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January 11, 2000

Mobile: Then and Now

Then Now
(Click on a photo to see a larger version)

by Tom McGehee

In 1926 Miss Ethel Berrey purchased this elegant old home at 1113 Church Street, in the block west of George. It dated to the 1850’s and Miss Berrey took great pleasure in filling it with her collection of antique furnishings.

By 1930 she had begun to invite what she would term “a select crowd” to tour her home and her “old formal type garden.” This photograph shows that beautiful garden with its profusion of hydrangeas beneath an ancient oak tree.

During the next decade Miss Berrey operated an antiques shop out of her home, slowly selling off many of her treasures to make ends meet. One of her best customers was Mrs. Walter Bellingrath, whom she would later recall as paying the highest prices imaginable.

In 1941 Miss Berrey moved to New Orleans to care for her ailing sister. Having limited means she ended up living with her nephew’s family in Ohio where she pined for the South.

One fall day in the late fifties a crate containing two cast iron rabbits arrived from Miss Berrey to Bellingrath Gardens with a note. She explained that she could not bear to see the two in the snow and asked that they have a home in a sunny southern garden instead. The two were graciously welcomed.

Miss Berrey was spared the sight of her fine old home as it declined into rental property. Next came four very unimaginative brick boxes to the immediate east called the Town Court Apartments.

Those apartments survived. The former Berrey home vanished in the early 1970’s and the lot remains vacant.


Credit: Erik Overbey Collection, USA Archives


The Harbinger, P.O. Box U-980, Mobile, AL 36688-0001