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January 19, 1999

Mobile: Then and Now

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

by Tom McGehee

In 1909 Louis Metzger moved into this new house on the south east corner of Government and Michigan Avenue. Architect C.L. Hutchisson had combined stucco with a tile roof, fluted columns and two dormer windows sporting Oriental arches to create a Government Street land mark. A large carriage house with cupola stood at the back of the property.

Metzger was a partner in the firm of Metzger Brothers, dealers in "Cotton and Wool, Beeswax, Hides, Etc," and had apparently prospered. This firm was no relation to a latter one which would sell men's furnishings.

After Mr. Metzger's death, his widow maintained the house as Jeanette's Tea Room. Throughout the 1930's countless debutantes and Murphy seniors were honored with teas here. The garden in back was always a popular location with its lattice fence draped in fragrant jasmine vines.

Dr. Joseph Rowe purchased the house in 1940. A pediatrician, the doctor was affectionately known as "Baby Rowe."

Here the Rowes lived while Government Street changed. The damning designation of Highway 90 meant that commercialization which once ended around Broad Street spread like wildfire to the west. A once unpaved Government Street was now a major highway.

By 1956 Dr. Rowe had had enough. However, rather than move his family elsewhere he did something different. Rowe sold the front of his lot to Continental Oil and moved his house south to face Michigan Avenue. The old carriage house along with Jeanette’s jasmine covered fences was lost in the transaction. A gasoline station and later a convenience store filled the location vacated by the house.

The Rowe home survives. Its front porch has been reduced by two-thirds its length and its side porch has been lost completely, but it is still quite recognizable over on Michigan Avenue.

The jumbled assortment of abandoned commercial structures lining the block between Ann Street and Michigan Avenue are now meeting their fate. The space is scheduled to be filled with an enormous chain drug store location shortly.


Photo courtesy Wilson Collection, Historic Mobile Preservation Society


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