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A Walking Tour of Mobile, Alabama

33 pages23 minutes


There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour is ready to explore when you are.

Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.

In 1699 Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, then only 19, was urged by his brother Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, 19 years his senior and the first great Canadian adventurer born in North America, to settle a defensive position on the eastern edge of the French holdings on the Gulf of Mexico. In 1702 Bienville selected a spot on a bluff of a river near where it was ending its 45-mile run to the sea and established the first capital of the French colony of Louisiana.

Whereas the colonization of America is rife with conflicts with the indigenous peoples Europeans were displacing, Bienville had the opposite problem - he was worried about his French soldiers fraternizing with the native women of the Mobilian tribe. In 1704 he imported 23 women from Cuba, known as "casquette girls" for the boxes they carried, to the colony. In addition to the girls the ship, the Pelican, also carried yellow fever. The disease would send the population of the colony from 279 to 178 and, with a series of floods, precipitate the relocation of the town downriver to its present location in 1711. In 1720 the capital of Louisiana was moved to Biloxi and Mobile settled into a role as a military and trading center.
In the next 100 years the French flag and the Spanish flag and the British flag would all fly over the town until 1813 when Mobile was included in the Mississippi Territory under American jurisdiction. At the time the sleepy frontier town barely numbered 300 people.

Mobile quickly bloomed in the American economy, becoming a leading player in the cotton trade. By the time of the Civil War Mobile was the fourth busiest port in the United States. In that conflict Union forces would eventually take control of Mobile Bay in August of 1864 and the city would surrender to avoid destruction. Ironically less than two months after the war ended an explosion at a federal ammunition depot shattered the city and claimed a reported 300 lives.

Federal grants of more than $3 million in the early 20th century to deepen the shipping channels in the harbor lay the groundwork for Mobile becoming a modern city. Shipbuilding and steel production made Mobile a vital piece of America's war efforts in World War I and World War II. In its rise as one of the Gulf Coast's main economic and cultural centers, Mobile was an enthusiastic participant in urban renewal. Yet many heritage structures still remain scattered around the city, including antebellum houses and surviving examples of Creole architecture. As a nod to baseball home run king and Mobile native son, Henry Aaron, we will seek out 44 heritage landmarks downtown in the Port City and our walking tour will begin in ground that the United States Congress decreed would be forever used as a city park back in 1824...

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