The city lies within Webb's Bend at the confluence of the Black Warrior andTombigbee rivers. It is situated atop a cliff composed of the Demopolis Chalk Formation, known locally as White Bluff, on the east bank of the Tombigbee River.It is at the center of Alabama's Canebrake region and is also within the Black Belt.
Demopolis was founded and named by a group of French expatriates, a mix of exiled former Bonapartists and other French migrants who had settled in the United States following the overthrow of the colonial government inSaint-Domingue. The name, meaning the People's City or City of the People, was chosen to honor the democratic ideals behind the endeavor. First settled in 1817, it is one of the oldest continuous settlements in Alabama. It was incorporated on December 11, 1821.
Major roads include two U.S. highways: U.S. Route 80 runs east–west through the city and 43 north–south. Alabama state highways include State Route 8, State Route 13, and the nearby State Route 69. A proposed Interstate 85 extension fromInterstate 59/20 near the Mississippi state line to Interstate 65 near Montgomery is planned to pass near the city. A bus system is operated by West Alabama Transportation.
The Alabama State Port Authority has inland docks at the Port of Demopolis with direct access to inland and intracoastal waterways serving the Great Lakes, the Ohio and Tennessee rivers and the Gulf of Mexico via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
The Demopolis Municipal Airport is located northwest of the city, adjacent to Airport Industrial Park and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. It has a 5,000-foot runway and a ten-unit hangar.
The city runs its own city-wide public school system, the Demopolis City School District. Private schools in the city include one integrated private school, West Alabama Preparatory School, and one religious school, West Alabama Christian School. The city is also home to the Demopolis Higher Education Center. The facility, which opened in 2004, is a 15,000 square feet structure, including a library and open area student atrium, a science lab, conference room, six multimedia classrooms, and two computer labs; Community Rooms provide one of the largest and most modern meeting spaces in Marengo County. The University of West Alabama is the managing partner of the center.
Gaineswood is an antebellum historic house museum on the National Register of Historic Places and is a listed National Historic Landmark. It was built between 1843–61 in an asymmetrical Greek Revival style. It features domed ceilings, ornate plasterwork, columned rooms, and most of its original furnishings. Gaineswood is owned and operated by the Alabama Historical Commission.
Bluff Hall is an antebellum historic house museum on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1832 in the Federal style and modified in the 1840s to reflect the Greek Revival style. It is owned and operated by the Marengo County Historical Society.
Laird Cottage is a restored 1870 residence with a mix of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles. It currently serves as the headquarters of the Marengo County Historical Society and also houses history exhibits and the works of Geneva Mercer, a Marengo County native who gained fame as an artist and sculptor. She served as an intern to Giuseppe Moretti, the sculptor who created Birmingham's monumental Vulcan. Following her internship, she lived and worked with Moretti and his wife until his death.
Other historic sites in Demopolis include White Bluff, the Demopolis Historic Business District, Demopolis Town Square, Lyon Hall, Ashe Cottage, the Curtis House, the Glover Mausoleum, and the Foscue-Whitfield House.