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November 2, 1999

(Click on a photo to see a larger version)

Mobile: Then and Now

by Tom McGehee

Number 452 Government Street was once the address of this unusual Gothic Revival mansion dating back to 1855. It occupied a good-sized lot in the center of the block between South Hamilton and South Lawrence streets and was notable for its ornate ironwork.

The entrance hall opened off the west porch. A graceful curved stairway led upstairs while the first floor held large double drawing rooms, a library, and a grand dining room with an adjoining breakfast room.

The builder of this house was no less notable an Alabamian than its two term governor, John Anthony Winston. Ironically his second election was won through little help from his hometown. His vetoes of assistance to private railroad ventures made few friends among trade- minded Mobilians.

At the fall of Mobile in 1865 the invaders took quick notice of the grandest mansions in town and number 452 was occupied by Federal naval officers. One of their most memorable feats was to hang the largest union flag in Mobile out over the sidewalk to irritate the locals. Ladies would step down into a muddy unpaved Government Street rather than walk under the banner and this was often done at the jeers of the home’s new occupants.

Eventually the Winstons heirs were able to return and would occupy the house until the late 1930’s. Judge Joel Goldsby died in 1937 and his descendants opted for the family home over the bay rather than content with the booming commercialism which was devouring their once tranquil neighborhood.

The Goldsby house became office space, joining the ranks of the two houses to the west. By the fifties the home of Mobile’s 1895 Mardi Gras Queen to the east had vanished for new commercial construction which spread a low strip of storefronts to the west which remain. The old Goldsby house survived until 1982. It had gone almost unnoticed for decades as it peered over the flat roof of the stores which had infilled its once lush lawn. It had been largely stripped of its interior details and damage from the 1979 hurricane reportedly was blamed for its demolition.


Photo Credit: Top - USA Archives, S. Blake McNeely Collection; Bottom - by Kevin Marston.


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