MOBILE STREETS’ NAMES DATE FROM IMPORTANT PAGES WORLD’S HISTORY
Benjamin D. Baker
Federal Writers’ Project
Council Chamber, City Hall
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 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.