find a more pleasant place to visit or live.

Fairhope regularly shows up on "Best Places to Live or Retire" lists, among those are Money Magazine and U.S. News and World Report.

Fairhope was first settled sometime around November of 1894, where Alabama City used to be. The Fairhope Industrial Association founded the town as a Utopian colony espousing single taxation. The colony's principal founder was social philosopher Henry George. He had twenty-eight followers, the basis of the city's original citizens.

Their goals were to establish and conduct a model colony which was to be free from all kinds of private monopoly and where they could secure city members equal opportunity, as well as rewards for individual efforts. The first citizens of Fairhope Alabama pooled money to purchase some land, including Stapleton's Pasture, located on the eastern edge of Mobile Bay. The city fathers divided the land into long-term leaseholds. Rent paid all government taxes and this simulated a single tax.

A corporation called Fairhope Single-Tax is still in operation. It has 1,800 leaseholds, spread out over 4,000 acres both around and in Fairhope, Alabama. In the 1910 version of "The Landlord's Game," a precursor of "Monopoly," Fairhope Avenue was included.

In 1907, educator Marietta Johnson founded a school called Organic Education in Fairhope. John Dewey praised the school in his 1915 book Schools of Tomorrow. Both Johnson and Dewey founded an association called Progressive Education. Other noted intellectuals regularly wintered in the city, and it was a magnet for artists and writers. The esteemed writer Upton Sinclair often visited the city.

Over time, the city has moved from a Utopian experiment to an intellectual's and artist's colony, and then on to an affluent suburb and boutique haven.

Residents and tourists have witnessed the jubilee phenomenon for over fifty years. A variety of aquatic animals, which include flounder, blue crabs, eels, catfish and stingrays move to very shallow water. The timing of jubilees are unpredictable, but they occur during the summer months, usually just before dawn. If you are lucky enough to be in Fairhope during a jubilee, grab a net and you will certainly catch dinner. The phenomenon is thought to be caused by a lack of oxygen in the water due to decaying vegetation.

Weeks Bay National Estuarine Reserve boasts a wide variety of wildlife and plant species in a swamp forest. There is an elevated walkway, so the visitor can walk easily through the wetlands. This is one of the few places that you can see a pitcher plant bog in the wild. These plants are carnivorous, but don't worry-- they only eat insects. Early spring is the time to see the pitcher plants in bloom, but other plants are in bloom all the way into late fall. Pitcher plants create an ecosystem that can not be found anywhere else on Earth.

If you are visiting in March, you might be in town during the Annual Arts & Crafts Festival. In 2011, it is scheduled for March 18, 19 & 20. More than 200 artists and craftsmen bring some of their work to be purchased or just enjoyed. Live entertainment is also a highlight of the festival. If you are anywhere within driving distance of Fairhope Alabama and enjoy events of this nature, this is one you will want to attend.