Monday, February 1, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 254: Visit the Fairhope Museum of History

About two years ago, Evergreen attorney Anthony Bishop recommended that I visit the Fairhope Museum of History in Fairhope, Ala. Bishop told me that he’d visited this museum with his son, and that the museum had a number of interesting exhibits, including a number of Civil War-related items. For this reason, I put a visit to this museum on my “bucket list” a year or so ago.

On the afternoon of Thurs., Jan. 21, my son had a dentist appointment in Fairhope, and I noted that the Fairhope Museum of History was just a short distance from his dentist’s office. After his appointment, we drove down to the museum and spent the better part of the next hour checking it out. As it turns out, this museum was a lot better than I expected, and I’ll never look at the Fairhope the same again.

Founded in 1992 as the Fairhope Historical Museum, today’s Fairhope Museum of History collects and preserves artifacts from Fairhope’s past and seeks to educate the museum’s 20,000 annual visitors on “all things Fairhope.” The museum is currently housed in a Spanish mission-style building that served as Fairhope City Hall from 1928 to 1972 and then as the town’s police station and jail until 2002. It has been totally renovated to serve as a museum and has around 5,000 square feet of exhibit space, including a spacious exhibit area on the second floor.

The museum features a number of permanent exhibits, including exhibits about the town’s founders, the local railroad, early businesses, the town’s jail, past mayors, noteworthy former residents, the Jubilee phenomenon, local writers and a fully restored 1935 Fairhope fire truck. I especially enjoyed the museum’s exhibit dedicated to the Fairhope Courier, the town’s local newspaper. The exhibit also included an old, hand-operated printing press that’s about as old as anything you’ll see anywhere else.

Fairhope is located on the shores of Mobile Bay and a relatively short distance from the Gulf of Mexico and for this reason much of its history is tied to the water, boating and fishing. Within the walls of the museum, you’ll find numerous models of ships important to Fairhope’s history as well as models of the Middle Bay Lighthouse. In addition to these, you’ll find displays of maritime tools and equipment unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else.

The staff at the museum was also extremely friend and helpful, and my son and I enjoyed what amounted to a guided tour as one of the museum’s volunteers took us through the museum and pointed out a lot that we would have missed if unaccompanied.

If you’d like to visit the Fairhope Museum of History and see it for yourself, it’s located at 24 North Section St. in Fairhope. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. The museum can be reached by phone at 251-929-1471.

In the end, how many of you have visited the Fairhope Museum of History? What did you think about it? What other museums would you recommend visiting? Let us know in the comments section below.

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