Decatur, Alabama facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Decatur
City
City of Decatur
From the north side of the Tennessee River
From the north side of the Tennessee River
Nickname(s): The River City, Chicago of the South, The Heart of the Valley
Motto: "A Grand City on a Charming Scale"
Location in Morgan County and the state of Alabama
Location in Morgan County and the state of Alabama
Country  United States
State  Alabama
Counties Morgan, Limestone
Founded 1820
Incorporation December 8, 1827
Area
 • City 64.9 sq mi (155.1 km2)
 • Land 58.4 sq mi (143.3 km2)
 • Water 6.5 sq mi (16.8 km2)
Elevation 561 ft (171 m)
Population (2013)
 • City 55,816 (US: 653th)
 • Density 857.98/sq mi (388.58/km2)
 • Metro 153,374 (US: 263rd)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 35600-35699
Area code(s) 256
FIPS code 01-20104
GNIS feature ID 0117185

Decatur is a city in Morgan and Limestone counties in the 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, Alabama Metropolitan Area which had an estimated population of 153,374 in 2013. 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 and Mobile, as well as Chattanooga and New Orleans. Throughout the 20th century, the city experienced steady growth, but was eclipsed as the regional economic center by the fast-growing Huntsville during the space race. The city now finds its economy heavily based on manufacturing, cargo transit, and hi-tech industries such as General Electric, and the United Launch Alliance.

History

See also: Albany, Alabama

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 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.

In the early 1830s, Decatur was the eastern terminus of the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad, 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. However, residents of the older Decatur resented the new town, founded and occupied by people who moved down from 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, being 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

Extemporaneous remarks of the President in Decatur, Alabama - NARA - 197407
Remarks from 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 on October 26–29, 1864
  • Decatur's Victorian Era Home District built between 1870 and 1910
  • New Decatur founded in 1887, incorporated in 1889
  • The Morgan County seat moved from Somerville to Decatur
  • 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
  • Alabama Governor George Wallace and Senator Edward Kennedy-Massachusetts- two leading possibilities for the 1976 Democratic Presidential nomination, appear at a widely reported Independence Day Celebration, 1973

Geography

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 1.5 miles (2.4 km) 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°34′52″N 86°59′0″W / 34.58111°N 86.983333°W / 34.58111; -86.983333 (34.580992, −86.983392).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 59.9 square miles (155 km2), of which, 53.4 square miles (138 km2) of it is land and 6.5 square miles (17 km2) of it (10.83%) is water.

Climate

Decatur has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with four distinct seasons.

Winters are generally mild, with a January daily average temperature of 40.6 °F (4.8 °C). On average, the low temperature falls to the freezing mark or below on 59 days a year, and to or below 20 °F (−7 °C) on 9.2 days. 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 (20 cm) of snow in a single storm. It tied for the most since 1963.+ highs. Thunderstorms are common during the summer months. The latter part of summer tends to be drier. Autumn, which spans from mid-September to early-December, tends to be similar to spring in terms of temperature and precipitation, although it begins relatively dry.

Occasionally, severe thunderstorms occur. These storms can produce damaging winds and large hail in addition to the usual hazards of lightning and very heavy rain. There is also the risk of Tornadoes. Severe thunderstorms can occur at any time of the year but are most common during the spring months. There is a secondary severe weather season during the fall months. Tropical disturbances - some of which reach the Gulf Coast as Hurricanes but lose intensity as they move inland - can occasionally bring heavy rains.

The highest recorded temperature was 108 °F (42 °C) on July 28, 1952 and August 16, 1954, while the lowest recorded temperature was −19 °F (−28 °C) on January 30, 1966.

Climate data for Decatur, Alabama
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
(25.6)
82
(27.8)
87
(30.6)
94
(34.4)
99
(37.2)
105
(40.6)
108
(42.2)
108
(42.2)
105
(40.6)
97
(36.1)
86
(30)
80
(26.7)
108
(42.2)
Average high °F (°C) 50.1
(10.06)
54.6
(12.56)
63.9
(17.72)
72.7
(22.61)
80.4
(26.89)
87.5
(30.83)
90.3
(32.39)
90.3
(32.39)
84.4
(29.11)
73.8
(23.22)
62.9
(17.17)
52.7
(11.5)
72.1
(22.28)
Average low °F (°C) 31.0
(-0.56)
34.1
(1.17)
40.9
(4.94)
48.7
(9.28)
58.3
(14.61)
65.6
(18.67)
68.8
(20.44)
67.5
(19.72)
60.3
(15.72)
48.6
(9.22)
39.7
(4.28)
33.6
(0.89)
49.8
(9.89)
Record low °F (°C) −19
(-28.3)
−4
(-20)
7
(-13.9)
20
(-6.7)
35
(1.7)
42
(5.6)
51
(10.6)
50
(10)
36
(2.2)
24
(-4.4)
0
(-17.8)
−5
(-20.6)
−19
(-28.3)
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.63
(117.6)
4.77
(121.2)
4.89
(124.2)
4.53
(115.1)
4.44
(112.8)
4.50
(114.3)
4.58
(116.3)
3.55
(90.2)
3.58
(90.9)
3.45
(87.6)
4.79
(121.7)
5.67
(144)
53.38
(1,355.9)
Source: NOAA, The Weather Channel (extremes)

Bodies of water

  • Wheeler Lake
  • Tennessee River
  • Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
  • Flint Creek
  • Chula Vista Lake
  • Lake Morgan

Neighboring cities/towns

Neighborhoods

Decatur is divided into four different regions of town (Northeast, Southeast, Northwest, Southwest). Southeast and Northeast Decatur lie East of the CSX Railroad's mainline. North of Lee Street the dividing line is Bank Street which runs a block east of and parallel to the RR. Northeast & Southeast and are divided by Moulton Street. Southwest consists of the area west of the CSX Railroad and south of Moulton Street. Northwest is bordered by Moulton Street, the CSX Railroad from Moulton Street to Lee Street and then by Bank Street from Lee Street to the Tennessee River. 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.

Northeast

  • Albany (New Decatur)
  • Downtown Decatur
  • East Acres
  • Old Decatur
  • Bank Street & Second Avenue (Downtown Shopping District)
  • Harborview (Riverfront)

Limestone County

  • Whiteside
  • Irvington

Southeast

  • Bayside
  • Brookmeade
  • Burleson Mountain
  • Burningtree Mountain
  • Cedar Lake
  • Fairview
  • Flint
  • Hickory Hills
  • Indian Hills
  • Point Mallard Estates

Northwest

  • West Decatur (the portion north of Moulton Street)

Southwest

  • Autumn Ridge
  • Austinville
  • Basham
  • Braswell
  • Cedar Ridge
  • Chapel Hill
  • Chula Vista
  • Deerfoot Estates
  • Dogwood Estates
  • Dunbarton
  • Flint
  • Graystone
  • Griffin Addition
  • Longleaf Estates
  • Moulton Heights
  • Oak Lea
  • Oakworth
  • Timberlake
  • Russell Village
  • Vestavia
  • West Decatur (the portion south of Moulton Street)
  • Westmeade
  • Woodtrail

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 606
1870 671
1880 1,063 58.4%
1890 2,765 160.1%
1900 3,114 12.6%
1910 4,228 35.8%
1920 4,752 12.4%
1930 15,593 228.1%
1940 16,604 6.5%
1950 19,974 20.3%
1960 29,217 46.3%
1970 38,044 30.2%
1980 42,002 10.4%
1990 48,761 16.1%
2000 53,929 10.6%
2010 55,683 3.3%
Est. 2015 55,437 −0.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
2013 Estimate

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.

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 55,683 people, 22,576 households, and 14,918 families residing in the city. The population density was 953.5 people per square mile (388.6/km2). There were 24,538 housing units at an average density of 420.2 per square mile (171.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 66.5% White, 21.7% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 7.9% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. 12.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 22,576 households out of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.0% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 29.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the city, the population was spread out with 24.1% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.9 years. For every 100 females there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $43,090, and the median income for a family was $55,158. Males had a median income of $42,146 versus $27,477 for females. The per capita income for the city was $23,615. About 12.8% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.3% of those under age 18 and 11.1% of those age 65 or over.

Transportation

Air

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.

Roads

STMBTBLBridge
Captain William J. Hudson "Steamboat Bill" Memorial Bridges

Decatur, being only a mid-sized city, has not yet seen the damaging effects of a major controlled access highway passing through the city limits.

Decatur's main thoroughfares are 6th Avenue (US 31) and The Beltline (State Route 67). 6th Avenue begins as both SR 20, US 72 Alt., 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. SR 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.

Major highways

  • I-65.svg Interstate 65
  • I-565.svg Interstate 565
  • US 31.svg U.S. Highway 31
  • Alternate plate.svg
    US 72.svg U.S. Highway 72 Alternate
  • Alabama 20.svg SR 20
  • Alabama 24.svg SR 24
  • Alabama 67.svg SR 67

Changes

Plans are 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.

Water (River)

Large shipments can move from Decatur to the Atlantic Ocean via the Tennessee River to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The United States builds some of its space launch vehicles in Decatur (United Launch Alliance vehicles only), and ships them to both Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base via this water route.

Images for kids


Decatur, Alabama Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.