Opelika has always been rich with history and culture. 

The Opelika area was first settled as a community called Lebenon in 1832 after the Treaty of Cusseta was signed by the U.S. government and the Mukogee (Creek) Nation. Before the treaty, the area was called Opelika which in the Mukogee language means “large swamp”. The name Lebenon, did not stick and the area continued to be called “Opelika”.

Settlement was sporadic until two decades after when Opelika was chartered as a town on February 9, 1854, thanks to its rapid growth and the coming of the railroad, Opelika quickly became a commercial center.

Opelika is known for its rich railroad history, hence the slogan “Opelika, an old railroad town.” In 1848, the West Point and Montgomery Railroad Company completed a rail line from Montgomery to Opelika. What truly put Opelika on the map, was the construction of a second line that led all the way to West Point, Georgia three years later. This second line connected Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia, and was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard at the time, becoming one of the main trade lines for shipping unprocessed cotton between southern and northern territories.

Downtown Opelika’s Promenade and the Lee County Courthouse, a stunning neoclassical revival-style structure, was built in 1896, and is still the county’s working courthouse today. Opelika is unique with its collection of late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century architecture, including two residential districts and the downtown business district. The Opelika Historic Preservation Commission demonstrates economic, cultural, and social benefits of preservation as good public policy by providing that preservation and progress go hand in hand. Opelika currently has over 756 properties on the National Register and 35 under Design Guidelines. The backbone of the community is historic downtown, and anyone who visits Opelika will agree. 

The mission of the Historic Preservation Commission and the City of Opelika is to save its most valuable historic resources such as the buildings, places, and stories that define Opelika’s past, present, and future for generations to come.