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March 30, 1999

Mobile: Then and Now

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

by Tom McGehee

The north side of Government Street’s block east of Common was once a pleasant residential vista. Here is a view taken in the early 1920’s showing two comfortable homes with manicured lawns and well-tended flowerbeds.

On the right is the residence of Dr. Marion Inge. His house dated to 1870 and had been greatly enlarged at the turn of the century by a lumber merchant named Ernest Wagar.

In 1927 another physician, Dr. George Oswalt moved into the house. The Oswalt family enjoyed more than thirty years here. A nationally published guidebook in 1957 described the house as worth a visit noting “it is famous, even in Mobile for its large collection of exceptionally interesting antiques.”

The house to the left had long belonged to the family of Charles Partridge. Mr. Partridge had prospered as the proprietor of C.S. Partridge and Co. offering “Hardware, Cutlery, and Galvonized Ironwork.”

By the 1940’s the Partridge descendants had opted for the suburb of Flo Claire. Their handsome home began a downward spiral as a rooming house under a succession of owners. The garden became overgrown.

The Oswalts moved to Monterey Place by 1960. The increasing traffic and commercial encroachment had been too much. Both houses were demolished amongst little notice.

A Burger King franchise was placed on the two lots after an asphalt crew obliterated whatever was left of the earlier gardens. Where tourists once admired antiques a new generation bought hamburgers from polyester-clad clerks.

The hamburger market declined on this corner so Burger King looked west and demolished one of the street’s finest homes for another location. The corner of Government and Common remains forlorn with their architectural litter.


Left photo courtesy of the USA Archives, Erik Overbey Collection. Right photo by L. D. Fletcher.


The Harbinger, P.O. Box U-980, Mobile, AL 36688-0001