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September 19, 2000

Then
Now
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Mobile: Then and Now

by Tom McGehee

During the 1930ís the Historic American Buildings Survey sought to record important architectural structures with photographs like this example. Here is a view of 750 and 752 Government Street with oaks and palmettos shielding the porches of both.

This is the north west corner of Scott Street. Number 750 is quite typical for Mobile houses of the 1870ís with a side-hall floor plan and floor length windows opening out onto a double gallery. It occupies a large corner lot and at the time is the residence of Joseph Murphee, a pipe fitter for Mobile Gas Service.

The house had formerly served as Higgins and Courtney, a funeral parlor, before Higgins moved to the recently vacated Fidelia clubhouse at number 658. In more prosperous times it had been the residence of Hans Hurjel, president of Government Street Lumber Company. Its original occupant was Captain Owen Finigan of the steamer Selma.

The lacy galleries on number 750 are a fine example of the ornamental ironwork brought to Mobile through the 1880ís. Sadly, by the 1930ís the only ones really admiring these galleries were scrap dealers eagerly melting them down for anxious buyers in Japan.

This photograph reveals a pleasing vista with the porch to the west. Number 752 had long been the Bloch family home. Adolph, Jacob and Samuel Bloch had operated Bloch Brothers in impressive quarters on Water Street. There they dealt in carriages, wagons and bicycles and manufactured saddles and harnesses. They even added the novelty of automobiles early in the century.

With the completion of the Causeway across Mobile Bay and the growing popularity of the automobile, Government Street got busier and noisier. At the end of the 1930ís, the Bloch found themselves wedged between two filling stations. First McCown Oil was operating at 756 and then 750 disappeared to provide Mobile with a Trackside Gasoline Station.

By 1942 the Bloch family had moved to 1512 Government, safely past Broad, to a temporarily quieter location. The Works Progress Administration moved its office into 754 but the house was replaced by a commercial structure for an insurance office at the warís end.

By the 1970ís both gasoline stations were long gone. Number 750 was occupied by Econo-Car of Mobile only to be replaced with the fried chicken franchise currently occupying the corner. A drive-up services the ever-present automobile traffic.

Just across Government Street a near mirror image of the former Murphee residence survives as the headquarters for Americaís Junior Miss program


Credit: University of South Alabama Archives, Habs Collection


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