Through the years, the citizens of Mobile built many gracious homes and imposing buildings that reflect a variety of styles and taste, and “The Majesty of Mobile” features 66 historic structures.
The author, Jim Fraiser, a former resident of Tupelo, provides detailed information regarding the architecture of each structure, and Tupelo native Pat Caldwell provides the stunning, artistic photographs.
There are Greek Revival-style homes and buildings with the obligatory Tuscan, Doric or Corinthian columns, and there are Italianate townhouses and businesses with ornate cast-iron galleries, arched windows and courtyards. Raised Gulf Coast cottages with inviting verandas capture gulf breezes, and colorful Victorian mansions with ornate embellishments delight the eye.
Some of the most awe-inspiring buildings featured are churches – from the grand Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, with its magnificent vaulted ceiling and stained glass, to the small but exquisite St. Paul’s Episcopal Chapel built in the Carpenter Gothic style. Government Street Presbyterian Church is one of the least altered Greek Revival church buildings in America; Christ Episcopal Church has a treasure trove of stained glass windows; and the Romanesque Big Zion A.M.E. Church was founded by slaves in 1843.
Every home has a history and a story to tell. Mobile, not New Orleans, is where Mardi Gras began in 1831. During the Civil War, the festivities and parades ceased, but one unreconstructed reveler, Joe Cain, revived the tradition and established the venerable Order of Mystics. Joe Cain’s cottage, located at 906 Augusta St., is hallowed ground for Mardi Gras participants. On Government Street, there is the home of Mobile’s most famous Confederate, Admiral Raphael Semmes, and on Conception Street can be found the home of Gustavus Beal, a Napoleonic refugee. These homes were built by cotton brokers, immigrant merchants, riverboat captains, railway magnates, ministers and Confederates.
There are a few interior photographs of graceful spiraling staircases, marble mantles, gilt mirrors and antique furnishings, but after reading this book, there is a yearning to peek inside every home or take a pilgrimage tour.
Throughout this book, one cannot help but admire and appreciate the efforts of the many private citizens and organizations, especially the Mobile Preservation Society, to preserve and maintain these historic structures. Because of their tireless efforts and vision, the charm of old Mobile is still prevalent.
Jim Fraiser and Pat Caldwell have produced a beautiful book that will be of interest to all who have a passion for historic architecture, and for the citizens of Mobile, this is a book that reaffirms the charm and legacy and architectural heritage of their hometown. “The Majesty of Mobile” is a keepsake.
Margaret Gratz is the author of The Earth Lady which appears in the Daily Journal Home & Garden section once a month.