Bellingrath Home and Gardens
12401 Bellingrath Gardens Rd.

Theodore, AL

February 4th, 1998

Mobile, AL Like all major cities in the US, Mobile Alabama has it’s treasures. Some are hidden for just its own enjoyment and some are outstanding for the world to take notice of. Of the latter, there is the Bellingrath Home and Gardens. Located on Bellingrath Gardens Rd., a little south of downtown, this is indeed a splendor to behold. Upon arriving, one has to notice the giant wooden sign proclaiming the entrance to this 65 acre formal garden,Bellingrath surrounded by 905 acres of semitropical landscape. I am sure that many of the thousands of people who wandered through the gift shop on their way to the garden gate, passed by a small framed 75 year old black lady. I met Ruth Woodard from an introduction arranged by Laura McGill. Laura, acting as the public Bellingrath relations agent, had arranged for us to view the gardens in preparation for this article. Ruth was in the gift shop where she can often be found. She is the oldest remaining employee of the gardens, having worked for the Bellingraths along with the rest of her family during the time when the garden was being built. In her quiet reserved manner, she removed a large photo album from one of the shelves, and in opening it, began telling me ofBellingrath life the way it was when she was a child living near the Foul River and working for the Bellingraths. Pointing to a reproduction of an old historic picture, she explained that originally there was no house. Just a fishing cabin at the edge of the river where she and the other kids use to play. As she wandered through the album adding personal experience to photo after photo, I had to smile at my chance meeting with this living piece of history.
BellingrathWalter Bellingrath arrived in Alabama in 1880 where he raised his family. He and his brother acquired the Mobile and Montgomery bottling rights to the new drink craze, Coca-Cola. Walter Moved to Mobile where he soon amassed a fortune on his soft drink franchise. In 1917 he and his wife Bessi Moorse built a lodge on the Foul River just south of Mobile. They would spend the rest of their lives developing the formal gardens with ideas inspired by their many trips abroad. They were supported by the assistanceBellingrath of a half dozen local grounds keepers. In 1932 with the city not yet recovered from the Great Depression, the Bellingraths opened the gardens to the public. The offering was an instant success and soon the Bellingrath gardens became the most visited attraction in the city. In 1935 the Bellingraths build a 15 room home on the site of the old lodge, overlooking the Foul River. Bessie, who was an avid and savvy antique collector, furnished the house with her finest acquisitions, from the U.S. and abroad. Many of these items remain on display, in the home today. The Bellingraths lived in their house until their deaths in the 1950's. In 1956 the home was opened to be public by the foundation which now maintains it.


Back                   HOME PAGE      Next >>>>>      Next