Fairhope celebrates 125th birthday

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Followers of the Single-Tax Theory of Henry George landed on the Eastern Shore on Nov. 15, 1894 to create their community based on George’s economic principles.

On Friday, city officials, anniversary planners and residents – some dressed in costume from the 1890s – commemorated that anniversary at the Fairhope City Museum.

“They wanted to establish a utopian community here and it’s just an incredible, incredible journey 125 years ago, just to get here,” Museum Director Alan Samry said.

City Councilman Jimmy Conyers said congratulated participants and the community on behalf of the council and Mayor Karin Wilson.

“What a special place we live in,” Conyers said. “We’re really fortunate to be here. I think what’s great about Fairhope is that we have respect for the old and traditions, but we also embrace the new. It’s always been a special place and I appreciate everyone coming in period costume today to help us celebrate and I just want to say thank you so much for the City Council and Mayor Wilson.”

He said 2019 is a special year for historic anniversaries with both Fairhope’s 125th and Alabama’s 200th taking place this year.

“I think Fairhope was an amazing, special place 125 years ago,” he said. “It certainly is today. I feel fortunate to be a part of this community and I think a lot of people do.”

Local writer Bob Glennon took part in costume portraying Dr. Clarence Merchon, Fairhope’s first physician. In character as the doctor, he described early years making house calls before phone service was established – allowing calls all the way from Point Clear to Montrose – and opening the Fairhope Pharmacy, which is still in business.

“It’s just a great place to be,” he said after his talk. “People came together to form a utopian tax experiment. That’s part of the beauty of this place, it’s just so different.”

When many of those people set out from around the country to create Fairhope, they had never met before, Samry said. They wore red ribbons on the trains to recognize each other. On Friday, many anniversary participants also wore red ribbons.

“I see a lot of red ribbons here and that is fantastic, just fantastic because the folks that came here didn’t know who each other were so they came by train and they met at Union Station in St. Louis. They had come from the east. They had come from the west. Our founder, of course, came from Des Moines, Iowa, E.B. Gaston. Some people came from the west coast and Minnesota as well, but they didn’t know each other.”

More than a century later, the community is still drawing new people. Fairhope is the fastest growing city in Alabama, according to Census reports.

“This is a true celebration. Whether you’ve been here all your life, or you moved here yesterday, you’re part of Fairhope history,” Samry said.