Fairhope Museum of History
Fairhope Museum of History Founded in 1992 as the Fairhope Historical Museum, the Fairhope Museum of History in Fairhope, Baldwin County, is a local history museum that preserves and interprets artifacts from Fairhope’s past and educates visitors through exhibitions and community outreach programs. In 2008, the museum moved into the recently renovated Old City Hall building and given its current name. The city-owned museum includes several exhibits on the political, social, and nautical history of Fairhope as well as its present-day place in Alabama culture, history, and the arts.
In 1992, a group of 25 local citizens founded the Fairhope Historical Museum in downtown Fairhope on the campus of the nearby School of Organic Education (now a satellite campus of Coastal Alabama Community College). After Old City Hall, Fairhope’s first municipal building, was vacated in 2002, members of the museum committee approached the city about using it as a new, larger space for the museum. Completed in 1928, that building served as Fairhope’s City Hall, police station, and town jail until 1972, when those functions were moved to a new building. Old City Hall was originally designed and constructed in the Spanish Mission Revival Style with a stucco finish, asphalt roll shingles, and decorative tile trim.
After approving the museum’s move to Old City Hall in October 2005, city officials approved $1.4 million dollars for the renovation and expansion of the building, with half of the funds coming from the city and the other half provided by the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation, a nonprofit entity that owns land in and around the city. Over the years, additions had been made to Old City Hall and much of the renovation of the building focused on returning it to its original 1928 state while also adding more modern additions that complemented the building’s original Spanish Mission Revival Style. The area that became the exhibit hall was expanded to a total capacity of 5,790 square feet, and on the building’s exterior, restorers framed an exposed section of the building’s original Clay City brick and tile to show the original wall colors and craftsmanship of the building. On April 5, 2008, in honor of the city’s centennial, the Fairhope Museum of History was officially opened to the public, with the opening ceremony drawing almost 1,000 spectators.
The Fairhope Museum of History includes many permanent and rotating exhibits that emphasize Fairhope history, culture, art, geography, politics, and nautical heritage. Permanent exhibits include the “Hall of Mayors,” which features oil paintings of every mayor of Fairhope, an exhibit dedicated to the Fairhope Courier, the town’s local newspaper, and an exhibit of model ships and the Middle Bay Lighthouse. Also on display are maritime tools and equipment and exhibits on Fairhope’s early businesses, its founders, its status as a “Single Tax Colony,” the history of the town jail, information on the annual Jubilee, the history of arts and literature in Fairhope, and the history of the railroad in the area, among others. The museum’s mezzanine level includes rotating exhibits that have featured artist Della Oswalt Nichols, writer Fannie Flagg, the Civil War in Baldwin County, and local veterans. The museum includes the original jail, mayor’s office, town council chamber, and fire station showcasing a 1935 firetruck.
Located at the east entrance to the museum is a water sculpture called the “Mullet Run Fountain” designed by Ameri’ca Jones that includes five water spouts set among 30 bronze mullets atop thick rods to simulate the mullets “running” in nearby Mobile Bay. Surrounding the fountain are brick pavers made by local artist John Rezner from Eastern Shore clay. Originally commissioned by the Fairhope Committee on Public Art, the water sculpture stands in the center of the Museum Plaza, which serves as a shared green space between the museum, the Fairhope Public Library, and the city’s Welcome Center.
Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education Each week, the museum hosts a “Tea for Two” event in which visitors receive a cup of Fairhope-grown tea while enjoying a lecture on a particular aspect of Fairhope history and culture for a $2 donation. The project is sponsored and supported by the Friends of the Fairhope Museum of History, which is a support organization that assists with museum programming, outreach activities, and other aspects of the museum’s operations. The Fairhope Museum of History hosts events such as the Elderberry Festival, the Round-Up (Founder’s) Day Celebration, various bus and walking tours of historic Fairhope, Haunted Halloween at the museum, and the Satsuma Blossom Festival. In 2009, the Fairhope Museum of History was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
The museum is located at 24 N. Section St. and welcomes more than 20,000 visitors every year. It is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with free admission. Nearby are the Marietta Johnson Museum, the Eastern Shore Art Center, and the Fairhope Municipal Pier.