Then and Now
February 22, 2000
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by Tom McGehee
When the twentieth century was quite new, a photographer faced east on Government Street, just west of Claiborne to capture this spectacular vista.
The wide street is still tranquil. Within a decade Henry Ford’s tin lizzies will have arrived and eventually none of the grand homes in this scene will survive.
On the right is number 351. Dating from 1846, it has originally been occupied by Judge Edmund Spann Dargan who became chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 1849.
The house was purchased in the 1850’s by Moses Waring and would stay in that family until its tragic end. Waring had arrived in Mobile from his native Connecticut soon after the War of 1812 ended. He prospered as a commission merchant, cotton factor and steamboat agent. He served Mobile as both as alderman and councilman. He became a director of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and in 1868 presided over the recently formed First National Bank.
Just beyond Waring’s home is the Sherard house. Two generations of physicians occupied the corner, Dr. Christopher Sherard and then his son, Dr. Frank Sherard.
Across the street on the north east corner is a brick mansion behind a monumental cast iron fence. It had long been the residence of James Masson, vice president of First National Bank. By the time of this photo it is the home of Joseph McKeon, president of Bay City Lumber.
In the early 1920’s Adams Motor Company destroyed the McKeon’s old home with what was purported to be the “largest automobile company in the South.” It didn’t survive but their structure remains, occupied by the Mobile Register.
The Waring home disappeared for a parking lot. Miraculously its servant quarters and “Texas” guesthouse at the back of the lot have survived.
Dr. Sherard’s house was the last victim. In the early 1950’s the corner became home to the new Weatherby Furniture Company. An advertisement reveals a two-story structure faced with huge show windows and glass brick accents where Mobilians could find everything from “Crosley Radios” to “Kroehler Cushionized Furniture and Stratton Trutye Reproductions.” The store could be found on “Beautiful Government Street.”
Today another generation still parks on the grave of the Warings’ former home. Weatherby’s is just a memory. The block was long ago replaced by the Sheraton which now operates under the Holiday Inn chain.
Credit: Wilson Collection, Historic Mobile Preservation Society