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No other place in the United States has street names like those in the city of Mobile, Alabama

MOBILE STREETS’ NAMES DATE FROM IMPORTANT PAGES WORLD’S HISTORY


By

Benjamin D. Baker

Federal Writers’ Project

Council Chamber, City Hall

Mobile, Alabama

November 20, 1939

Why is Dauphin street called Dauphin street, and what is the significance of Royal street? To what period of history does Conti street belong; and why was Government street so named?

Possibly no other city of the country has a more interesting street nomenclature than Mobile. Almost every street, especially those in the older sections of the city, hints of the romantic and historic old Mobile. From the early eighteenth century, when streets were first indicated by names, every change in the city’s government brought with it a significant change in the names of streets. The oldest streets were French; then came the Spanish, and with the birth of the United States, the streets were given American names.

In 1711, a map of the city drawn by Sieur Cheuilot gave the location of twelve of the city’s principal streets. Although the names were not indicated in this map. Peter Hamilton in his “Colonial Mobile,” claims that in that year the city’s streets were named for the first time. The streets all bore French names. Dauphin, Conti, St. Louis, and Royal.

Windsor Hotel and Royal Street, Mobile, Alabama ca. 1906 – Detroit Publishing Company (Library of Congress)

Dauphin Street

Dauphin street derived its name from the word “dauphin.” The heir apparent to the French throne was known as the dauphin and his wife as dauphine. The street and island were probably named in 1711. Whether the royal couple were honored by having our shopping streets named for them is a matter open to discussion. Louis XIV, in spite of his rather liberal and oriental views regarding marital life, had only one queen, Marie-Therese of Austria. But the street was probably not named after this pair. They had one son, Louis, who inherited his father’s reputation, but not his throne, and who was called Monseigneur, and of whom it was said: “Son of a King, father of a King, but not a King himself – never.” It is not likely that our main street was named after this prince. But this Louis had a son, the duke of Burgundy, who married Marie Anne Christine Victorire of Bavaria, and the private and public life of this pair was beyond reproach.

Dauphin St., Mobile, Ala2 between. 1900 – 1910 – Detroit Publishing Company (Library of Congress)

Conti Street, Rue Conty

Conti street, Rue Conty, our present one-way street, can also be trace to French history. It was named after the distinguished family of Conti; who were of royal blood. Prince de Conti was elected King of Poland in the end of the seventeenth century and was the patron of La Salle and Tonty. He died in 1709, and it is probably that his memory was honored two years later, when the important avenue was named for him. Its exact location in those days cannot be accurately ascertained.

More French names

Royal street fronted the water in those days, and it was probably named during the reign of Louis XIV since royalty was at its height in that period. St. Louis is, of course, French in origin, and it is probable that St. Francis street dates back to the period of French possessions.

Spanish names of streets

With the advent of the Spanish, all streets except Royal were renamed. Dauphin was changed consecutively to St. John, Conception, and Galvez, and with the American possessions, its original names were restored. St. Emanuel, St. Michael, St. Joseph, Conception, and Joachim streets were renamed by the Spaniards, and their original French names are not known.

Saint Michael Street. Mobile, Alabama (Library of Congress)

The first cross street was called Government street in the period of Spanish possession, and it was located where the present Conti street is. It was named for the Government House, which was situated a little southeast of the Semmes monument. Later the Government House was moved a block south, and the name of the street likewise migrated. Both Conti and Government streets were then known as Government street.

Government Street, Looking West, Showing Bus Terminal and Admiral Semmes Hotel, Mobile, Ala postcard ca. 1930-1949 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The site of the present Church street was known as Charlotte street under Spanish rule, but in 1822 when the first Protestant church was built at the present site of Christ church (St. Emanuel and Church streets,) the name of the street was appropriately changed to Church. Such streets as Espejo and Eslava preserve the memory of the interesting romantic Spanish figures of that period.

English and American Eras

There are no distinctly English names in older Mobile, and this no doubt due to the fact that the conservative English did not attempt to alter the street names when they took possession of the city. But with the advent of the American period, a decided change in street nomenclature was observed. The streets extending from the original settlements retained their French and Spanish names, but the new ones commemorate Wilkinson, Jackson, Claiborne, Jefferson, State, Congress and other American personages and institution.

War Between the States

Another interesting change was brought about by the War Between the States when the streets commemorating federal personages and states were at once renamed.

The city directory of 1869, indicated these changes, which were as follows: Maine to Palmetto, Massachusetts to Charleston, New Hampshire to Augusta, Rhode Island to Savannah, Connecticut to Selma, New York to Elmira, Vermont to Texas, Pennsylvania to Montgomery, Stone to Davis Avenue, Hunt to Beauregard, and Poe to Manassas.

The streets are for the most part named after old Mobile families or their owners, and many are still named after states, regardless of their position in reference to the Mason and Dixon line. Consequently, almost every state in the union is represented in our street directory. (References from Personal Investigation and Records on file)

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers: Lost & Forgotten Stories  includes the following stories:

  • The Yazoo land fraud
  • Daily life as an Alabama pioneer
  • The capture and arrest of Vice-president Aaron Burr 
  • The early life of William Barrett Travis, hero of the Alamo
  • Description of Native Americans of early Alabama including the visit by Tecumseh
  • Treaties and building the first roads in Alabama.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 3)


By (author): Donna R Causey
List Price: $11.77 USD
New From: $11.67 USD In Stock

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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11 comments

  1. Connie Stewart Hobson

    Thanks for sharing Jane Taylor Kelly.

  2. Tim Steadman

    Well, probably not much longer. Lets pray our coastal jewel does not suffer the vile infection rampaging in New Orleans right now.

    1. I agree, let’s leave our monuments, street names and park names alone! It’s history!

  3. I no longer live in Mobile Alabama. It has a special place in my hart. I still have family and friends that lives there. I love to visit when I can.
    So I like to share this and other articles on Facebook. I am getting into history of late. The older I get I see how important it is.

  4. Debra Evans Embury

    Raymond Joseph Weinshenker.

  5. There are a few French street names in New Orleans that are similar or the same as in Mobile .
    The trend in many cities now, is to rename them ( especially if they are Southern or CSA military officer’s names) to Martin Luther King Jr. 🙁

    1. Here is hoping that the next Huricane washes the trashy sinful city of Naw Lands out into the Gulf of Mexico.

  6. My father attended a veterinary college or school in Mobile in early 1920’s or 1930’s??
    He died when I was only 12 yrs of age and I never learned anything about it.
    I was told the school burned or something happened to it??
    Could someone tell me the name of the school/college, etc???
    Thanks,
    Shannon

  7. So what Indian Treaty gave away Mobile to the United States Federal Government?

    Anyone?

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