Thursday, January 17, 2019

New Fairhope History Lecture Series Kicks Off

Fairhope, Alabama

Donnie Barrett wearing fish head prop


Educated Fools?
Local historian Donnie Barrett and actor Robin Page spoke about early live theatre in Fairhope ... and the birth and growth of Theatre 98 during the first of this year's history lectures at the Giddens Auditorium at the library (first Thursday of every month until May).

Barrett referred to a book called 'Educated Fools' by Clement Coleman that mentioned the many clubs, study groups, leagues, and other organizations formed by early Fairhope "intellectuals."


PPK club minstrel show
In about 1915, Dr. George Sheldon, a pharmacist, and William 'Pop' Dealy organized minstrel plays at the PPK men's (drinking) club on De La Mare Street and Barrett remembered such plays being held around town well into the 1960's.

In the 1920's Shakepeare's plays began to be performed regularly at various places around town: in clubs, in gullies, an outdoor pavilion by the bay, and Comings Hall on the old Organic School campus (now Coastal Community college).

Barrett remembered a professional theatre group too, called Jubilee Fish Theatre, that existed for a while in the early 1990's: it started each performance with a barbershop quartet dressed in fish heads (pictured above).


Comings Hall ca. 1920's
Fairhope Little Theatre was formed later in 1935 by Gretchen Riggs ... and the Baldwin County Theatre Arts Association in 1952: those groups merged to form Theatre 98 (named for the highway) in 1960; Betty Jo Wolfe was its first President.

Plays were still performed at various places around town -- Comings Hall, high school auditorium, and even the Grand Hotel -- until 1970 when it became "dormant" for a while ... until revived and incorporated in 1983 (performances held at the Eastern Shore Art Center and Civic Center).


In 1985, Theatre 98 moved into its current building on Morphy Avenue according to the organization's Vice President Robin Page.

Robin Page
Constructed in 1920, the building was originally the First Baptist Church of Fairhope and was used later as a satellite courthouse, among other things.

In 2010 the city constructed a new shop and storage space for the theatre next door and in 2014 the building was awarded a historic plaque by the Baldwin County Historical Commission.

The first production this season will be Tennessee Williams' 'A Streetcar named Desire' beginning in February.

350 Morphy Avenue

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Restaurant Venu Coming To Pier?

Fairhope, Alabama


According to a sign posted today, a new venue may be in store for the restaurant on the main pier, to be appropriately called 'The Pier Bar and Grill.'

There will be an all-new menu "including breakfast" but the Gambino family will still be owners the sign says. (Rick Gambino has a long-term lease for the city property.)

Unconfirmed reports say a gift shop will be incorporated there as well.

Shux closed earlier this month.

(We have reached out to the owners for comment but received no reply yet.)

Hwy 98 Adaptive Traffic Signal Project Completed

Fairhope, Alabama

U.S. Highway 98


Twenty eight "adaptive" traffic signals on U.S. Highway 98 from Fairhope to Interstate 10 are now fully operational and synchronized, according to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization coordinator's report during today's Technical Advisory Committee meeting.

Begun in 2015 and jointly funded by the MPO, Baldwin County, and ALDOT ($3 million) -- the computerized system intended to increase the highway's capacity and reduce commute time has been adjusting itself to traffic flow for the past six months or so ... and will only need "tweaking" from now on.

Wait times on side streets may increase some at times and time allowed for turning may be short, however.

Additional signals are planned for the South Drive and Old Battles intersections.

A similar system is planned for the Highway 181 corridor.

Fairhope Public Works Director Richard Johnson is this committee's chairman.


Last year's building statistics were also reviewed during the meeting. In the Eastern Shore MPO's jurisdiction there were:

* 1,728 new preliminary lot plat approvals.

* 820 final lots approved.

* 1,403 building permits issued.

(Including the communities of Spanish Fort, Daphne, Fairhope, Loxley and adjacent unincorporated Baldwin

ESMPO Technical Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Groundbreaking Held For School Expansion

Fairhope, Alabama


Baldwin County School Superintendent Eddie Tyler said he had granted granted special permission for students to be out of class to help break ground for a 16-classroom, $5.6 million  addition to the Fairhope Intermediate School on Bishop Road this afternoon, including:

Superintendent Tyler
*Classrooms equipped with 70" Promethean displays.
*A new gymnasium with bleacher seating for 450.
*Enclosed corridors between buildings for security.
*New asphalt parking for 100 vehicles.
*New 2-lane car rider drive from Fairhope Avenue.


The school is to be one of three re-configured K-6 campuses in the Fairhope feeder pattern for the 2020-2021 school year; the current Fairhope Elementary and J. Larry Newton  schools will be converted to K-6 as well.


Since a new K-6 is being constructed concurrently in the Belforest community in Daphne as well, Daphne and Fairhope attendance (feeder) patterns will need be adjusted to balance the student load; details are to be announced later this Spring, according to School Board President Christenberry.

Christenberry said any parent with concerns or questions about where their children may attend  should contact their individual board representatives.

Monday, January 14, 2019

More Cell Phone Towers Coming To Town

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: A moratorium on installation of new antennas may not be allowed by Federal law, according to planning director Dyess. (Telecommunications Act)

Small cell tower on Mobile Street


Planning Director Dyess told the city council AT&T has approached the planning department about installing small cell towers along Greeno Road (initially) to fill in coverage gaps in its current 4G service and to provide new 5G service when it becomes widely available in coming years; the larger towers on water tanks and elsewhere would remain too.

(Verizon installed a few small towers on Mobile Street (photo above) several years ago to fill gaps.)

Dyess' concerns were aesthetics (how they look) and proliferation of the poles since all three local providers are expected to want to install them in city right of ways.

IT department director Montgomery said the poles would be 30-40 feet tall and need to be 300-400 feet apart for 4G, less for 5G (line of sight) ... eventually even on streets in neighborhoods.

The companies prefer using their own wooden poles (rather than existing city utility poles) because they are quicker and easier to install; but city poles could be used as well.


Mayor Wilson said AT&T had already presented a map of where they want to install theirs ...  but "we want to get ahead of them as a city with our own plan ... based on what we want them to look like."

A new type of street light that incorporates all three companies' antennas was cited as one possibility (below).


Dyess said a limited moratorium on installation of new towers would give the planning department time to come up with suitable regulations based upon best management practices and to consult other cities where installation has already begun ... to prevent more "eyesores" from developing  here.

The city's Planning Commission will have to approve installation; no formal applications have been received yet but AT&T's is expected by Spring.

Council members instructed him to bring back a moratorium proposal as soon as possible; councilman Burrell said citizens will demand the new service when it becomes available (5G).

Antennas could be incorporated in street lights


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Colony Cemetery Entrance Renovated

Fairhope, Alabama

The Single Tax Corporation is renovating the entrance to the Colony Cemetery as well as the sidewalk on the corner (Oak and Section St.).

A columbarium is being planned within the cemetery as well.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Submitted: Bayshore Christian School Expanding

Fairhope, Alabama

24835 CR 13

Bayshore Christian School Foundation Purchases Property For New School.

The Bayshore Christian School Foundation has purchased 46 acres in Daphne, Alabama off Highway 13 where it plans to build an academic campus and athletic facilities for their Logic and Rhetoric Schools (Junior High and High level).

The new campus will allow Bayshore to accommodate growth in enrollment it continues to experience: 17%/year for the last five years.

Head of School, Dr. Pamela Mckee says, "More and more parents are choosing what Bayshore has to offer, a Christ-centered classical education that serves families throughout Baldwin County."

The plan is to build classroom space for our high school students and to develop a full athletic complex.

Foundation Chairman Daniel Nance says, "The Lord has provided a place to expand to more students on the Eastern Shore than ever before. The demand is there and we are happy to fill it."

Bayshore Christian School is a ministry of Eastern Shore Presbyterian Church (PCA).

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

New Penalties Imposed On Water Tank Painters

Fairhope, Alabama


Painting contractors were putting the finishing touches on the 2 million gallon water tank today, but since the project was not completed by January 1st, new $2000/day penalties are being imposed.

It was possible for cell phone providers to start re-installing their antennas three weeks ago according to  a spokesman for prime contractor Utility Services, but none did.

City Operations Director Peterson told the Times AT&T planned to begin re-installation on January 14, but did not know about the others (Verizon, Sprint).

The private companies lease the space on top for their antennas from the city.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Progress On Old Hardware Store Renovation

Fairhope, Alabama


Stucco is being removed from the front facade revealing old windows and bricks not seen for many decades.

Clay city tile was also used in the construction according to informed sources.


The building at 310 Fairhope Avenue was completed in 1922 and originally housed the Single Tax Corporation's  'Peoples Cooperative' general merchandise store -- which sold everything from "shoes to plowshares" according to historians; community meetings and other social functions were held in the spacious upstairs auditorium as well.

A Freds, Pigggly Wiggly, Hammond's Grocery, and a Blue Dollar store occupied the building over the years as well, according to a local historian.

CA 1920's


Owners are now seeking official historical status for the building, to facilitate restoration. (McNair Historic Preservation Inc. is assisting.)

The first floor is to eventually be converted to three retail spaces ... and the second to a residence/office space, according to a city building official.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Councilman Proposes Lowering Maximum Building Height

Fairhope, Alabama

3 Minnich Court


Councilman Conyers said he had received more complaints from citizens about the height of  a house under construction on S. Section Street (across from Greer's grocery) and a proposed 4 floor hotel on the northeast corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street.

Conyers: "We recently increased height to 40' ... with up to 3 floors ... to allow flexibility on roof design ... but it hasn't been on the books six months ... now people are saying ... what's the difference in 3 or 4 storys? "
Dec. 20 council meeting

The prime intent of the new height ordinance was to provide for something other than flat roof design; but now it seems to be a case of "giving an inch and them taking a mile."

Conyers raised the possibility of amending the height ordinance so nothing over 40' is allowed without prior approval from the city's Board of Adjustments and Appeals .... or, alternatively, returning to the previous 35' maximum.

The house under construction on Minnich Ct. off of S. Section has a rooftop terrace and elevator access/stairwell over the 40' limit, but such things are allowed by the language in the current ordinance, according to Planning Director Dyess: That property is owned by Craig and Suzanne Thornburg according to online land records.

Councilman Burrell says he wants to keep it at 40':

" I am in favor of keeping it 40’.  About five years ago, we proposed a height change that included a lot of language concerning what defined the height.   Planning never bought in, not that that was a requirement, but we wanted the Planning Commission on board.  What followed recently was a more loosely written ordinance.  In some instances, simple is not always the best route.  If you set a simple height, developers will try to fill it completely."


The Board of Adjustments and Appeals will take up the request for four floors (instead of 3) at its January meeting; some sort of "hardship" (other than financial)  will need to be demonstrated for approval though.

In either case though (3 or 4 floors), building height may be up to 40'.

Matt Bowers is current owner of that property.

Proposed hotel

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Former Rite Aid To Become Grocery

Fairhope, Alabama


Independent sources say the old Rite Aid drug store on Greeno Road at the corner of Morphy Avenue will become an "upscale" grocery store of some kind.

'Shux' Pier Restaurant Closed For Season

Fairhope, Alabama


According to signs posted, the Shux restaurant located on the main pier will be closed until March; the business is for sale, according to web advertisements.

Since opening in 2015, Shux had been open year round but its predecessor, the Yardarm, was closed during Winter months.