Then and Now
May 26, 1998
by Tom McGehee
South Water Street in Mobile was a commercial thoroughfare back at the turn of the last century. It separated the downtown business district from the warehouses business district along the busy riverfront lining Commerce Street.
This is a view of the west side of South Water Street just south of its intersection with Dauphin and dates to about 1900. The three-story commercial structure in the foreground dated to 1877 and is said to have been one of the later Italianate buildings in the city.
The rooftop sign notes the location of J. Pollock & Co. The firm's offerings are noted on the facade: "Wholesale Dry Goods, Notions and Fancy Goods."
The owner was Jacob Pollock, a Swiss native who had arrived in Mobile in 1866. A decade later he married Miss Julia Forcheimer whose father's very successful wholesale grocery business dated to 1850.
Mr. Pollock was known for his business success and generosity. When the Battle House Hotel burned to the ground in 1905 Mr. Pollock's name led the list of subscribers to rebuild. His 1914 obituary noted that "He took part in every public cause and often came forward voluntarily, setting the good example."
After Pollock's death the firm had as its president Emanuel Guggenheim for some two decades. The firm closed its doors in the late 1930's and until the 1960's housed Marine Specialty Company, which advertised itself as "Wholesale Distributors and Marine and Industrial Suppliers."
The Pollock structure vanished with the blocks to the east during the Urban Renewal campaign to create a new Water Street. That road winds considerably further to the east than it once did, creating a small greenspace.
The city's parking garage occupies a major portion of the Pollock site. The 1860 building beyond survives as upscale office space. It was originally home to Daniels, Elgin & Co., dealers in dry goods.
Editor's note: The Harbinger is re-running this column because of editing and photography errors. Our apologies to Tom McGehee
Photo credit: USA Archives