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A Southern Town That’s Been Holding On to Its Charm, for More Than a Century

A group of populist reformers from up north arrived in Alabama in November 1894 with a radical plan. Their mission: to establish an experimental utopian community inspired by the economist Henry George, whose wildly popular book, “Progress and Poverty,” influenced readers around the world in search of more equitable societies. In this case, their chosen setting was a swath of pine- and pasture-covered land perched high on a bluff overlooking Mobile Bay. There, wrote one of the founders, Ernest B. Gaston, these pioneers would build “a city set upon a hill, shedding its beneficent light to all the world.” Somewhat more modestly, they christened their settlement Fairhope, asserting that their dream community would have “a fair hope” of succeeding.

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