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January 21, 1997

Mobile: Then and Now

Then Now

by Tom McGehee

A substantial brick residence with elaborate iron grill work once occupied the southwest corner of Government and Hamilton Streets. In this view early in the century, the house is shuttered and the 1893 Festorazzi home with which it shared the block, is just visible to the west.

Government Street is paved, its trolley tracks visible. A hitching post still stands curbside in front of number 401.

The house dated from the late 1850's when it had been home to Miles Treat, a Connecticut native who had moved to Mobile in 1827. In 1830 he helped to reorganize the Neptune Steam Fire Company No. 2, one of the city's earliest volunteer fire companies. Mr. Treat was involved in the furniture trade with the firm of B. Newhouse and Co. on South Water Street.

When Mobile fell to Union forces in 1865 the Treat family was reportedly in Europe, their home unoccupied. General Edward Canby at first decided to seize the elegant new Ketchum house across the street for his headquarters to oversee occupied Mobile. Mrs. Ketchum however, refused to move and suggested the Treat house instead.

The unique compromise provided that General Canby and his aide moved into the Ketchum house while the rest of his officers moved into the Treat home. Mrs. Ketchum proudly kept her place at the head of her table and the General eventually became a good friend of the family.

Miles Treat returned to Mobile at war's end and established the firm of Treat and Son Furniture Co. His death in 1891 came just three days after that of his wife Martha. He was 82 and had held the distinction of being the oldest member of Government Street Presbyterian Church.

The house came into the possession of James McDonnell by 1894. Mr. McDonnell had prospered in the wholesale grocery and liquor trade and later presided over the Bienville Brewery. The house remained in the McDonnell family for more than forty years.

The house was demolished in the mid thirties to provide a site for the gas and tire emporium of Edgar E. Delaney. The Festorazzi home next door would survive another thirty years until the entire block was seized for an urban renewal project. Spanish Plaza fills the space today.

Photo credit: University of South Alabama Archives, Erik Overbey Collection.


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