Architecture Carnivals Fire Houses Ships Shipbuilding and Southern Hospitality
Mobile Alabama is located at the head of Mobile Bay and the Central Gulf Coast. Mobile was founded by the French in 1702. During its first 100 years, Mobile was a colony of France, Britain and Spain; it became a part of the United States of America in 1813.
Mobile Bay is the fourth largest estuary in the US. The Mobile, Tensaw and several smaller rivers empty into the northern end of the bay. Fish and crustaceans swarm the shallow coastline and shore of the bay. Mobile Bay is the only place on earth where the so-called jubilees are a common occurrence.
The Port of Mobile’s deep-water terminals have direct access to 1500 miles of inland and intra-coastal waterways and access to the Great Lakes, the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. During WWII, the defense buildup resulted in a considerable increase in the city’s white middle-class and working-class population, largely due to the massive influx of workers coming to work in the shipyards were Liberty ships and tankers were built, along with destroyers and minesweepers.
Culture Mobile is home to an array of cultural influences with its mixed French, Spanish, Creole and Catholic heritage, in addition to British and African. The city is home to several art museums, a symphony orchestra, a professional opera, a professional ballet company and the oldest organized carnival.
Carnival celebrations in the country, originating with the French Catholic colonial settlers. Carnival in Mobile evolved over the course of 300 years from a beginning as a sedate French Catholic tradition into the mainstream multi-week celebration that today bridges a spectrum of cultures. Mobile’s official cultural ambassadors are the Azalea Trail Maids who embody the ideals of Southern Hospitality.
The Mobile Museum of Art features permanent exhibits that span several centuries of art and culture. The permanent exhibits include the African and Asian Collection Gallery, Altmayer Gallery of American art, Katharine C. Cochrane Gallery of American Fine Art, Maisel European Gallery, Riddick Glass Gallery, Smith Crafts Gallery, and the Ann B. Hearin Contemporary Art Gallery.
Battleship Memorial Park is a military park on the shore of Mobile Bay and features the World War II era USS Alabama and the submarine USS Drum as well as Korean and Vietnam War memorials.
Architecture as the city’s principal commercial corridor, Dauphin Street acquired such a reputation for quality. A fire in 1839 destroyed the older wooden buildings on the street and the two- and three-story brick commercial buildings that we see today began to be built. Many of the early structures had the straight lintels and dentil moldings of the Federal style. Reconstruction brought new building trends such as the Italianate style and cast-iron facades. The end of the 19th Century brought the Victorian era and Revivalism which continued into the 20th Century. Dauphin Street area has experienced a recent revival because of the historic preservation movement.
Fire Houses in the nineteenth century the fire alarm was sounded by beating on a metal wagon wheel ring with a hammer. Volunteers were always in a hurry to get to the fire because the company that responded first got paid. By law, every citizen was required to have a fire bucket, and three were required in cotton warehouses, taverns and hotels.
Creole Fire House #1, 1872 designed by James H. Hutchisson, this two-story brick structure with arched central bay and full height second floor windows. It was the first volunteer fire company in Mobile, founded in 1819 by members of Mobile’s Creole community. The fire company was absorbed into the city department in 1888 and finally disbanded in 1970. The Creoles were people of mixed heritage who formed their own schools, churches and social organizations. It is said that the Creole #1 was usually the first to get to the fire because they bought rejected race horses, including Jack, the horse who could follow his nose straight to the fire. Horse drawn equipment was used until 1924. The company remained in the Dearborn Street house until the Central Fire Station was built in 1926.
South Water Street circa 1860 the front of the Elgin Building is one-of-a-kind in Mobile. It is a cast iron facade ordered from the catalogue of the Badger Iron Works Co. in New York and installed on a brick building. The façade is based on the waterfront palazzos of 15th and 16th century Venice. The façade was designed by T.H. Giles.
South Royal Street 1891 designed in 1891 by Rudolph Benz, this commercial brick building is in the Queen Ann Style. The east and south corners have turrets with pyramidal roofs. The building also has a variety of decorative motifs and cast-iron balconies.
102 Dauphin Street circa 1875 currently a two-story building with rounded windows with cast iron hoods on the second floor; this building was originally three stories. The decorative sills for the third-floor windows are still visible at the cornice line.
Bienville Square circa 1850 was named for Mobile’s founder, Jean Baptist le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, a French naval officer who became the governor of French Louisiana. Bienville Square began its transition into a public Square in 1824 when the U.S. Congress passed an act transferring a large plot of land to the City of Mobile. This plot was the site of the Old Spanish Hospital on the southwest corner of the block. The Act specifically specified that the property be forever used as a city park. The Square became a popular place to promenade, and by the spring of 1890 installation of an Acanthus Fountain in the center was underway. The fountain was placed in honor of Dr. George A. Ketchum, a prominent physician, civic leader and president of the Bienville Water Works. In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt spoke in the Square about the importance of the Panama Canal to the port of Mobile.