Mobile, Alabama: A City of Influence
Mobile, Alabama, nicknamed "The Little Easy", offers a temperate climate, low cost of living, close proximity to white sandy beaches, and a central location on the Gulf Coast. City streets are shaded by a canopy of live oaks, and the mild climate contributes to year-round outdoor lifestyles with many regional activities. The combined statistical area includes Baldwin County to the east and has a population of over 600,000 (2010 U.S. census). Mobile is home to one of the nation’s busiest ports, contributing to another nickname, "Port City", and to the unique mixing of diverse cultural influences and sets Mobile apart from other cities in the region. The major industries are a mixture of aerospace, construction, manufacturing, medicine, and shipbuilding.
The Native American Influence
The city derives its name from the Maubila tribe who inhabited the area upriver from the current location of the city. The Museum of Mobile showcases a remarkably well-preserved, 500-year-old canoe, made from a hollowed-out oak tree, probably by the Maubila tribe.
Believing that Mobile Bay was the mouth of the Mississippi River, the French established the city of Mobile in 1702 to secure access to the river, making Mobile the first capital of the French colony of Louisiana. In 1711 the city was moved to the present location of Fort Conde at the mouth of the Mobile River and just south of the Mobile Central Business District. After exploring the river delta, the French discovered that the bay was not the Mississippi River outlet into the Gulf of Mexico but rather one of the largest estuaries on the North American continent.
French influences persist in the city after more than 300 years. The French introduced Mardi gras to the "New World" in Mobile which today is a favorite annual event, albeit a somewhat more family-oriented celebration than its 15-year younger sister’s party to the west. Mardi gras in Mobile is celebrated with parades along streets with French names, such as Royal, Conde, Iberville, Dauphin and St. Louis. Lower Dauphin Street is the downtown hub of entertainment, including theaters, restaurants, art galleries, shops and after-hour clubs.
The coastal counties of Mobile and Baldwin were part of the Spanish territory of West Florida. Other connections of the “Florida counties” of Alabama are the white sandy beaches, the diverse outdoor activities along the waterfront, and the sub-tropical climate. Spanish Plaza honors the Spanish period of the city between 1780 and 1813 and features the "Arches of Friendship", a fountain presented to Mobile by the city of Málaga, Spain.
Other influences on the city culture include African, British, Caribbean, and Creole influences. Mobile became part of the United States of America during the War of 1812.
(Photo credits: Header - Orange Beach, AL, Holly Thornton, RT USA Medical Center; Live oak on Springhill Avenue, Dr. Cindy Schneider, USA English Dept.; View of downtown Mobile from Fort Conde, Wikimedia; Mardi gras parade in Downtown Mobile, Becky Speights, RT, USA Medical Center)