Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Pillared City: Greek Revival Mobile

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

The Pillared City: Greek Revival Mobile

Article excerpt

The Pillared City: Greek Revival Mobile. By John S. Sledge. Photography by Sheila Hagler. (Athens, Ga., and London: University of Georgia Press, c. 2009. Pp. [xxvi], 148. $39.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-3020-4.)

Architecturally, 1836 was Mobile's most memorable year. Within a few months ground was broken for most of the city's best Greek Revival buildings, many of them erected to the designs of the three best Greek Revival architects Mobile had: James Gallier and the Dakin brothers, James and Charles, with most of the construction supervised by Charles Dakin. The central chapter of the book concerns itself with this memorable but all too brief period: much of the city was destroyed by a series of fires in early October 1839.

John S. Sledge, a journalist and architectural historian with the Mobile Historic Development Commission, relates these events in a satisfyingly compact manner. It is always a pleasure to read something written by someone who knows what he is about, and when it comes to the architecture of Mobile, Sledge knows his stuff. The book is divided into four parts: a highly personal preface by Sledge with an equally personal but briefer note by Sheila Hagler, who provided most of the photographs used in the book; an introduction on Greek Revival architecture in America; the body of the text (chapters 1-4) that deals with the announced subject: pillared architecture, specifically (but not exclusively) Greek Revival in Mobile; and an epilogue in which loose ends are tied up, or remain loose for admiration or opprobrium.

The preface could be subtitled "why I love Mobile architecture." It is a loving reminiscence--and the longest sustained discussion in the book of a single building--of Sledge's grandparents' house. …

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