History Museum of Mobile
This historic Greek Revival building was once home to Mobile's City Hall and now serves as the History Museum of Mobile which includes artifacts and exhibits that share the early history of the city. The museum's collection has grown to over 90,000 artifacts that represent the long and diverse history of the city of Mobile. The building was constructed between 1855 and 1857 to serve as both an indoor marketplace for Mobile and to hold offices for the city government. The building replaced an open-air market on the site after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling restricted open-air markets. The building also served the headquarters for local militia units, a role that became increasingly prominent during the Civil War. On December 13th, 1969, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Backstory and Context
Before Old City Hall was constructed on the site, Mobile already had an open-air municipal market present. It existed from 1823 to 1842, serving the community with farmers and game sellers displaying their wares. The market’s legal existence ended in 1842 when an order from the Supreme Court ruled that all open-air markets removed. It wasn’t until ten years later in 1852 that the market was shut down after the order was filed in chancery court. Shortly after, $44,000 worth of bonds were issued to finance the construction of a new building.
Completed under the term of Mayor Jones M. Withers in 1858, the building from its inception was designed to be a combination city hall and marketplace. Before its construction, a resolution was passed by the city in 1855 to erect a building for the city market and various departments of the city government. Construction began and occurred between 1855 and 1857 and served its purpose as a mayor’s office early during its construction due to a fire destroying the previous offices.
The building had many purposes over the course of its lifetime. Beyond being an indoor market, the building was utilized as headquarters for local militia units, most notably the Mobile Cadets. Founded during the Mexican War in 1848, the Mobile Cadets served during the Civil War and used the City Hall as their headquarters. The militia held training and marching practices here as well as formal dances well into the late 1800s.
Over time the building would see less and less use. The market eventually would atrophy towards inactivity until shutting its doors in 1942. The municipal government would also eventually move into other buildings in Mobile, converting the building into standard offices for government officials. After a point, the building was converted into the History Museum of Mobile. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 3rd, 1969.
Floyd, Katherine. City Hall (Old Southern Market), Library of Congress. July 21st 1936. Accessed November 16th 2020. https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/master/pnp/habshaer/al/al0400/al0426/data/al0426data.pdf.
Floyd, W. Warner. Mobile City Hall, National Register of Historic Places. December 3rd 1969. Accessed November 16th 2020. https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/632bd194-d7c2-4966-9ded-fa99830da28d/.
Museum History, History Museum of Mobile. Accessed November 16th 2020. http://www.historymuseumofmobile.com/museum-history/.
National Historic Landmarks. National Historic Landmarks Program City Hall (Mobile), National Park Service. March 1st 2009. Accessed November 16th 2020. https://web.archive.org/web/20090301041417/http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=814&ResourceType=Building.
Image gathered from: https://loc.gov/pictures/item/al0426/