A warm memory… Residents and visitors stand around a bonfire during the homecoming day parade. They watched and listened as the band and cheer teams performed.
A warm memory… Residents and visitors stand around a bonfire during the homecoming day parade. They watched and listened as the band and cheer teams performed.
Jillian Surla

Fairhope creates community

A dream made real

by Jillian Surla, editor-in-chief

With a warm Latte Da tea held comfortably in hand while perusing the books in Page & Palette, one might question Fairhope’s history. After a glance out the window, people can only stare in wonder at the unique, beautiful architecture and bright, vibrant people. The city has history, that’s certain, but what kind?

Go long!… Junior Blake Westry throws candy at the homecoming parade. Wearing capes and masks, his float carried superheroes. (Jillian Surla)

A city named from the two virtues “fair” and “hope” surely has an extraordinary beginning. The kind of beginning that might be able to explain the friendly and accepting nature of the residents. Truthfully, Fairhope started as a dream – a dream to create a utopia.

“I think [Fairhope] is a lot more cozy [than Spanish Fort]. It kind of feels like its own little place, in a way. Everyone’s just friendly,” said Alarria Coger, Spanish Fort resident.

In 1894, author Henry George dreamt of a model community where land is common property, free from private monopoly. George and his followers encouraged this and proposed raising all government revenue from a single lang value tax. His philosophy dubbed Fairhope as the Single Tax Colony.

This was the start of the community; land value was no longer determined by individuals, but instead, by the masses. This ideology, residents thought, would give them a “fair hope” of succeeding. Thus, in 1904 the colony was renamed to be the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation.

Colorful and kind… While walking in the Veterans Day parade, Dogwood Trail Maids wave at onlookers. Despite being from different schools, the maids promote sisterhood. (Myiah Goines)

In 1894, Iowan journalist Ernest Berry Gaston led the founding members of Fairhope – 19 adults and nine children – to the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. By 1908, the small group expanded to an outstanding 500 people. With more people came more businesses and more businesses came more people.

An individualistic city like Fairhope has a long history of art. From writers, to artists, to craftspeople and more, the creative culture is ingrained in the very walls and structures downtown. Writer and podcaster Lovelace Cook enjoyed the 22 years spent as a resident and often speaks with her friends about the newcomers joining her community.

“For the most part, I really enjoy the events here! I don’t come to the parades anymore because they’re too crowded, but I’m happy I can walk here if I wanted to because I live right on the way,” Cook said.

Considering the century since Fairhope’s establishment, events and festivals are new, despite the familiarity that both residents and visitors share. One of the most popular events is the Arts and Crafts Festival, which first started in 1953. What originally started as a way to attract Mobile visitors, the festival showcased many talents from all over the Eastern Shore.

A night of cheer… Downtown Fairhope celebrates with the Lighting of the Trees. Flurries of fake snow fell to the ground as people gathered to drink hot chocolate and listen to live performances. (Leah Hickman)

Over the years, the Arts and Crafts Festival, like many other events, have changed. Once a small group of artisans, now more than 220 booths full of jewelry, trinkets and paintings. What hasn’t changed, though, is the goal to spread goodwill to the community with enchanting art pieces.

“We love going to the pier and they have those little markets – and we love the art gallery! I love coming to the big art shows, and we bring our dog and it’s a good time,” Coger said.

Fairhope is dear to many people. Some grew up here, some moved recently, some don’t live here at all, but a collective consensus is that the city has many things to offer.

To Daphne resident Chandler Alvis, Fairhope is charming and has a great, warm atmosphere. To Johnny Kincard, Fairhope is like the small town called Cumberland, where he is from, but with a little more bustle. To Fairhope High School junior Gustavo Aguilera, Fairhope is one of the most peaceful places he has ever been.

After seven years living and working in Fairhope, Brittany Robinson believes that the kind, helpful community is the most important thing that the city has to offer.

“We have an amazing community,” Robinson said. “I’ve been in multiple situations where I was in really bad luck and the community really pulled together to help me out as far as a lot of things in my life. I know I can count on the people around me to help out if I need it.”

The rich history is prevalent in every step, every turn and every glance of the city. Fairhope is special – it’s important. It’s a place that brings people from all over the world together for one purpose – to create a community.

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