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History of Decatur, Alabama

Decatur, a city in Morgan County on the Tennessee River, is in the Huntsville metropolitan area. Sometimes known as "The River City," Decatur has a rich and colorful history. A ferry crossing over the Tennessee River was established by Dr. Henry Rhodes around 1818. The community that developed around the ferry was known as Rhodes Ferry until 1823, when it was renamed Decatur for the U.S. naval officer Stephen Decatur. The City of Decatur was incorporated a few years later in 1826, by the Alabama Legislature. Its fertile river valley soil and relatively easy river access to other cities drew many settlers to the community at that time. In 1833, the State Bank of Alabama opened in Decatur, its building being an impressive edifice in pre-Greek Revival style. Decatur was a much disputed objective during the Civil War, with the result that the Old State Bank was one of only three or four buildings still standing at its conclusion. The Decatur Land and Development Company promoted a new city called New Decatur to the southeast of Decatur around 1886. The new city, named "Albany" was incorporated in 1887. In 1927, Albany merged with Decatur to become a single city. During the early 1900s, many new homes were built and civic improvements were made as the city focused on providing a better quality of life for its citizens. A livery stable was renovated to become the Princess Theater in 1919. The city’s first traffic lights were installed in 1929. Decatur is located on the banks of Wheeler Lake, which was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority when the agency dammed the Tennessee River with the Guntersville Dam. Across the lake is the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.