Known as "a Grand City on a Charming Scale" and "the River City," Decatur is located in the Tennessee River Valley of North Alabama, about an hour north of Birmingham. With a population of about 56,000, Decatur is the largest city in Morgan County.
Initially a river crossing for settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains, Decatur drew interest because of its fertile river valley soil and easy river access to other cities. The town became known as Decatur on June 16, 1820 before being incorporated as a city in 1826.
Decatur is renowned for its outdoor recreation. Residents take advantage of the city's Tennessee River location for boating, water skiing, and fishing from spring until fall. The city offers several city parks and recreational facilities.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Decatur comprises several distinct neighborhoods, including:
- Downtown Decatur: At the heart of the city, downtown Decatur is conveniently located near both Madison and Huntsville, Alabama, and Nashville, Tennessee. Although it is a fast-growing area for up-and-coming businesses, it manages to preserve its historical roots. The downtown area maintains two residential districts full of beautiful Victorian-era cottages and bungalows.
- Albany: Born from the 1927 merging of Old and New Decatur, Albany (New Decatur) received its name as a result of the Decaturites' love for Albany, New York. The neighborhood is now home to Alabama's largest concentration of Victorian homes, some of which date back to the 1880s.
- Austinville: The Austinville neighborhood is full of the region's higher-priced homes. This mostly urban neighborhood is populated by a mix of executives and professionals and is known for its artsy appeal.
- Cedar Lake/Flint City: This is a quiet, suburban area of Decatur that is home to a mix of young singles, college students and families with children. Several schools, including Chestnut Grove and Gordon-Bibb elementary schools, are located in this area.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Decatur's location has strongly impacted its economy since 1836, when it was chosen to become the eastern terminus of the first railroad line west of the Appalachian Mountains. This boosted the city's economy and caused rapid population growth. With two major avenues for industry, the Tennessee River and the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad, the city became an important industrial hub in Alabama.
Today, Decatur's geography is still critical to its economy. Living up to its nickname as "the River City," Decatur is the busiest port along the Tennessee River. Several Fortune 500 companies have established plants in the city, most notably including:
- Meow Mix
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- General Electric
Decatur is also home to offices of several industrial companies, including Boeing and Daikin America.
- The Alabama Jubilee: Following the Kentucky Derby's Great Balloon Race, the Alabama Jubilee is the second oldest hot air balloon race. As many as 75,000 people gather each year to kick off this celebration in "the Ballooning Capital of America." Featuring more than 60 hot air balloonists at Point Mallard Park, the event is held each Memorial Day weekend.
- Carnegie Visual Arts Center: Formerly the Carnegie Library, the Carnegie Visual Arts Center is one of Decatur's most prominent historical buildings. Tourists flock here to check out local, regional, national, and international art exhibits.
- Point Mallard Park: This venue tops Alabama tourist destinations due to the its many family-friendly activities, including a water theme park, an award-winning golf course, hiking and biking trails, a year-round ice complex, a Good Sam Campground and picnic areas.
- Rhodes Ferry Park: The Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen riverboats offer easy access to shopping on Bank Street and engaging tours of Historic Decatur.
- The Spirit of America Festival: This two-day celebration is one of the largest free Fourth of July events in northern Alabama. The festival features a number of summer activities, including fireworks and the Miss Point Mallard Pageant.
- Ingalls Harbor: Take in the breathtaking skyline when visiting this harbor, which has 10 ramps to get boats in and out of the water and a floating dock, perfect for sun bathing. Several outdoor events are also held in the warmer months of the year, including a fishing tournament and cook-off.
- Jack Allen Soccer Complex: Complete with 10 international-size soccer fields, this facility is ideal for the serious competitor. The complex has lighted, laser-graded turf fields, grandstand seating, a concessions building, and two championship fields with wireless scoreboards.
- Jimmy Johns Tennis Center: This facility is located in one of Decatur's favorite spots, Point Mallard Park. Newly remodeled, the tennis center has championship hard and clay courts and two indoor courts. A pro shop and tennis classes are also available.
- Wilson Morgan Softball Complex: The six-field facility comes complete with a concession stand, press boxes, electronic scoreboards, and seating for about 2,000 spectators.
- Aquadome Recreation Center: Fitness enthusiasts who enjoy swimming can take part in the group classes held at the facility, including water aerobics and water walking. Other activities include table tennis and volleyball.
The only college located within Decatur is Calhoun Community College, which also has an off-campus location in Huntsville, Alabama. Outside Decatur's city limits, nearby colleges and universities include Alabama A & M University, Athens State University and University of Alabama in Huntsville, and University of North Alabama.
About two-thirds of Decatur's population over the age of 25 has at least a high school diploma.
Decatur has one local newspaper, TheDecatur Daily. The Huntsville Times is also circulated in Decatur.
The city also broadcasts three local AM radio stations, two FM stations and three TV stations.