Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Fairhope History Museum and Mosher Castle - Free!

(Our apologies. The internet at the park continues to be flaky, so posting will be a bit sporadic until February 28th)

This weekend, we decide to check out Fairhope and its (free!) history museum. We stop at Los Tacos for our first Tex-Mex breakfast since leaving Texas back in July.  We order two breakfast burritos, with a side of beans and guacamole. The burritos are big and hot, and the salsa is spicy.  Yep, definitely back in civilization again!
Fortified, we zoom down the road to Fairhope. Fairhope is a pretty unique southern town. It was founded in 1894, and so didn't even exist during the Civil War and the aftermath.
It was also founded on the ideas of E.B. Gaston, and was, essentially a socialist experiment.
We make a quick detour at the visitor's center and then head next door to the museum.

The Fairhope History Museum is in the old City Hall, and admission is free.
The area that would become Baldwin County started out as a football, tossed back and forth between superpowers battling for control  of  the New World territory.  The Revolutionary War tanked the French Creoles' plan for the area, and later, 'Alabama City',a plan by ambitious New Orleans developers also fell through.
Eventually, a group of idealists from Iowa showed up, to start a colony based on the single tax concept proposed by Henry George, a nineteenth economist. Although the colony was not a long-term success, Fairhope is one of only 3 Georgian colonies that still has a single tax system.
The community also attracted and embraced other free thinkers. Quakers, socialists, creative types, and yes, even nudists, moved to Fairhope.
In 1907, Marietta Johnson founded the School of Organic Education in Fairhope (along with a public library using her own books). The school focused on educating the entire child, body, mind, and spirit, and did away with things that impeded that - like homework and tests. We understand the school still exists, although it has relocated to a new campus.
Fairhope is also known for an odd natural event, the jubilee. At least once a summer, fish and shellfish will float to the surface of Mobile Bay (this happens because of a lack of oxygen in the water and only occurs in two places in the world - here and in Japan). The above sculpture was created by Craig Sheldon.
Craig Sheldon was a brilliant and eccentric wood carver - who built a castle.

We walk from the museum to see the two 'castles' (only 2 blocks over), and yes, there really is a copper dragon wrapped around the chimney of the Mosher castle. In case you are wondering, his name is Hendrix.
Besides sculpting, Craig Sheldon also expanded and renovated the small house he and his wife bought.
The tower was his unique solution to the need for more bedrooms for the children.
Of course, children eventually grow up. Craig's daughter, Pagan, married Dean Mosher, and bought the house next door. They immediately set out to castle-ize their home as well! (OK, maybe Pagan didn't really grow up after all...)
After admiring the castles, we stroll over to Downtown Fairhope.

Fairhope's downtown is very walkable, with cute shops and boutiques,
and the occasional alpaca. This fellow stands in a enclave of shops that have been walled in to create a tiny French Quarter - along with several restaurants and a wonderful chocolate shop, called Frenchman's Corner. We'd heard this was the best place to buy chocolate, so we split a piece of handmade almond crunch with a chocolate topping. It's excellent!
Considering how quickly the almond crunch disappeared, it's probably a good idea we don't try the Nehaus chocolate, which is specially imported from Europe. We continue to stroll, impressed with the amount of art in many of the shop windows. Being bad bloggers, we miss the opportunity to take a a picture of Fairhope's other treasure, the independent bookstore Page and Palette. Ooops.
We do pick up a few treats for the Spoiled Husky from Waggy Tail. As you can tell, someone approves of our selections.

The founders of Fairhope set aside large areas for public parks and open spaces (as well as 80 feet wide streets, at a time when the standard was 30!) The result is a network of parks.  The Eastern Shore Trail is an easy walk from downtown, a paved path that meanders along the bluff.  The path wanders down to the North Beach and Pier, where there is also a fountain and a rose garden, and
the ocean! Fairhope is definitely a wonderful, fun place to spend a Saturday. Stay tuned! On Sunday, we went in search of the elusive Piney Woods dinosaur!


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