Decatur is a city in Limestone and Morgan Counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. The city, affectionately known as "The River City", is located in Northern Alabama on the banks of Wheeler Lake, along the Tennessee River. It is the largest city and county seat of Morgan County. The population in 2010 census was 55,683.
Decatur is also the core city of the two-county large Decatur Metropolitan Area which had 150,125 in 2006. Combined with the Huntsville Metropolitan Area, the two create the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area, of which, Decatur is the second largest city.
Like many southern cities in the early 19th century, Decatur's early success was based upon its location along a river. Railroad routes and boating traffic pushed the city to the front of North Alabama's economic atmosphere. The city rapidly grew into a large economic center within the Tennessee Valley and was a hub for travelers and cargo between Nashville/Chattanooga and Mobile/New Orleans. Throughout the 20th century, the city experienced steady growth, but was eclipsed as the regional economic center by a fast growing Huntsville during the space race. The city now finds its economy heavily based on manufacturing industries, cargo transit, and hi-tech industries such as General Electric, and the United Launch Alliance.
- Early historical timeline
- Bodies of water
- Neighboring cities/towns
- Public safety
- Emergency medical services and healthcare
- Major employers
- Parks and celebrations
- Air transport
- Major highways
- Busiest intersections
- Local public schools
- Local private schools
- Area higher education
- Notable people
- External links
Initially the area was known as "Rhodes Ferry Landing", named for Dr. Henry W. Rhodes, an early landowner who operated a ferry that crossed the Tennessee River in the 1810s at the present-day location of Rhodes Ferry Park. The city was incorporated as Decatur in the year 1821. It was named in honor of Stephen Decatur; after he was killed in a duel in 1820, President Monroe directed that the Alabama town be named for him.
Decatur was a very important point in North Alabama during its earliest days. Decatur was the eastern terminus of the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad (in the early 1830s), the first railway built west of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1850 the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad was incorporated into the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.
Because of its location on the Tennessee River at the strategically important crossing of two major railroads, Decatur was the site of several encounters during the American Civil War. When the Union army occupied the city early in the war, the commanding general ordered all but four buildings in the town destroyed. Bricks from some of the churches in town were used to build stoves and chimneys for the buildings that housed soldiers. The four buildings that remained (and are still standing) are the Old State Bank, the Dancy-Polk House, the Todd House, and the Burleson-Hinds-McEntire House. After the Union victory in the Battle of Atlanta, a Confederate army under the command of Gen. John Bell Hood briefly sparred with a vastly outmanned garrison during the 1864 Battle of Decatur, when Decatur was referred to as A Tough Nut To Crack.
While the city was under Confederate control, plans for the Battle of Shiloh were mapped out within the Burleson-Hinds-McEntire House. These activities make the house one of the most historic buildings in Decatur.
New Decatur, Alabama was a city that rose out of the ashes of former Decatur west of the railroad tracks. New Decatur was founded in 1887 and incorporated in 1889. But residents of the older Decatur resented the new town, founded and occupied by people who moved from the northern states. Animosity built until New Decatur renamed their town Albany, after Albany, N.Y., in September 1916. The impetus to meld the two towns came from the need for a bridge, instead of a ferry, across the Tennessee River. The Decatur Kiwanis Club was formed with an equal number of members from each town to organize efforts to get the state to build the bridge. In 1925, the two cities merged to form one City of Decatur. There is a noticeable difference between the two sides of town. The cities developed differently at different times, and still to this day have somewhat different cultures. Eastern portions of Decatur tend to act more suburban and traditional, while western portions tend to look more metropolitan and contemporary.
The Old State Bank, on the edge of downtown, is the oldest bank building in the State of Alabama, at 173 years old. The first wave pool in the United States was built in Decatur and is still in operation at the Point Mallard Aquatic Center. The city has the largest Victorian era home district in the state of Alabama. Decatur is also home to Alabama's oldest opera house, the Cotaco Opera House, which still stands on Johnston Street.
In the past its industries included repair shops of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, car works, engine works, bottling plants, and manufacturers of lumber, sashes and blinds, tannic acid, fertilizers, cigars, flour, cottonseed oil, and various other products.
Early historical timeline
FDR]] 1933 Decatur visit
- Area founded as Rhodes Ferry in 1810s.
- Rhodes Ferry incorporated as Decatur in 1821.
- Dancy-Polk House erected in 1829.
- Also in 1829-1830, Decatur became the home to the first railroad ever built west of the Appalachian Mountains Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad.
- Old State Bank erected on July 29, 1833.
- Rhea-McEntire House built in 1836.
- Battle of Decatur takes place during the American Civil War in November, 1864.
- Decatur's Victorian Era Home District built between 1870 and 1910
- New Decatur founded in 1887, incorporated in 1889.
- New Decatur renames itself Albany (although the post office designation is New Albany), 1916
- Princess Theatre built in 1919.
- Albany and Old Decatur merge in 1925.
- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicates Delano Park in 1930s.
- TVA brings new business to Decatur through the military, and energy management in the 1930s.
The Tennessee River has traditionally been the northern border of the city and Morgan County, while Flint Creek and the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge on the east side of the city. The city does extend to the other side of Flint Creek and the Refuge in the Indian Hills and Burningtree subdivision areas. There is also an inlet that extends one mile (2 km) into the city limits from Wheeler Lake called Dry Branch. There is also a small portion of Decatur that extends into Limestone County north along the Highway 31 corridor to the Calhoun College area and along Hwy 20 Corridor until it reaches I-65.
The northern portion of Decatur sits on top of a short hill that overlooks the Tennessee River, this creates a very steep dropoff to the river shore at Rhodes Ferry Park. This hill allows the "Steamboat Bill" Memorial Bridge to leave the mainland at grade without any major sloping required more height to cross the river while not interfering with Decatur's heavy barge traffic. This hill extends from the banks of the river about south to the 14th St./Magnolia St. intersection with 6th Avenue (US 31).
South past the 14th St. and 6th Ave. intersection, land continues to remain flat. South, and also west, past Alabama 67 there are a few minor mountains that sit within the city limits.
Decatur is located at (34.580992, -86.983392).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it (10.83%) is water.
Decatur experiences a humid subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers and a generally mild winter. Temperatures range from 89 F (32 C) in the summer to 49.0 F (9 C) during winter. The city occasionally experiences tornadoes during the spring and fall. The most significant tornado event included the Super Outbreak in 1974, while the city was largely unaffected by the more recent Huntsville, Alabama Tornado in 1989 that killed 21 and injured almost 500. Hurricanes are rare since Decatur sits nearly inland from the Gulf of Mexico. Though a few tropical systems do track through the central Tennessee Valley, they rarely inflict much damage on the city. Winters usually do not produce much snow; a large amount of snow is rare within the city limits. A small, measurable amount of snow can be experienced a few times each year. In 2011, Decatur received up to 8 inches of snow at once. It tied for the most since 1963.
Bodies of water
- Wheeler Lake
- Tennessee River
- Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
- Flint Creek
- Chula Vista Lake
- Lake Morgan
- Athens (north) - Limestone County
- Hartselle (south) - Morgan County
- Hillsboro (west) - Lawrence County
- Huntsville (northeast) - Madison/Limestone Counties
- Madison (northeast) - Madison/Limestone Counties
- Mooresville (northeast) - Limestone County
- Moulton (southwest) - Lawrence County
- Priceville (east) - Morgan County
- Trinity (west) - Morgan County
Decatur is, unofficially, divided into four different regions of town (Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest). The reason for the existence of these four regions is because of The Beltline. Southeast and Northeast Decatur already existed as parts of town, but were simply thought of as one, as there was a much lower population at that time in the West. Southwest consists mostly of the area bordered by 6th Avenue (US 31), 8th Street W, and Moulton Street. Northwest is bordered by Moulton Street, Central Parkway, and 14th Street W.
Two halves of town were successfully created in the years following the completion of The Beltline as a bypass. While there are few major cultural differences between the East and the West, minute differences such as street grid patterns, zoning patterns, and architectural styles are noticeable.
- Albany (New Decatur)
- Downtown Decatur
- East Acres
- Old Decatur
- Bank Street (Downtown Shopping District)
- Harborview (Riverfront)
- Burleson Mountain
- Burningtree Mountain
- Cedar Lake
- Hickory Hills
- Indian Hills
- Point Mallard Estates
- Moulton Heights
- West Decatur
- Cedar Ridge
- Chapel Hill
- Chula Vista
- Deerfoot Estates
- Dogwood Estates
- Griffin Addition
- Longleaf Estates
- Oak Lea
- Russell Village
http://www.digitaldecatur.com/index.html The current mayor of Decatur is Don Stanford, who was elected in 2008. The city has a five-member/district City Council. The current members are:
- District 1 Billy Jackson
- District 2 Roger Anders
- District 3 Gary Hammon
- District 4 Charles Kirby
- District 5 Greg Reeves (Council President)
There are also many boards and commissions run by the city, supervising schools, planning, downtown development, and so on.
Past Decatur, AL Mayors include:
- Don Kyle (2004 2008)
- Lynn Fowler (2000 2004)
- Julian Price (1994 2000)
- Bill Dukes (1976 1994)
- Russell Bolding (1972 1976)
- J. Gilmer Blackburn (1962 1968)
- H.R. Summer (1952 1954)
The Public Safety Department consists of the Decatur Police Department and Decatur Fire & Rescue. The Public Safety annex is located at 4119 Old Highway 31 in the Flint Community at the south end of the city, and houses the fire department's administrative offices and the police department's special operations division. This is also the site of the fire and police training facility. The Police and Fire Departments currently cover approx. in and around the city.
Both the Decatur Police and Decatur Fire & Rescue are dispatched by the Morgan County 911 Center.
http://www.digitaldecatur.com/departments/policedept/index.html http://decaturpolice.web.officelive.com/ The current Chief of Police is Maj. Edgar Taylor. The department consists of approx. 160 officers, which includes Command Staff and Investigators, and is headquartered at 402 Lee Street N.E. on the first floor of City Hall.
http://decaturfiredepartment.com/ The current Fire Chief is Charles Johnson. The Deputy Fire Chief/Fire Marshal is Darwin Clark.
All of the department's approximately 120 firefighters are licensed EMTs and approx. 30 of these are licensed Paramedics. These firefighters are assigned to three shifts or battalions, each shift is led by a Battalion Chief.
The department currently runs 6 Engine Companies, 4 Reserve Engines, 2 Ladder Companies, 1 Rescue Unit, 1 Brush Truck, 1 HazMat Vehicle, 1 Special Response Unit, 1 Safety/EMS Command Vehicle, 1 Shift Command Unit (Battalion Chief's vehicle), and several other staff and support vehicles out of 8 Fire Stations.
All Engine/Ladder Companies and the Rescue Unit are equipped for vehicle extrication. These units, as well as the EMS Commander's vehicle are also equipped for Basic and/or Advanced Life Support.
Emergency medical services and healthcare
All emergency medical services are handled by Decatur Emergency Medical Services Incorporated. Decatur EMS is a private EMS company contracted through the city of Decatur to provide emergency medical services to all 911 emergencies.
Huntsville MedFlight a division of Air Methods and Air Evac Lifeteam provide aeromedical services for the city of Decatur and North Alabama.
Decatur is served by two hospitals, Decatur General Hospital and Parkway Medical Center. Decatur General Hospital is a 273-bed, general acute care hospital and a 64-bed behavioral medicine hospital making it the third largest employer in Morgan County. Decatur General is accredited by the Joint Commission and its medical staff consists of more than 200 physicians representing 20 specialties. Decatur General Hospital is designated as a level two trauma center by the Alabama Department of Public Health. Parkway Medical Center is a 120 bed hospital that is designated as a level three trauma center by the Alabama Department of Public Health. As of January 1, 2012, Huntsville Hospital is the full owner of Parkway Medical Center. Parkway was formally a private not-for-profit hospital until their purchase from the public Huntsville Hospital System. Huntsville Hospital is the regions referral center and also serves as North Alabama's level one trauma center. As of November 2010 Decatur General Hospital and Huntsville Hospital are affiliate hospitals, ensuring the continued tradition and excellence of public, not-for-profit health care in North Alabama.
As of the census of 2000, there were 53,929 people, 21,824 households, and 14,753 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,009.7 people per square mile (389.9/km2). There were 23,950 housing units at an average density of 448.4 per square mile (173.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 75.50% White, 19.56% Black or African American, 0.58% Native American, 0.70% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 2.22% from other races, and 1.33% from two or more races. 5.64% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 21,824 households out of which 31.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.7% were married couples living together, 13.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 2.99.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 23.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,192, and the median income for a family was $47,574. Males had a median income of $37,108 versus $22,471 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,431. About 11.9% of families and 14.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.2% of those under age 18 and 11.1% of those age 65 or over.
Decatur has grown to be the busiest river port on the Tennessee River. The Port of Decatur sees large amounts of barge traffic from up and down the Tennessee River, which has led to twenty Fortune 500 companies opening plants in the city.
Decatur is also known as the "Home of Meow Mix", after the company bought a facility in town, and now utilizes its riverfront property to ship the finished product up and down the Tennessee River.
Being part of the Huntsville-Decatur CSA, the city lies within the region having the most engineers per capita in the nation.
A recent BRAC Base realignment will bring a population, conservatively estimated at 5,000–10,000 people (not including their families), to the area surrounding Redstone Arsenal.
Delta IV Medium launch carrying DSCS III-B6
Approval of the United Launch Alliance combined Lockheed-Martin and Boeing's rocket manufacturing contracts to a central location at the plant in Decatur. All satellite launching rockets used by the U.S. government will be built in Decatur. This approval brought over 230 new jobs to the Decatur area. The ULA plant utilizes the Tennessee River to ship the rockets to Cape Canaveral.
In March 2008, a $1.3 billion development, including a Bass Pro Shops was announced for the Interstate 65/Interstate 565 interchange inside the city limits. The development, named Sweetwater, would have included more than of retail space, of medical and office space, 2,700 residences, and an entertainment venue with seating for up to 8,000 people. A school, fire department, parks and lakes were expected to support the future development. As of Spring 2010, this project still seems to be on the horizon, but there is no set date for the project to start.
- United Launch Alliance
- Ascend Performance Materials
- Manufactures Paraxylene and Purified Terephthalic Acid
- Bunge International
- Daikin America
- Decatur City Schools
- General Electric
- Meow Mix
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- MPW Industrial Services
View of Balloons Inflating At The Alabama Jubilee
View of Old State Bank
Tourism is a major part of Decatur's economy. Hundreds of thousands of people from in and out of town, and from many other countries and territories, attend some of the premier festivals in the South.
The Alabama Jubilee, begun in 1977, is the oldest hot air balloon race south of the Kentucky Derby's Great Balloon Race (from 1973). With visiting populations rising into 100,000, people crowd around more than 60 seven-story-tall balloons as they inflate. Because of the Alabama Jubilee, Decatur has been named "The Ballooning Capital of Alabama" by the Alabama State Legislature.
The Spirit of America Festival is one of the largest free 4 July festivals in the south. More than 65,000 people arrive in Decatur to watch annual celebrations and the Miss Point Mallard Beauty Pageant.
Riverfest is a celebration sponsored by the Decatur Jaycees. Set at Ingalls Harbor, along the beautiful Tennessee River, barbecuers come from all over the country to try their luck at beating Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue, the seven-time world champion.
Another big celebration in Decatur and North Alabama, the Racking Horse World Celebration, attracts horses from around the world to compete in the largest racking horse competition. Set in the Racking Horse World Celebration Arena near Priceville, the celebration draws up to 75,000 fans and competitors each year.
Parks and celebrations
Replica of historic structure in the re-constructed Rose Garden in Delano Park
Also see Decatur Parks and Recreation
- Jack Allen Soccer Complex
Point Mallard Park
J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center
- "Home of America's first wave pool"
- Spirit of America Festival
- Racking Horse World Celebration Arena
The Decatur Daily has been the only major newspaper based in the Decatur Metropolitan Area since 1912, and one of the few family owned newspapers in Alabama. It has an average daily circulation of 20,824 and a Sunday circulation of 23,840. The paper circulates in the morning to an area that includes Morgan County, Lawrence County, and Limestone County, and parts of Cullman County, and Winston County
''The Huntsville Times'' is the only other newspaper with a larger circulation in the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area, and has been in circulation since 1996 to most area counties, when the Huntsville News closed. Before then, the News was the morning paper, and the Times was the afternoon paper. After the News closed, the Times remained an afternoon paper until 2004.
Charter Communications and PCL offer cable TV to Decatur. AT&T, Charter and PCL offer phone service to Decatur. With AT&T, Huntsville and Madison are local calls (Madison County only), but Athens is long distance. Decatur comes within of Athens and touches Huntsville. AT&T has not kept pace with growth in the region as reported in the Huntsville Times/Decatur Daily/Athens-News-Courier.
Decatur is served by two major airports. The Huntsville International Airport, in suburban Huntsville is the second busiest airport in Alabama, behind Birmingham International Airport. The city is also served by the busiest regional airport in Alabama, the Pryor Field Regional Airport.
Decatur, being only a mid-sized city, has not yet seen the conveniences of a major controlled access highway passing through the city limits.
Captain William J. Hudson "Steamboat Bill" Memorial Bridges
Decatur's main thoroughfares are 6th Avenue (US 31) and The Beltline (State Route 67). 6th Avenue begins as both Alabama 20, Alternate U.S. 72, and U.S. 31 split after being carried by the twin-span "Steamboat Bill" Hudson Memorial Bridge that crosses Tennessee River at the north central part of town. Alabama 20/Alternate U.S. 72 continues west towards The Shoals, after the Beltline begins in the vicinity of the Ascend Performance Materials LLC plant. 6th Avenue continues southward where it eventually intersects with Beltline Road. After that intersection, 6th Avenue continues southward to Birmingham as Decatur Highway.
The Beltline was built as a western bypass to relieve congestion on 6th Avenue. In doing so, however, this created another problem as sprawl quickly developed along the new arterial. Construction is currently under way to widen the road from four to six lanes with the project expected to be completed by 2012.
U.S. Highway 31
U.S. Highway 72 Alternate
||Traffic Per Day
||6th Avenue (US 31)
Alternate U.S. 72
||The Beltline (AL 67)
Spring Avenue SW
||6th Avenue (US 31)
Stratford Road SE
||PT Mallard Parkway (AL 67)
Plans are also under way to construct a controlled access beltway from Interstate 65 south of the city to Alternate U.S. 72 in Lawrence County, known as Veteran's Parkway.
In addition, there are plans to transform Alabama Highway 20/Alternate U.S. 72 into an extension of Interstate 565 into the city. Governor Bob Riley has said he will make sure that plans for the road will be put on the fast track, since more than 85 vehicle accidents occur on Highway 20's final approach into Decatur each year.
Also see Decatur City Schools
Austin High and Decatur High are the two main high schools of the city. With the addition of the International Baccalaureate Program to Austin and Decatur High Schools, Decatur has become the first Alabama school system north of Birmingham and one of five in the state to offer the honors program for juniors and seniors (as of July 2006).
All high school football and soccer teams compete in the 10,000 seat Ogle Stadium.
However, both Austin and Decatur failed to make adequate yearly progress in 2006 as mandated in the No Child Left Behind Act. The state said Austin's 86 percent graduation rate was four points too low.
Decatur High missed in two categories: percent of special education students the system tested in reading and percent tested in math. The graduate rate was 76 percent.
The only institution of higher education located within the Decatur city limits is Calhoun Community College. It has three campuses; the main campus is located just north of the city on Highway 31.
Local public schools
- Austin High School
- Decatur High School
- Brookhaven Middle School
- Cedar Ridge Middle School
- Oak Park Middle School
- Austinville Elementary School
- Banks-Caddell Elementary School
- Benjamin Davis Elementary School
- Chestnut Grove Elementary School
- Eastwood Elementary School
- Frances Nungester Elementary School
- Julian Harris Elementary School
- Leon Sheffield Elementary School
- Somerville Road Elementary School
- Walter Jackson Elementary School
- West Decatur Elementary School
- Woodmeade Elementary School
- West Morgan Elementary School
Local private schools
- Decatur Heritage Christian Academy (Pre-K through 12th Grade) (SACS & ACSI)
Area higher education
- Alabama A&M University - Huntsville
- Athens State University - Athens
Calhoun Community College System
- Calhoun Main Campus - Decatur
- Calhoun Redstone Arsenal Campus - Huntsville
- Calhoun Cummings Research Park Campus - Huntsville
- University of Alabama in Huntsville - Huntsville
- University of North Alabama - Florence
"A Grand City on a Charming Scale" - The official Decatur City tag line adopted in 2005.
The River City - So named because of the Tennessee River that flows on the northern edge of town and that inspires festivals and culture in the city.
The Chicago of the South - Given to Decatur in the 1880s by a company formed to create a planned community, "New Decatur," just south of the original Decatur. At that time the city was home to several industries, including a boxcar plant, and home to the huge Louisville & Nashville railyards.
"Ballooning Capital of Alabama" - Bestowed by the Alabama Legislature because of the annual Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic, which brings over 50 hot air balloons to Point Mallard Park. Begun in 1978, it is one of the oldest hot-air balloon rallies in the U.S.
The Heart of the Valley - Because of Decatur's location at the very center of the Alabama portion of the Tennessee River and Tennessee Valley.
"Home of America's First Wave Pool" - Decatur is home to the first wave pool ever built in the United States at the popular Point Mallard Aquatic Center.
"Home of Meow Mix" - Decatur is home to one of the Meow Mix production facilities, and a sign reading "Decatur: Home of Meow Mix" is visible on one of the city's buildings from the Tennessee River bridge.
D-Rock or The Dec - nickname given by high school students inside Decatur. Many people outside of Decatur also refer to the city with this nickname.
"Hub of the South" - Decatur is in a convenient location nearby many important southern cities.
"City of Opportunity" - a popular name in the 1950s and 1960s due to the city's rapid growth during that era.
"Decatur where it's Greater/ Greater Decatur" - a more recent phrase used by people in the area, sometimes in joking by people in larger cities such as Huntsville.
- Joseph Abbott, Texas politician
- Taye Biddle, football player
- Lucas Black, actor
- Patrick Gorman, SVP Bank of America and former Associate Director of National Intelligence
- Mae C. Jemison, first African American woman in space
- Dean Jones, actor
- Seth Kimbrough, Professional BMX rider, Former front man of Mortal Treason
- Gary Knotts, baseball player
- John O'Sullivan, conservative columnist and pundit
- Bennie Perrin, Former Arizona Cardinals Safety
- Jerraud Powers,Colts Cornerback
- Charles Redding Pitt, United States Attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama; private lawyer; Democratic politician
- Gary Redus, baseball player
- Kristopher Reisz, novelist
- Philip Rivers, Chargers Quarterback
- Rip Sewell, baseball player
- Rolando McClain, Raiders Linebacker
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