Museum of Mobile: Documenting the History of Mobile, Alabama

Lisa Fritscher March 4, 2011 No Comments

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Mobile Alabama

Mobile is a truly beautiful city

Mobile, Alabama was always one of those places we just drove through on Interstate 10, on the way between our former home in Central Florida and the new life we had created in New Orleans. What we saw of Mobile out the car windows looked interesting but we always had a schedule to keep, so we never stopped and looked around. Now that Dad and I are full-time RVers, we have nothing but time and no particular place to be. Last month, we decided to stop and see what Mobile had to offer. The Museum of Mobile was the perfect place to get an overview of the city.

Fort Conde

Fort Conde Mobile Alabama

Fort Conde is certainly an attention-grabber in modern-day Mobile

A recreation of the fort that stood guard over Mobile in the 1700s, Fort Conde today houses Mobile’s visitor center. Located at 150 South Royal Street in historic downtown, it is also part of the Museum of Mobile. We stopped there first to get our bearings. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, full of suggestions on the best places to eat and the best sights to see.

Fort Conde Parade Ground Alabama

Kids seem to love playing on the open parade ground

The fort itself is open to the public and some rooms house small displays on Mobile’s history. This is a great place for kids to play, as the 4/5 scale reproduction is just the right size to avoid getting lost. Just watch out for very low overhead clearance on some of the doorways.

Free parking is available in the large lot across the street. If that lot is full, as it was when we arrived, more free parking is offered under the bridge at the end of the road. A free hop-on hop-off shuttle bus stops across the street from the fort, providing easy transportation throughout downtown. The area is also highly walkable. Dad and I only used the shuttle bus once, but it is a nice service that the city provides.

Phoenix Fire Museum

Phoenix Fire Museum Mobile Alabama

The old firefighting equipment has been well preserved

The Phoenix Fire Museum, located at 203 South Claiborne Street, is also part of the Museum of Mobile. The museum houses firefighting equipment and memorabilia from 1838 through the present day. Staffed by a retired firefighter with an extensive knowledge of Mobile’s firefighting history, the museum is well worth a visit. Allow approximately an hour to see the museum in depth.

Take some time to read the informational signs on both the first and second floors. Volunteer firefighting crews were social organizations, and many firefighters increased their social status through their participation. Some of the names figure prominently in Mobile’s early history.

Museum of Mobile

The Museum of Mobile Ironwork

Mobile's ironwork is breathtaking

The main museum is located at 111 South Royal Street in the Old City Hall. Museum admission is $5 for adults with discounts available for children and seniors. Kids under six are admitted free. The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission is free on the first Sunday of each month.

After a full day in Mobile, Dad and I arrived just over an hour before closing. We felt quite rushed and were not able to see everything in as much detail as we would have liked. Try to allow at least two hours for your visit.

Most of the first floor is dedicated to changing exhibit space. Upcoming exhibits range from a tribute to 9/11/01 to a collection of Patent Models. Also on the first floor is a rather elaborate collection of cast iron and wrought iron used throughout Mobile.

The Museum of Mobile African American Exhibits

How do you put a dollar figure on a person's life?

Upstairs is a vast collection of exhibits that tells the story of Mobile’s history. An entire section focuses on the ugly truth of African-American life in the South from slavery through the Jim Crow era. Another section gives a synopsis of Mardi Gras history.

A large area is dedicated to Mobile’s shipbuilding legacy, while other areas describe the lives of Native Americans and early Spanish explorers in the region. Don’t miss the vast collection of dollhouses, all carefully and authentically decorated inside.

Tips for Parents

The Museum of Mobile Dollhouses

The detailed dollhouses are sure to delight

The three buildings of the Museum of Mobile give a wonderful overview of the city’s past and present. All three are family-friendly, offering something for everyone regardless of age and interests. However, the sheer volume of information and things to look at could seem overwhelming to younger kids. Let your children take the lead, lingering at displays that interest them. Expect a lot of questions, as the museums seem to capture young minds. Help your kids put themselves in someone else’s shoes, imagining themselves exploring the New World or living in one of the mansions depicted by the dollhouses.

Allow plenty of time for rest breaks. Mobile is filled with parks and green spaces, offering a wonderful opportunity to run and play. Take time to eat and drink plenty of water. Although your day in Mobile will likely be packed with sightseeing, taking time out to take care of yourself and your family will help keep everyone interested and happy rather than tired and cranky.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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