Then and Now
April 25, 2000
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by Tom McGehee
In the mid-nineteenth century, Church Street held a series of townhouses for many of the city’s prosperous merchants and professionals. By the twentieth century change was on the horizon.
The Baptists arrived on the southwest corner of Church and South Claiborne with their Tabernacle Baptist Church by 1915. That name lasted barely a decade before it began a longer run as Central Baptist.
By the time of this photo in the late forties, the large neon sign at the curb indicates the name has remained. The once elegant double townhouses to the west are serving as an annex and nursery for the church. The peeling paint seems to indicate the area’s downward descent as the city’s elite move ever westward.
The early 1960’s saw the church renamed for a third time. The bulldozers arrived soon after to demolish the Downtown Baptist Church along with its annex to the west. Between urban renewal and the new Civic Center this area was devastated.
South Claiborne which had once led straight beyond Monroe now veers to the east and intersects with a renamed Civic Center Drive. The church complex has been replaced with a parking lot which serves for Malaga Inn to the west.
The east half of the Malaga, dating to 1862, is just visible in the shadows in the earlier view.
Courtesy of University of South Alabama Archives