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December 9, 1997

Mobile: Then and Now

Then Now

by Tom McGehee

Government Street to the east of its Houston Street intersection held this view in the late twenties. Changes are already evident and the grand street's fate is summed up by the new billboard hawking tires on a former vacant corner.

The trio of homes beyond date from 1914 when the location was purely upscale residential in tone. The two stone mansions with their red tile roofs were obviously not placed with the intent to share their prestigious location with a tire sign.

Number 1757 with its second floor sleeping porch peering over the billboard, was built by a physician named Parker Glass. By the late 1930's a family named de Valenzuala had obtained it and converted it to a rooming house soon after.

Number 1755 with its matching portico would be home to a string of lumber executives, starting with Reuben Hass, vice president of the National Timber Company and ending with Hans Curjel, president of the Government Street Lumber Company.

When the Curjel family opted for the comparative quiet of DeMouy Place in the late 1930's a family named Sellers dubbed the mansion Seller's Guest Home for Tourists. Holiday Inn had yet to arrive.

The neighborhood never survived the designation of Highway 90 at its curb. An unimaginative duplex replaced the billboard and St. Paul's Lutheran Church was built on the vacant lot to the west. The trolleys were replaced with a bus system in 1939 and the tracks were devoured by scrap dealers. The grassy median which still survives on Spring Hill Avenue today could have met the fate of its counterpart on Government Street.

The William S. Kirland home whose porch was barely visible beyond the Hass residence was the first to be demolished in the early 1950's. It had remained in the same family since its construction.

The Sellers had vacated number 1755 by the early 1970's and its destruction soon followed. Later in that decade the Pillars Restaurant obtained the deValenzuala property and converted it to their use. The lots to its east remain vacant today and the restaurant continues to operate at number 1757.


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