While staying in Gulf Shores, AL, we decided to take a day trip to Mobile. The above photo is a panoramic taken from the USS Alabama in Mobile Bay. Foremost in our minds for our visit (well, in my mind anyway – Chris was looking forward to exploring the USS Alabama) was exploring the historic district and touring some of the antebellum homes. Let’s take a look at our day in Mobile, and then I will lay out some tips for adding even more fun when planning your trip.
Oakleigh Mansion: This was our first stop, and our favorite of the two mansions we visited. Oakleigh is a Louisiana plantation style home built in 1833. The lot was chosen due to the clay on the property, which Mr. Roper mined to sell and to build the home. His main efforts were in the cotton trade, but when cotton took a downturn causing the Panic of 1837, he was forced to sell the home to his brother-in-law and stay on as a renter. The Ropers finally turned the house over to the bank in 1850 and moved to New Orleans.
In 1852, the Irwins (a prominent railroad family) purchased the home. Mrs. Irwin was a British citizen and was able to save the home during the Civil War by placing the British Union Jack outside showing the Union troops that this house was British property and neutral territory.
In 1961, after several other owners, the house became a museum. Today, you can explore each room of the house on a guided tour. The Ropers did have 18 slaves, but the slaves’ quarters have not survived through the years. During our visit, there was also an exhibit about Africa Town, an area in Alabama where many freed slaves settled after the Civil War. While you peruse the photos below keep in mind that the ground floor was not closed in until probably the 1900s. The mansion was originally built as a raised building with nothing to close in the ground level. While I first thought that the style must be to prevent flooding, I later found out that it was actually for two main reasons: 1) a form of air conditioning and 2) to prevent termites. This house was not built from wood, but many other homes of the same style were; so termite prevention was a key component in establishing the raised homes. The kitchen was in a separate building to keep the heat from the home, as well as prevent a kitchen fire from burning the home.
Bragg-Mitchell Mansion: The exterior of this mansion is what draws all the attention. It is just stunning, as you will see below. Photos are not allowed in the interior, so I apologize for not being able to share more images. The tour itself is based more on the antiques found within, rather than stories of its owners. We preferred the Oakleigh tour for that reason.
Lunch: I do not usually include dining options in our posts, because we usually pack our meals to go while visiting places. Also, due to our strict eating habits, we cannot say that what we look for would be the same as the average American. However, we had oysters for the first time in Alabama, and we liked them so much that we decided to take the opportunity to eat fresh, raw oysters again in Mobile. Since we were spending most of our day in the city, we wanted to eat lunch on the causeway surrounded by water. We chose Felix’s Fish Camp Grill, and we of course ordered raw oysters. They were excellent. The service is fantastic as well. The people of Alabama are so friendly and welcoming wherever you go. If you are looking for Southern hospitality and manners, Alabama will not disappoint.
USS Alabama: After lunch, we spent the afternoon exploring the USS Alabama Warship and USS Drum Submarine. If you are really interested in this type of attraction, you could easily spend an entire day going through all that they offer. We were there for 2.5 hours, and we skipped a lot of the exhibits and rushed through the warship and sub. Chris will be doing a much more involved post soon, including a video tour of the warship and the submarine. In the meantime, allow me to peak your interest with a few photos on a beautiful, blue sky day…
On the way home, we took a more scenic route instead of the main highway. The country here is full of beautiful horse farms. Mile after mile of white fences with sprawling thinly spread trees and horses grazing lazily made for a scenic return trip.
Hope you enjoyed a glimpse of what Mobile has to offer!
Fun Facts & Tips:
- There are multiple other historic homes to visit in the city, such as the Bellingrath Home built in 1935 boasting beautiful gardens, and the Conde-Charlotte House, which focuses more on the history of Mobile with distinct exhibits to display life during the time of Mobile’s rule under five different flags: French, British, Spanish, American and Confederate. With what we now know, we would have just made a brief stop at Bragg-Mitchell to photo the outside, and then spent time at the Conde house for more historical information.
- Fees: Oakleigh was $10 per adult. Bragg-Mitchell was $10 per adult. The USS Alabama, sub and all other attractions on the site were $15 per person – we picked up a coupon for $2 off each at Bragg-Mitchell.
- Mobile is about an hour drive one way from Gulf Shores.