Dothan, Alabama

Nicknamed "The Peanut Capital of the World," Dothan is a large city located in the southeast corner of the US state of Alabama. Mainly known for its famous peanut crops, this city offers many other things. In Dothan, one can uncover a great deal of southern charm, stunning artwork, and the world's tiniest city block, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Although an entry in the Guinness book is impressive on its own, Dothan is one of those American cities that you fall in love with simply because of its southerly appeal and friendly manner.

Geography Of Dothan

Dothan is situated in the Houston County region of the US state of Alabama. It serves as the county seat of Houston County. Still, the city limits extend to Henry County and Dale County in its northern area. This modest metropolis is currently home to around 70,000 residents, although the area can hold about 100,000 inhabitants. The closest city that can support this same number of people is Montgomery, which is located about 100 miles away. Dothan covers a total area of about 232.4 sq. km. Approximately 231.5 sq. km are land, and only 0.8 sq. km are covered by water. The area is the second-largest city of the Wiregrass territory and claims to be the "Hub of the Wiregrass." The Wiregrass region of the United States is located in the south, where long-stemmed grass often grows. It encompasses parts of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. This homely city is also referred to as "The Circle City." Dothan is surrounded from all directions by the Alabama State Route 210, a four-lane highway that can send one to the majority of local regions in the area. The city is also located just 75 miles from the Florida Gulf Coast, making it convenient for those looking for a day in the sun.

History Of Dothan

Headland Presbyterian Church, Dothan, Alabama
Headland Presbyterian Church, Dothan, Alabama. Editorial credit: Malachi Jacobs /

The city of Dothan has an extensive history, despite its humble southern demeanor. The city's beginnings date back to thousands of years ago, when it was inhabited by the Alabama and Creek Native American tribes way before its eventual colonization. It was a popular site for the indigenous tribes because of its vast pine forests, where they would often go hunting and gather natural resources. European settlers discovered the area during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They named it Poplar Head, although they didn't inhabit the region at the time due to finding its sandy soil unfit for farming. The first colonization of the area was in the 1830s, when nine white families relocated to the empty land and tried to harvest the area. However, after failing, they eventually abandoned the ground altogether. The town began to liven up again after the Civil War when the Pony Express route was established during the Reconstruction Era. After settling in the region, the inhabitants officially named the city Dothan after discovering that Poplar Head was registered as a small town in the northern part of Alabama. The name was inspired by a Biblical verse in the book of Genesis, "For I heard them say, let us go to Dothan."

The Population And Economy Of Dothan

While the city of Dothan occupies a giant mass of land, it doesn't accommodate many locals. Boasting a population of 66,097 in 2010, Dothan has exhibited an annual population growth of 0.86%, recording 70,753 residents in 2020. But with a land area of 232.4 sq. km, it only encompasses a population of 305.45 inhabitants per sq. km. Because the town is family-oriented, it has a large population of children, with 22.8% of the children under 18 and 6.3% under 5. Around 18.1% of its inhabitants are senior citizens. Ethnically, 60.3% of residents are white, while the majority of the rest, about 34.7%, are African Americans. The rest of the population is considered minorities and is mainly divided between Asian and Hispanic cultures.

Historically, the city began its humble beginnings by harvesting the pine forests for turpentine and wood. These were used to build ship masts, lumber, and other wood products. Eventually, the pine trees were cut down to accommodate crucial city establishments. However, this did not last because the boll weevil infestation devastated crops in the 1900s. And so, the city had to find a new source of economy and ended up sustaining itself on cotton cultivation. With due time, the city decided to harvest peanuts, which was a successful endeavor. Dothan is now known to produce one-quarter of the US peanut consumption, supporting and bringing in a significant chunk of its financial resources. Due to this fact, the city hosts the National Peanut Festival each year, which is a 10-day fair that has a peanut theme. Initially, the festival continued for three days. Still, due to its popularity, it eventually grew to a celebration of a week and a half. This event brings in approximately 160,000 visitors each year, which in itself is a boost to the local economy.

Attractions In Dothan

Old houses in the historic landmark park near Dothan, Alabama
Old houses in the historic landmark park near Dothan, Alabama. 

While Dothan is not a big tourist destination, it still possesses many landmarks worth visiting. This city has a lot to offer, from prominent museums to plenty of art and culture if you are ever visiting the area. Some of the most well-known attractions in the city include:

US Army Aviation Museum

This historical museum carries some of the country's oldest and most priceless aviation pieces. It also holds the biggest collection of helicopters in the world! One can view several army aviation films and interpretive material during one's visit.

Southeast Alabama Community Theater

This destination is worth visiting if one is a fan of theater and drama. Here, the Dothan community showcases its theatrical talent in some dramatical pieces, which are often showcased to the public.

Peanuts Around Town

The Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority (DDRA) founded this innovative, ongoing art project that consisted of redecorating the city using giant peanuts! To be more specific, 5-foot-high, concrete-filled monumental peanut sculptures. Each peanut is decorated to represent the concept of a local business or a civic organization. There are currently about 40 peanuts around the city.

Dothan Area Botanical Gardens

A haven for nature lovers, this destination consists of a 50-acre botanical garden with a wide variety of breath-taking flowers and nature trails. This garden is more appealing because it is pet-friendly, with dogs often welcome into the garden.

Highland Oaks Golf Course

A destination for those who love golfing, Highland Oaks offers three nine-hole championship courses, each with unique features. It is also part of Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

Wiregrass Festival of Murals

This unique concept consists of a collection of stunning historical murals painted on prominent buildings in the historic downtown area. It is an ongoing project executed by several national and international artists.

Other significant landmarks worth visiting are the George Washington Carver Monument, the George Washington Carver Museum, the Wiregrass Museum of Art, Landmark Park, Spark Theater Company, The Dothan Opera House, and of course, the "World's Smallest City Block." While Dothan boasts all the commodities of a big city, it still manages to preserve its small-town southern charm and hospitality. While the city isn't very known for its tourism, it still attracts plenty of visitors to the area. Often considered one of the friendliest cities to visit in the US, it is hard to be there and stand-alone for five minutes without someone coming up to you and starting a conversation.