Midtown Mobile is made up of a collection of neighborhoods that were formed by the City's westward expasion after the Civil War. For the most part, the eastern edge of Midtown includes historic districts ranging from the 1830's to the 1930's while the newer ones include post-World War II inner-ring suburbs that demonstrate a major shift towards the use of the automobile. These areas contain some of the best post-war neighbrohoods and ranch-style houses that appealed to those who were chasing the "American Dream."
This area is the soul of Mobile. Many of the features that Mobile is known for are prominent in Midtown - live oak lined streets, historic mansions, large azalea bushes, and close-knit communities. You will find all kinds of people living in Midtown!
Midtown was carved from Spanish land grants and former plantations. The advent of the streetcar was one of the most influential things to occur. This gave the citizens of Mobile to seek refuge from the "dirty city." Streetcar suburbs popped up along Government Street , Spring Hill Avenue , Dauphin Street , and Old Shell Road . Single family home ownership became an option for many, the more prominent citizens locating along the four main arteries. After World War II, the streetcars were exchanged for buses and most families were no longer held captive by lack of mobility. The automobile would soon shape the city from then on. The inner-ring suburbs were built with room for growing families, a car, and a grill. These neighborhoods still retain the charm of a by-gone era, but with a little bit more wiggle room!
The Suburbs Take Over
This trend continued as the city grew westward. I-65 was built and the suburbs grew in a way unfamiliar to that of Midtown. The lots were bigger, houses were bigger, and the roads were bigger. As "bigger is better" took over, the sense of community took a hit. The City of Mobile began reaming out the once grand avenues - Spring Hill Avenue , Broad Street , and Government Street - in the name of higher traffic volumes. The more the traffic engineers added lanes, the more motorist flocked to these new inner-city expressways until they could not be expanded more. What is left is high traffic, and a disregard to the pedestrian. There is hope. The Broad Street TIGER Grant aims to reverse this by implementing a "complete street" design that will improve the experience for the pedestrian as well as the motorists.
Much like our roadways, Midtown's commercial centers were heavily influenced by the planning methods of the past century. Walkable commerical nodes that once lined the streets of Midtown were torn down to make room for strip malls and parking lots. This too has begun to change! With the Map for Mobile and Design Old Shell plans The Midtown Movement continues to stand with the citizens of Midtown. The Mayor's office has begun the process of overhauling zoning codes across the City. These new codes will think about zoning in a way that new developments will complement its surroundings. In Midtown's case, it will call for buildings to address the streets, parking lots to be placed behind, and on-street parking to be an option.
The 21st century is an exciting time for Midtown. As people grow tired of the high cost of transportation and social isolation, they long for the older way of life where you talk to your neighbor from a porch or walk to the store.
Midtown through maps - over time 1815-1935
( note: orientation of maps represent North = ^ )