Submitted by Tommy Fulton, Contributing Editor
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order by Claire McCarron, Vice-President.
Stephen McNair gave the invocation, followed by Larry Sindel and Bill Oppenheimer on the piano with a song and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Introduction of Guests & Visitors: Tommy Blankenship introduced our guests along with visiting Rotarians.
Student Guest: N/A
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Program: Claire McCarron introduced Tom McGehee, Museum Director – Bellingrath Gardens and Home. His topic was “From Boom to Bust: A Sampling of Antebellum Architecture in Mobile from 1833-1862.”
Tom opened his remarks by saying that the 1820’s through the 1860’s was a time for growth and identity in Mobile’s architecture. The Mobile community had no love for the British, so builders and architects leaned heavily on Greek influence in its designs. This was indicative of a great period of optimism in our area.
Tom described the home previously located on the property, now inhabited by the Admiral Semmes Hotel, as the nicest in the state of Alabama. Despite the wishes of the owner, and the language in her will, the home was torn down.
In another different twist, he described the customary design for Episcopal Churches as gothic in nature. Not so here in the Mobile community. Again, it was built more along the Greek influence. Also, Barton Academy was originally built in 1839. It reopened as a “girls-only” school in 1879. Later, it became the office complex for the Mobile Public School System, and is now being prepared to host a new school for International Studies.
Our speaker regaled us with stories of personalities, including the connection to controversies such as “The Mysterious Poisoning Case at Liverpool.” The story involved Mobile native, Florence Elizabeth Chandler who married James Maybrick. Maybrick was known to be a regular user of arsenic and other somewhat poisonous medicines. He was also infamous for his many mistresses. Florence responded with some dalliances of her own.
Ultimately, she was convicted in a Liverpool courtroom of murder and sentenced to prison. After 14 years, she was released and returned to the United States.
Tom went on to describe several other interesting personalities connected to the Mobile community.
His talk included discussions of the developments along Church Street in the 1890’s, Bragg Mitchell Home in 1855, and the Greek/Italian transition involved in the current MOT Mardi Gras organization’s refurbishing on Government Street.
Ultimately, the architecture in Mobile shows a transition from Greek to Gothic to Italian influence. According to our speaker, America is still looking for its own unique theme.
After a question and answer session, Claire McCarron thanked Mr. McGehee for his presentation and presented a certificate to him, noting that a donation in his honor had been made to the Rotary International Foundation.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 pm.