Maysville Historic District
The Maysville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2014, The Gombach Group.
The Maysville Historic District (1871-1960) was settled as a late 19th and early 20th century working and lower-middle class neighborhood in close proximity to the Government and Ann Street trolley lines. The development of the area follows typical late 19th and early 20th century planning. Blocks follow a mostly grid-like pattern and average approximately 250 feet by 600 feet. The streets are asphalt paved and mostly concrete curbed. Many of the streets are flanked by concrete sidewalks. Most streets in Maysville average a width of 30 feet, although Michigan Avenue is a major commercial corridor that is approximately 45 feet, widening to 70 feet near the southern boundary of the district at Duval Street. The streets are lined with rectangular lots averaging a frontage of 50 feet by 150 feet deep. Occasionally, lots have been doubled or subdivided. Houses in the district are set back 15 to 20 feet and with informally landscaped yards, although a few are more heavily planted and well shaded.
Housing forms and styles throughout the district reflect the range of styles and forms popular from 1900 to 1960. Most of the housing forms found in the district include one story bungalows, contemporary, Foursquare, irregular, L-plan, Massed plan, Minimal Traditional, Ranch, rectangular plan and shotgun. Because of the working class nature of the district, these forms, which are often very modest, appear in a variety of styles such as Late Victorian, Classical Revival, Colonial Revival and Craftsman Bungalow.
The district is primarily residential, with 92% of the resources constructed as housing. Residences are concentrated throughout the district except along Michigan Avenue, which is a major commercial corridor, and portions of Duval, Houston and Old Canal Street. Most of the residential buildings are one story in height with a few divided between one-and-one half story and two story examples. The majority of all resources are frame construction. The remainder are typically brick or brick veneer.
The Maysville Historic District (1880-1962) contains a large, mostly intact collection of late 19th and early 20th century architecture. The buildings in Maysville have not been significantly altered, and the district retains a strong sense of time and place. The appearance of the district has not been significantly altered, and it retains much of its historic character.
Late 19th century architectural styles include Late Victorian and Classical Revival. Early to mid-20th century styles include the Four Square, Colonial Revival, Craftsman Bungalow, Minimal Traditional and early Ranch homes. The diversity of styles reflects national tastes, but also illustrates regional influences. Raised brick foundations, large recessed or projecting porches, low pitched roofs with wide eaves and extensive use of windows and doors for light and ventilation are common local features. This did not change until the advent of central air and heating, which resulted in housing styles and forms that more closely followed housing in the rest of the country regardless of geographic location.
Maysville was developed during the same period as a number of surrounding districts, namely the Leinkauf Historic District, which borders Maysville along its northern boundary, and the Oakdale Historic District, which borders Maysville along its eastern boundary. These areas to the south and west of downtown Mobile were particularly noted for their new development in the 1903 Mobile Register Trade Edition. It is in this regard that Maysville serves as a valuable local example of the evolution of architectural styles during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries in Mobile.
The Maysville Subdivision (Deed Book 98,125) was platted in 1871 by D.M. Ross, county surveyor. The earliest map of the area, kept at the Mobile Municipal Archives, is the 1878 City Atlas. It shows a few buildings of which none are extant. An 1880 Sanborn Map shows some streets but no buildings. Although platted in 1871, this area of Mobile remained relatively unsettled until the very late 19th century. The period immediately following the Civil War saw a decline in Mobile's fortunes. The port silted up and trade dwindled. Cotton was no longer king and failed speculative ventures resulted in the City of Mobile being bankrupt by 1875. Having borrowed heavily to finance various improvement programs, the city's debt had climbed to a staggering $5 million dollars (Thomason 10/23/2003). It was not until the latter half of the 1890's that Mobile began to recover. The port diversified with timber and fruit being important products. By World War I the City was again prospering and it is reflected in census data.
The population of the City in 1890 was some 30,000. By 1920 the population had doubled to 60,000. The population growth resulted in new housing developments to the west and to the south, including Maysville.
Maysville eventually came to encompass thirteen subdivisions that include: Glendale Park (Deed Book 61,316) (1890); Smith-Overall Tract (Deed Book 67,160) (1891); Porter's Second Addition (Deed Book 99,23) (1902); Tropical Place (Deed Book 117,81) (1905); Sunset Place (Deed Book 135,35) (1907); Melrose Place (Deed Book 134,562) (1908); Zimlich and Strauss Subdivision (Deed Book 153,32) (1912); Gaynor Tract (Deed Book 156,127) (1915); Maysville Resubdivision (Deed Book 2,261) (1928); the Houston Street Extension (Deed Book 3,351) (1939); and Cloverleaf Park (Deed Book 3,560) (1941).
The streets are set to right angles with each other in straight lines, running north-south and east-west. These streets appear to be an extension of Mobile's original grid plan running from the urban core to the rural countryside and are typical of residential planning of that period. The lots have also been divided into typical, residential size lots. The downtown area was easily reached by means of public transportation with the streets within walking distance of the trolley lines along Government and South Ann Street (Mobile Light & R.R Company Map, 2005).
City Directories from 1903-1951 reveal a mostly working to lower-middle class neighborhood. Occupations typically found in the area include: laborer, carpenter, machinist, barber, and clerk. They also reveal the area to be split between African-Americans, mostly living in the western section platted as Maysville, and whites, mostly living in the eastern section platted as Glendale Park. This resulted in an understandable disparity in housing between the two sections when one considers the socioeconomic condition of both groups. A few modest, late 19th century Victorian cottages located in the western sections of Maysville (1705 Lomeroy Street c. 1900) are contrasted by more decorative examples located in Glendale Park (510 Dexter Avenue c. 1890). However, all of these cottages exhibit typical regional characteristics found throughout Mobile's older neighborhoods. These features include: raised brick pier foundations, recessed or projecting porches, and large windows (Gould 1988, 117-118). A few relatively prosperous residents lived in the Glendale Park section as evidenced by their homes which reflect the larger late 19th-early 20th century house forms and popular styles, such as 512 Wisconsin Avenue (c. 1890) and 1561 Illinois Street (c. 1900). Shotguns are well represented and are scattered throughout the district (1551 Dominick Street c. 1900 and 1558 Lemon Street c. 1900).
The district grew steadily through the early 20th century. World War I and World War II saw a rapid increase in Maysville's population as workers entered the city to work at the shipyards. The area's African-American population was significant enough so that Williamson High School was opened in 1948. The school is listed on the 1955 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map as "colored." The architecture of the early 20th century turned to less elaborate styles than those of the late Victorian period. Craftsman style houses, which promoted a respect and aesthetic for the natural qualities of wood, brick, stone, stucco, and tile, comprise a large part of the district's early 20th century architecture (512 Tuttle Avenue c. 1925). The bungalow was one of the more popular building forms constructed in the area after World War I. Bungalows in Maysville are most frequently modest buildings and continued to remain popular until 1940 (505 Michigan Avenue c. 1925). Additionally, a few Period Revival style houses, such as 1300 Illinois Street (c. 1950) and 1718 Wexford Street (c. 1960) were constructed in Maysville during this same time frame. Four Squares are also scattered throughout the district but are few in number (510 Tuttle Avenue c. 1915).
Minimal Traditional houses began to appear in the years just prior to World War II and remained popular until 1960 (1054 S. Ann Street c. 1950 and 463 Booker Street c. 1940). A section of worker housing was constructed during World War II near Williamson High School consisting of several barracks type concrete block apartment buildings (1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map). However, these have long since been demolished. An empty field now exists where they once stood. Michigan Avenue developed around this same time as a commercial corridor with businesses located along its widest point. This section is still a commercial corridor, but no historic buildings remain along its length. Early Ranch homes were built in the late 1950's, and they continue to be popular today (1605 Dublin Street c. 1960 and 1007 Ghent Street c. 1960). These were built on the few remaining vacant lots that were available, and sometimes replaced older houses in the neighborhood. However, they are no less important as they demonstrate the continued viability of the district.
† Shaun Wilson, Preservation Consultant and Susan Enzweiler, AHC, National Register Coordinator, Mobile Historic Development Commission, Maysville Historic District, Mobile County, Alabama, nomination document, 2013, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.