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October 6, 1998

Mobile: Then and Now

Then Now

by Tom McGehee

Here is an 1890's view of the south west corner of North Franklin and St. Michael streets. The Franklin Street Methodist Church dominates the scene and dates from 1848. It replaced an earlier wooden building which dated back to a log structure of the 1820's.

This is the church which earned the nickname of "The Beehive" for its very active members who assisted in the establishment of several other Methodist churches in the city. It wasn't until 1878 that the building had an organ. Its installation caused an uproar from some members who termed it "an instrument of the devil."

Churchgoers in Mobile were a pedestrian lot until the arrival of the automobile. When Mobile's more prosperous citizens headed west, so did the church.

Members of the Franklin Street church were eventually merged into the Government Street Methodist Church which was growing rapidly. Architect George Rogers would be asked to enlarge that church as a result.

The proud birthplace of Methodism for Mobilians was sold to a Baptist congregation which maintained it until 1969. At that time the Franklin Street Baptist Church moved to St. Stephens Road but kept the name.

The church stood vacant for two years until a buyer named Badia purchased it and cannibalized what was left. The sweeping stairway went to Demopolis. The old pews were pulled apart and used for paneling in a new house built in Baldwin County.

When the last truckload of the remaining debris was hauled off the property was prepared for its present use: a parking lot.


Photo courtesy of Wilson Collection, Historic Mobile Preservation Society.


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