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December 1, 1999

Mobile: Then and Now

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

by Tom McGehee

In 1937 attorney Leo Brown hired George B. Rogers to design his new home at 1668 Government Street, in the long block east of Houston Street. Rogers had just completed a house for the Bellingraths and would return to them to build a guesthouse when he finished with the Browns.

Rogers chose an English design. Twenty-five years earlier he had enlarged the McCown home at 1204 Government Street in the same style, but that had just been a facade. Here was a whole house.

While it would appear to be a large house it only contained two bedrooms. The Browns were childless and provided the second bedroom for mother-in-law, Mrs. Leopold Eichold.

The most unusual feature of this home for 1937 was air-conditioning. A water-cooled unit was built into the house with a special well underneath the house for a steady supply of water. Unfortunately problems developed with the well and the ten-foot sections of pipe could not be removed due to the height of the basement ceiling. City water had to provide an expensive substitute.

The Browns allowed Rogers free reign and he chose everything from paint colors to fabrics. The air cooling allowed a wine cellar and a specially chilled room for Mr. Brown’s cigars.

After Mrs. Brown’s death, Leo moved into the Battle House and put the house on the market. Sadly, the house went commercial and housed a cafeteria in very elegant surroundings.

In more recent years it has received a more compatible occupant and redecorating as the offices of Lewis Communications, Inc., a leading advertising firm.

And Rogers’ other English creation at 1204 Government Street happily survives as a private residence.


Credit: J.T. Marx Collection, USA Archives


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