Oct 29, 2012

Mobile - the Azalea City

 Recently John and I visited Mobile, a great city with a lot to see and experience. Located on the Mobile River it is one of the largest cities on the Gulf Coast plus the first capital of French Louisiana. Our hotel, The Battle House, was in an excellent location and very historic.  The current building, and second hotel on the site, was built in 1908 on the site where Andrew Jackson had his military headquarters during the War of 1812.  In the lobby, above a circular banquette, is a beautiful domed Tiffany skylight.  The corners of the ornate molding have portraits of the four leaders who ruled over Mobile: Louis XIV of France, George III of England, Ferdinand V of Spain, and George Washington. The hotel has had many noted personalities as guests including President Woodrow Wilson in 1913 who announced that the United States would never again wage a war of aggression! If only it were true.

We started our visit at the Museum of Mobile housed in Old City Hall, a National Historic Landmark. It was the perfect place to learn about Mobile’s 300-year history from the first inhabitants to the present. From “Old Days to New Ways” the museum makes history come alive with hands-on and interactive exhibits.  We learned what Mobile was like before Europeans arrived. Relive the journey of the African Americans and see how they influenced art, sports and leadership. Listened to stories of Civil War Soldiers. Their special exhibit dealt with comic books. Comic books may seem like an unusual subject for a history museum but it was enlightening how superheroes are a mirror of American society. It was fascinating how the superheroes changed to include current events and a changing society.

Most of the things to see and do were a short walk from the hotel on Dauphin Street and around Cathedral Square. I love parks like Cathedral Square because I can rest but also people watch.  Watching people while sitting in a park is a great way to get a feel for a city.  Everyone seemed so relaxed and enjoying one another’s company.  There are two small but interesting museums on the square.  The Portier House, a Greek Revival Creole dwelling, was home to the first Catholic bishop of Mobile and on the other side of the square is the Mobile Police Museum which has many interesting displays including one that deals with the city’s connection to Patricia Krenwinkel, a member of the Manson gang, who was arrested in Mobile.

I am not much of shopper but Dauphin Street with some of Mobile’s most unique specialty shops, boutiques, and galleries. There is everything from soup (at the Spot of Tea) to nuts (at the A&M Peanut Company).  Spot of Tea is a local favorite and there is a good reason for that.  The food was excellent.  I really liked the eclectic articles for sale in Artology, a co-op of eight local female artists.  At A&M Peanuts I knew the peanuts were fresh because they are roasted right in the store.

Many of the buildings along Dauphin Street have lacy wrought iron decorations.  I picked up a Dauphin Street Historic District Walking Tour but there just wasn’t time to do it all… could be just one more reason to return. And, they have free a minibus called The Wave that connects most of the downtown sites.