Regarded as one of Alabama’s most charming towns, Fairhope, Alabama sees thousands of visitors each year. While many Alabamians enjoy the small town for its undeniable charm, its origin story remains unknown to many. Quaint and unassuming, few would venture to guess how the lovely city by the bay got its name.

(Fairhope Museum of History/Facebook)


Origin Story

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the community, established in 1894, was based on a concept by midwestern Populist Party officer and journalist Ernest Berry Gaston. The concept was known as cooperative individualism and the basic idea was to “strike a balance between the two extremes of unregulated individualism and state socialism.” His hope was to promote communities that would prioritize cooperation between individuals while offering support for individual ventures.

(Fairhope Museum of History/Facebook)

The Fairhope Plan

What truly sets Fairhope apart from many other Southern cities is the central theme in what is referred to as the Fairhope plan. It is best conceived by Progress and Poverty author Henry George. He believed in the idea of common property that was “made available for use rather than speculative profit.” In order to make this a reality, his concept requires that the entirety of governmental revenue be generated from one tax on the value of land. The tax could be considered similar to paying rent to the government to occupy a portion of land that was owned by the community.

(Fairhope Museum of History/Facebook)

Single Tax Colony

It was the adoption of this structure that led to Fairhope’s becoming a Single Tax Colony. “Its main founding principle was that the value of land was created by the community, not the individual; the rent charged for the use of the land thus constituted a group investment in the value of the community. The members chose the name Fairhope when one of their number remarked that they had a ‘fair hope’ of succeeding.” In the year 1904, the community’s name changed from the Fairhope Industrial Association to the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation. Ultimately, the community saw George’s concept through and offered their now-famous 99-year leases to existing members.