Then and Now
February 8, 2000
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by Tom McGehee
In 1837 the Gulf City Hotel opened its doors at the south east corner of Conti and Water streets. The venture was initially a successful one, requiring the structure to be enlarged as well as the addition of ornate galleries in the late 1860’s.
In the 1890’s the hotel was renamed as the Southern Hotel under which name it operated until the early 1920’s.
This photograph shows the building at that time. It has been renamed once again as the Savoy Hotel. Its manager was Mrs. Deborah Swarthout whose electric sign proclaims “Rooms 50¢ and Up.”
By the end of that roaring decade it was once again “The Southern” and offered “furnished rooms.” Its days were numbered.
By the time of the American Buildings Survey of 1934 the structure was documented for its architecture through a series of photographs. The interior was abandoned, but the building appeared relatively sound.
Within months the corner was a barren lot. The old hotel had been razed and the Walter Bellingraths had outbid the scrap iron dealers to obtain the handsome galleries. Those galleries were utilized in 1935 when they were incorporated into the couple’s new home on Fowl River at the center of their famed gardens.
Conti Street no longer intersects Water Street. The space has been infilled with the city’s parking garage which ironically adjoins a hotel.
Photo: Courtesy Historic Mobile Preservation Society Wilson Collection