Spring Hill Neighborhood Thematic Resource

Mobile City, Mobile County, AL

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Stewartfield

Spring Hill [†] is located approximately 6 1/2 miles west of Mobile, encompassing a hilly terrain of which the highest point is 215 feet above sea level. The City of Mobile is located on the flood plain, at sea level, and during the 19th century was surrounded by swamps and bayous. The western hills were freer of swamps, were heavily forested with oak and pine and were also supplied with a number of springs that furnished an abundant supply of pure, fresh water.

The buildings that have survived from the 19th century illustrate the 60 year evolution of the area from a summer retreat to a permanent neighborhood. Nine buildings are being nominated. Each has been individually documented. For purposes, of a general descrip^ tion, they have been grouped into three categories: cottages, large country homes, and religious buildings.

Within the boundaries of Spring Hill, there have survived nine 19th century buildings significant both because of their individual architectural value and because they collectively record the growth of a community from its inception as a summer colony made up of cottages to its mature development as a permanent neighborhood. Within a limited area, virgin forests were transformed into estates, trappers cabins into cottages that in turn were enlarged, and in the final years, large homes with highly refined Greek Revival detailing were added to the community.

Old Shell Road, the connecting link with the city, bisects this historic area with the buildings located withitt a mile and a half on either side of the road and scattered along about a two and a half mile stretcho The early community was closely knit, not only by location but by common bonds of social class and economic status, with merchandising, especially cotton, being the profession of the landowners. This homogenious quality can be seen in the development of the architecture in which even the cottages were well sited on large tracts, averaging five acres in extent.

The original purpose of the colony was to-establish a healthy resort, less subject to the plagues of the yellow fever that ravaged the swamp surrounded city. Cotton wealth added to this the development of a permanent community. Wi.th the decline of cotton in the 1860s, growth stopped but the original purpose, that of a retreat from disease, remained as exemplified by the nine well preserved buildings under nomination.

The historical development of Spring Hill covers, a time span from the Hoiddle of the 1820 decade to the 1880s. From 1820 to 1827, the City of Mobile acquired portions of the public lands by acts, of the United States Congress. Of these purchases, 3/4 of section 14, T4S, R2W: is included in the Spring Hill area. In addition, private investors also purchased public lands. In 1828 all of section 13 (640 acres) was platted for Mr. William Robertson, the section being divided up into 121 five-acre parcels with lanes leading into various areas. Joshua Collins purchased 160 acres, of which 80 acres were platted in 1839 and divided into 8, ten-acre parcels. By these purchases the boundaries of the historic Spring Hill neighborhood were established.

As early as 1820, it was noted that the summer epidemics of yellow fever hit hard in the downtown area but that the western hills remained relatively free from the devastating disease. Because of this;, summer cottages began to dot the recently purchased land. By the late. 1820s. families; were spending long summer months in the country, the time extending from April to as, late as early December. Many family letters have survived telling of the journeys" out on wagons carrying household furniture, silver, china, etc. The men of the commercial class who built the homes, traveled into the city daily by means of horseback or horse and carriage. Thus the development was never of an agricultural nature, but purely one that served as a summer retreat for health reasons.

† Elizabeth, B. Gould, Architectural Historian, and Ellen Hertins, National Register Coordinator, Mobile Historic Development Commission, Alabama Historical COmmission, Spring Hill Thematic Resource, 1982, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Border Street West • Dauphin Street • Old Shell Road • Spring Hill Avenue • Wacker Lane


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