Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bienville Square a Popular Place for Family Photos

N.B. "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964) and his wife Julia Lavinia Moody (1886-1965) pose in front of a large azalea bush in Bienville Square, the hub of downtown Mobile.

This photo may have been taken in the 1940s. Men generally stopped wearing hats after World War II, but Bonie continued to wear one most of his life. A city bus can be seen in the background driving along one side of the square. A number of the buildings in the background had been demolished by the 1960s and downtown fell on hard times.

Located in the block bordered by the streets of Dauphin, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, and North Conception, Bienville Square has been a popular gathering place since the 1850s. At one time a cast iron fence enclosed the square and there was Civil War cannon mounted on one side of the block.

The city added the large cast iron fountain with its acanthus leaf design to the center of the square in the 1890s, about the same time it added a bandstand. The current bandstand was built in 1941.

Almost from its beginning, the square has served as a place for orators, political gatherings, war bond drives and labor rallies. President Theodore Roosevelt addressed crowds from the square in 1905 about the importance of the Panama Canal to the port of Mobile.

With the revival of downtown Mobile around the turn of the 21st century, Bienville Square is again a popular gathering place, and a place to have your photo taken.

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