Every year, the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation come out with their list of ‘places in peril’. This year, the town of Hobson City is on the list (the whole PDF press release is here).
Hobson City is knon as ‘Alabama’s First Black City’, established in August of 1899. When we drove into town, they had this banner up:
I looked up the census data on Hobson City. In the 2000 Census, the Black residents made up 92.9% of the population and Whites were 6.8%. I grew up in Cullman, where the census bureau has the 2007 proportions as 96.8% White and 1% Black. For the whole county! So Cullman is “Whiter” than Alabama’s Oldest Black City is “Black”. Doesn’t that seem strange!?
Oh, and I looked up Mound Bayou, Mississippi since I remembered that it was founded by former slaves, and it was their dream to make it the “largest U.S. Negro town” – that town is 98.4% Black according to the census, so it’s more homogenous than either of the two places in Alabama. That’s the highest percentage in the nation, unless (I went to Wikipedia and someone has even entered a list of cities with a majority Black population) you count McMullen, Alabama and Birdsong, Arkansas, both of which have less than 100 population but are 100% Black.
And there’s a really nice article from Time Magazine in 1937 about Mound Bayou.
Anyway, back to Hobson City! While we were there, at the school they were having a conference on “Celebrating and Preserving the Legacy of Historic Hobson City through Tourism and Economic Development”.
With nearly one-third of its residents living below the poverty level, the town has only three businesses other than in-home operations: A small print shop, a barber shop and a convenience store.
Industries in nearby towns shut down in the 1980s, costing more jobs. The elementary school was moved from the center of town to the outskirts a few years ago, leaving a shell of a building where kids used to run and play.
City offices are now housed in the old school. The 1970s-era municipal complex stands abandoned. Unable to pay for maintenance, the city left it to the weeds and weather in 2006.
The city still has a police car and a fire truck, but it can’t afford officers or firefighters. County deputies handle police calls, and neighboring cities help with fires.
Being tabbed a “Place in Peril” doesn’t include any special funding, but McCrory hopes it will increase public awareness of the town’s plight.
She dreams of a campaign to raise $1 million in donations, which could lead to federal and state matching grants.
I’m pretty sure the municipal complex they mention is the building in the pic above. Really, the town looks nice – the main street through town, MLK, was lined with American flags. And while some of the commercial buildings and houses were in poor condition, there were also plenty of them that were well-kept and well-maintained:
Just like almost any other town.
This house had bunches of daylillies blooming and a little courtyard to the side with a gazebo and some palm trees:
Hopefully being listed on the ‘places in peril’ list will get more people interested in investing in bringing the town back.
There’s another nice article about it here.