Dothan is a city located in the southeastern corner of the U.S. state of Alabama, situated approximately twenty miles west of the Georgia state line and eighteen miles north of Florida. It is the seat of Houston County, with portions of the city extending into nearby Dale County and Henry County. The city's name derives from Genesis 37:17: "let us go to Dothan". According to 2007 Census Bureau estimates, the city's population was 65,447, making it the largest town in this part of the state. Dothan is the principal city of the Dothan Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Geneva, Henry and Houston counties; the small portion that lies in Dale County is part of the Enterprise–Ozark Micropolitan Statistical Area. The city serves as the main transportation and commercial hub for a significant part of southeastern Alabama, southwest Georgia and nearby portions of the Florida Panhandle; since one-fourth of the U.S. Peanut crop is grown nearby, with much of it being processed in the city, Dothan styles itself "The Peanut Capital of the World". The combined population for the entire Dothan metropolitan area is estimated at 138,234.
Houston County Courthouse in Dothan
The area that is now Dothan was originally inhabited by members of the Alabama and Creek Native American tribes. Within the vast forests of pine that covered this region, a glade surrounded by poplar trees sheltered a large spring at the crossroads of two trails, where local Indians used to meet and camp. White settlers moving through the area duirng the late 1700's and early 1800's named the spring "Poplar Head", but most felt that the sandy soil common to this region would be unsuitable for farming, so they moved on. A rude stockade known as "Fort Scott" was constructed on the Barber Plantation next to the Flint River, twelve miles (19km) east of Poplar Head, where local settlers could take refuge whenever they felt threatened. This fort disappeared by the 1840's, with the end of the Indian Wars in Alabama and the removal of the Native Americans further west.
Houston County Court House, constructed in 1905
The first permanant white settlers consisted of nine families who moved into the area during the early 1830's to harvest the abundant timber. Their settlement, named "Poplar Head" after the spring, failed to thrive and was all but abandoned by the time of the Civil War. After the war, the establishment of a local Pony Express route coupled with other developments during the Reconstuction era to finally allow the town to bloom. On November 11, 1885, the locals voted to incorporate, naming their new city "Dothan" after discovering that "Poplar Head" was already registered with the U.S. post office for a town in northern Alabama.
The Dothan riot
In 1889, Dothan was the scene of a deadly altercation precipiated as the result of an unpopular tax levied on all wagons operating within city limits. Local farmers opposed this levy and organized themselves as the "Farmers' Alliance"; when a member of this group refused to pay and was arrested by city marshal J.L. Domingus, he resisted and had to be forcibly carried to jail. His trial four days later erupted into a violent free-for-all, when a member of the defendant's family overheard the lawman verbally deriding his brother while walking along a city street. The marshal began to beat the family member, George Stringer, then shot at him with a pistol. Stringer returned fire, as others converged on the scene from all directions and quickly began fighting. Pistols, knives and clubs were used in the fray, which lasted only a few minutes but left two men dead and five seriously wounded. Domingus was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to ten years, but his conviction was later overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court. The tax that first started the dispute remains in effect today.
Expansion and growth
In 1893, Dothan secured a stop on the first railroad to be built in this region. This development brought new prosperity and further growth, as local farmers now had a means of marketing their produce. The pine forests were harvested for turpentine and wood, which was transformed into ship masts, lumber and other wood products until by 1900, Dothan had become the greatest inland naval stores market in the world.
As the pines were cut and land subsequently cleared, cotton became a staple of the local economy, until being devastated by the Boll weevil in the early 1900's. Farmers turned to peanut production, experiencing remarkable success and bringing financial gain to the city, which became a hub for the production and transport of peanuts and peanut-related products. Today, one-quarter of the U.S. peanut crop is harvested within 75 miles of Dothan, and the city referrs to itself as "the Peanut Capital of the World". A two-week fall festival known as the National Peanut Festival celebrates this heritage. The city also sought out industry, with textile and agricultural concerns being joined by manufacturing plants for the Sony, Michelin and General Electric corporations later in the century. In 1939, Dothan took part in the New York World's Fair, the largest world's fair of all time.
A selection of historical photos of Dothan taken during this period may be viewed here.
The first full-line department store in southeast Alabama was established in Dothan by Hyman Blumberg. Blumberg settled in Dothan in 1892 with his wife Esther, and started a retail apparel business which remained in his family until closing in 1975. Blumberg's grew into the largest department store in this part of the state, and became the first store in Dothan to install a moving escalator; people would come from many miles away just to ride this new innovation. Even after the store itself closed, the Blumbergs remain a prominent family in the city.
Originally part of Henry County, Dothan became the county seat of the newly-formed Houston County on May 9, 1903. The city continued to flourish and grow throughout the twentieth century, with an airport being constructed in 1965 and the Wallace Community College in 1969. Troy University in Dothan was established in 1961 and currently occupies a landscaped campus northwest of the city. The Southern Company construced the Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Generating Station near the city between 1970-81; this 1,776 megawatt facility currently generates approximately 13,000 GW-h per year. More recent decades have seen factories constructed in the city by Sony and Michelin Corporations, together with the emergence of a local arts and music scene complete with an art museum, several theaters, symphony orchestra, dance troupe and other cultural amenities.
In 2008, Alabama developer Ronnie Gilley and his business partner Kix Brooks of Country superstar duo announced plans to construct a $300 million entertainment venue just south of Dothan. This development, to be named "Country Crossing", is ultimately intended to feature restaurants, a dinner theater, camping facilities, concert facilities, fairgrounds and a charity bingo hall. Several leading Country Music celebrities have signed onto the project, including George Jones, Tracy Lawrence, John Anderson, Lorrie Morgan and Darryl Worley. While approved by the County Commission and enthusiastically embraced by much of the community, Gilley's development has encountered stiff opposition from local religious and anti-gambling groups who are concerned that the planned bingo hall is illegal under state law, and would bring increased crime and gambling addiction to the area. Gilley had previously threatened to pull his project if bingo was ruled illegal, but ground-breaking began on March 2, 2009. Country Crossing is expected to generate over 1,200 jobs during its first year alone.
Ross Clark Circle on Dothan's east side
In addition to styling itself "The Peanut Capital of the World", Dothan is also the self-proclaimed "Hub of the Wiregrass". It is also commonly referred to as "The Circle City", due to being encircled by Alabama State Route 210, a four-lane highway also known as the Ross Clark Circle. Recent decades have seen the city expand in several directions beyond the confines of this highway.
Fort Rucker, the "Home of Army Aviation", is located about 20 miles (32 km) west of the city, just north of the town of Daleville.
The name "Dothan" is pronounced with the vowel "o" in its "long" form. The city's name is often mispronounced by those not familiar with the area.
The majority of K-12 students in Dothan and Houston County attend Dothan City Schools or Houston County Schools. Others attend local private schools such as Houston Academy, Providence Christian School, Northside Methodist Academy, Emmanuel Christian School, or Westgate Christian School. Institutes of higher education include Troy University, Dothan Campus, Wallace Community College and Bethany Divinity College & Seminary.
Dothan's airport, the Dothan Regional Airport, is currently (2009) served by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, with 3-5 daily flights to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This airport was established at the former Army airbase at Napier Field in 1965, after a push to move the airport was started in the early 1950's by then-Mayor Richmond C. McClintock. Jet services began in 1968 with Southern Airways' acquisition of DC-9 aircraft, and continue today using the CRJ-200 regional passenger jet.
Unlike many municipal airports in the U.S., the Dothan airport is entirely self-supporting, operating without any tax-generated funding. All airport revenue is generated through rental and other user fees charged to patrons and tennants of the facility.
National Peanut Festival - Occurs annually in November. The festival hosts competitions in different areas for all ages. A large midway, entertainment by nationally-known recording artists, and the largest parade in the area are featured attractions.
Museums and monuments
The US Army Aviation Museum, located on nearly Fort Rucker, houses one of the largest helicopter collections in the world. The museum focuses on the role of fixed and rotary-wing flight in the U.S. Army. The exhibits depict over 50 years of Army Aviation, and include a number of life size dioramas, films, and interpretive material. Several period aircraft are available for viewing.
Dr. George Washington Carver Monument , located at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds, pays tribute to one of the nation's greatest educators and agricultural researchers, whose work resulted in the creation of 325 products from peanuts, more than 100 products from sweet potatoes and hundreds more from a dozen other plants native to the South. These products contributed to rural economic improvement, by offering alternative crops to cotton that were beneficial for the farmers and for the land.
Wiregrass Museum of Art includes five galleries feature changing exhibitions of visual and decorative arts in the historic building. Also features ARTventures (a hands-on exhibit for children), and a gift gallery for shopping.
The George Washington Carver Museum relates the story of the African-American genius who invented over 500 different products from peanuts and other plants native to the South. Besides offering exhibits about Dr. Carver himself, this museum also offers information on African cultures and their influences on the world, prominent African-American scientists, explorers and inventors, and the positive contributions made by African-Americans in military affairs and the area of social development.
Peanut Monument at the Visitor Information Center proclaims Dothan as the "Peanut Capital of the World".
Dothan's art scene
Featured Players Theatre Founded in 2005, the Featured Players Theatre is Dothan's new home for live entertainment. Originally located at 158 S. Foster St. in downtown Dothan, Featured Players moved in 2009 to 137 N. Saint Andrews Street. This company offers live plays for adults five times a year; its Children's Theatre produces plays four times a year. When not presenting plays, Featured Players offers a "coffee-house" set-up with "open mic" nights and acoustic folk rock artists. Open Friday and Saturday nights.
Southeast Alabama Community Theater offers quality live entertainment and theatrical productions for the Dothan community.
"Joseph" Statue at Millennium Park is a ten-foot, cast bronze sculpture, located in the historic downtown area. It depicts the Bible verse, "For I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan" (Genesis 37:17), which inspired the city founders in 1885 to change the name of the town from Poplar Head to Dothan.
Peanuts Around Town is a public art project organized by The Downtown Group, consisting of five-foot tall peanut sculptures decorated in various fashions and displayed around Dothan.
Wiregrass Festival of Murals is an ongoing project offering historic murals painted by nationally and internationally-acclaimed muralists on walls of buildings in the downtown historic district. Guided tours are available upon request.
Dothan Opera House, built in 1915, represents the elegance of turn-of-the-century southern life. Theatre performances, spectacular concerts, symphonies, ballet performances, and many other cultural events are regularly held in this landmark. Tours are available upon request.
Music South, formerly the Southern Alabama Symphony Association, offers a wide variety of musical performances, from classical symphony performances to jazz, African and other musical styles. "Music by Moonlight" offers four free concerts per year at Dothan's Landmark Park, featuring classical, jazz, Celtic and Bluegrass musicians, among others.
Country Crossing is a multimillion-dollar country music venue being constructed south of Dothan along US Highway 231. When completed, this facility will offer restaurants, lodging, retail, camping and charity bingo venues, together with a large ampitheater featuring performances by top-name country and western stars.
Patti Rutland Jazz, is a professional contemporary jazz and hip-hop dance company located in Dothan. This company produces two full-length jazz and hip-hop theatrical dance productions yearly (one in late February and one in early June) at their home in the Cultural Arts Center, as well as at Dothan's historical landmark Opera House.
Patti Rutland Jazz operates as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose core mission is to offer its dancers to the Wiregrass Region to assist under-served youths with free dance classes. This mutually-beneficial program hopes to make Dothan a destination for, and a source of, future professional dance talent in the United States.
Westgate Park and Water World is a five-field complex hosting local, regional, state and national softball tournaments. It is adjacent to Water World, Westgate Recreational Complex and the BMX Track. The Water World includes ocean-sized waves in the giant wave pool and twisting 400-foot (120 m) water slides.
Dothan's Westgate Tennis Center offers the highest standards of play and the greatest comfort for spectators. Amenities include 16 lighted full-size clay tennis courts, a control center, observation deck, shade shelters and large courtyard.
Kiwanis Park, located on Westgate Park land fronting Whatley at the intersection with Deerpath, has playgrounds and a picnic pavilion with a water fountain and restrooms. There are also walking trails.
Solomon Park, located in the Garden District at the corner of Choctaw and Redwood streets, offers "the shadiest playground in Dothan" according to one local.
Eastgate Park is a 198-acre (0.8 km2) country estate, complete with lodge and meeting facilities. It includes fishing lakes, a two-mile (3 km) walking trail, sand volleyball, swimming pool (for private parties only), picnic area and lighted tennis courts. Additional amenities are under development.
Wiregrass BMX is a BMX racing track that is located near the Westgate Park. It hosts local, state and national races between February and November.
Adventureland Theme Park is a family-oriented mini-theme park. It includes two 18-hole miniature golf courses with waterfalls, lagoons and elaborate landscaping, a figure-eight go-cart track with a double-underpass bridge and Indy-style karts, bumper boats, batting cages, a Max Flight roller coaster simulator, a large arcade and snack bar.
Dothan Area Botanical Gardens offers a paved nature trail meandering through a beautiful rose garden, herbs, daylilies, camellias, azaleas, past a peaceful pond, Victorian gazebo and a demonstration garden.
Landmark Park Agricultural Museum and Starlab Planetarium is the official agriculture museum of the State of Alabama. Visit a 1900s farmstead, complete with farmhouse, outhouses and farm animals. Stroll the boardwalk and nature trail, see a planetarium show, have a picnic, tour Phase I of the Alabama Agricultural Museum, or catch one of the park's many special events. In the Planetarium, night skies are shown as they appear in season, while Constellations are displayed as they relate to mythology. The park also has a new playground. A pavilion near the playground is available for park visitors and children's parties. A recently-completed barn is available for rental for large events.
Maria's Vineyard - Nestled in a grove of oak and pecan trees, the Vineyard offers a casual place to host an event, either outside or inside in the Vineyard House.
Dothan Civic Center
The Dothan Civic Center was constructed in 1975, and features 10,800 square feet of exhibit space, seating for 3,100, basketball floor, concession stands, conference rooms and other amenities.
Porter Hardware is the oldest operating business in Dothan, and is billed as the oldest hardware store anywhere in Alabama. Opened in 1889 by E.R. Porter and J.D. Murphree and located at 136 East Main Street, Porter Hardware is still operated today by Mr. Porter's descendants. The interior and exterior of Porter Hardware remains virtually unaltered from its early days, and it maintains a large inventory of hardware and hard-to-find items.
The Lampman Antiques and Lighting is a lighting store offering a large variety of chandeliers, clocks, sconces, and many other antiques. It also offers lamp and clock repair.
Wiregrass Commons Mall Southeast Alabama's only mall. It has over 630,000 square feet (59,000 m2) of shopping with over fifty retail stores and a food court. Anchors for the mall include JC Penney, Parisian (now Belk's) and Dillards.
World's Smallest City Block is located at the intersection of North Appletree, Museum, and Troy streets in Dothan. This land triangle features a stop sign, a yield sign, a street sign, and a granite marker placed by the Camellia Garden Club on May 1, 1964 stating that it is the World's Smallest City Block.
Famous residents of Dothan
W. M. Cooper, a Dothan resident, released a revision of B. F. White's popular tune book, The Sacred Harp in 1902.
Former Alabama Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor Bill Baxley was born and raised in Dothan. Baxley was most famous for prosecuting Robert Chambliss for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in September of 1963. Baxley managed to convict Chambliss in 1977 with an all-white jury and minimal evidence, as J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI at the time, refused to release evidence relevant to the case. Baxley was also famous for telling the Ku Klux Klan to "kiss my ass" when they referred to him as an "honorary nigger" and threatened him with death.
Dothan was also the birthplace and childhood home of Johnny Mack Brown, a famous Hollywood actor during the 1920's and '30's who starred in movies with John Wayne, Wallace Beery and Joan Crawford, ultimately making 127 Western films. Brown served as an All-American college football player with the University of Alabama during his younger days, playing starting halfback on their 1926 national champion team and winning Most Valuable Player honors in the 1926 Rose Bowl.
William Gray Espy, (the original Snapper of the long-running CBS soap opera, The Young and the Restless), and Donna D'Errico were also born in Dothan.
Richmond Flowers, Sr., former Attorney General of Alabama and strident opponent of segregation, was born and raised in Dothan.
Singer Bobby Goldsboro, famous for his 1968 Top 40 #1 hit "Honey" as well as many other Top 40 releases of the 1960s and early 1970s, grew up in Dothan and graduated from Dothan High School, though he was born in Marianna, Florida.
Farley Taylor and his co-star Joe Dykes, heard nationwide on their radio show The Old Taylor-Made Opry, broadcast their popular radio show from WTVY-FM in Dothan. Taylor lived most of his life there until his death. Dykes is still a resident. Farley Taylor's grandson Jason continues to be heard on the air across the nation on Clear Channel radio stations.
Movie Gallery CEO Joe Malugen is a current resident of Dothan.
Former Miss America, Heather Whitestone, also was born and raised in Dothan.
Matt Cain, a starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, was born in Dothan.
Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville University center and later MVP of the ABA, attended junior high and high school in Dothan.
Former Playboy model Nicole Holland (List of Playboy NSS models G-R) was born and raised in Dothan.
Gardner Dickinson, a 7-time PGA Tour champion golfer, was born in Dothan.
Dothan is also home to Gabe Gross, who is an outfielder for Major League Baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dothan is also the hometown of professional skateboarder Jamie Thomas, creator of two skateboard companies and a shoe company. He was featured as a playable character in the first five Tony Hawk video games, though at least one instruction booklet erroneously lists his current residence as his hometown. He also won an "Entrepreneur of The Year" award in 2006.
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