Fairhope was founded in November, 1894 on the site of former Alabama City as a utopian single tax colony by the “Fairhope Industrial Association”: a group of 28 followers of economist Henry George who had incorporated earlier that year in Des Moines, Iowa. Their corporate constitution explained their purpose in founding a new colony:
- “to establish and conduct a model community or colony, free from all forms of private monopoly, and to secure to its members therein equality of opportunity, the full reward of individual efforts, and the benefits of co-operation in matters of general concern.”
In forming their demonstration project, they pooled their funds to purchase land at “Stapleton’s pasture” on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and then divided it into a number of long-term leaseholds. The corporation paid all governmental taxes from rents paid by the lessees, thus simulating a single-tax. The purpose of the single-tax colony was to eliminate disincentives for productive use of land and thereby retain the value of land for the community.
In 1907 educator Marietta Johnson founded the School for Organic Education in Fairhope. The school was praised in John Dewey’s influential 1915 book Schools of Tomorrow. Dewey and Johnson were founding members of the Progressive Education Association.
The Fairhope Single-Tax Corporation still operates, with 1,800 leaseholds covering more than 4,000 acres (16 km2) in and around the current city of Fairhope. Despite the ideals of the corporation, the town has transitioned from utopian experiment to artist’s and intellectual’s colony to boutique resort and affluent suburb of Mobile.
For over 50 years, fishermen and residents of Fairhope have experienced the “jubilee” phenomenon. During a jubilee along the shores of Mobile Bay, some aquatic animals, including blue crabs, flounder, stingrays, and eels, come to the shallow water. At those times, it is possible to catch the fish, crabs, and other sea life near the water’s edge.
A nearby attraction known as the Weeks Bay Nature Reserve is known for the many oaks, wildlife and pitcher plants along the elevated walkways through the swamp forest.