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April 10, 2001

Mobile: Then and Now

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

by Tom McGehee

In 1924 Miss Maria Minge moved her popular florist business from North Conception Street overlooking Bienville Square, to the south side of Government Street midway in the block between Hamilton and Lawrence streets. She said she was tired of customer complaints about the new parking meters which had arrived on the square.

She hired architect Platt Roberts to design a storefront infilling what had been a front garden to the one-time residence of James Henry Masson, President of Mobileís First National Bank since 1870. Mr. Masson had remodeled the raised cottage in the 1890ís adding an elaborate double stair up to the porch.

By the time Miss Minge had acquired the house its last use had been as a rooming house for the YWCA. She moved from her mid-town bungalow into Mr. Massonís former home, directly behind her busy shop.

The neighbors reportedly complained about this commercial intrusion into a residence neighborhood, but Mobilians had no zoning to protect them. The Pearson home to the east made way for a used car lot. The Russell house to the west was destroyed for doctorsí offices and a pharmacy.

In 1967 the building housing Minge Floral Company came crushing down for an urban renewal project. The entire block had been purchased by tax funds to allow a Birmingham developer to build a much-needed "motel-hotel" on the site. The project never materialized and after more than a decade the vacant land became home to Mobileís Chamber of Commerce.

Ironically in this mid-sixties photograph, the parking meters that Miss Minge had so disdained had followed the commercial traffic westward, and are quite visible in front of her shop.

Credit: Julius E. Marx Collection, University of South Alabama Archives


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