Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bienville Square Downtown Mobile Historical

Bienville Square is a historic city park in the center of downtown Mobile, Alabama. Bienville Square was named for Mobile’s founder, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. It takes up the entire block bordered by the streets of Dauphin, Saint Joseph, Saint Francis, and North Conception.


Bienville Square had its beginnings as a public park in 1824 when the United States Congress passed an act that transferred a large plot of land to the city of Mobile and specified that the property be forever used as a city park. This plot was the site of the old Spanish Hospital on the southwestern corner of the block, at the corner of Dauphin Street and North Conception Street. The city began buying the other lots in the block in 1834 and by 1849 held title to the entire block. The square was a primary gathering place for residents of the city from the 1850s to the 1940s. The late 1960s saw Bienville Square in its most run-down condition as people moved away from downtown to the suburbs. The revival of downtown starting in the 1980s saw the popularity of the park increase and its upkeep resumed.

Notable events

Theodore Roosevelt spoke in the square in 1905 about the importance of the Panama Canal to the port of Mobile. It was the site of many mass meetings by shipyard workers from Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Company during World War II as the company experienced labor disputes.

In the 1850s walkways, a now removed cast iron fence, benches, and live oak trees were added. The large cast iron fountain with an acanthus leaf motif was added to the center of the square in the 1890s. A new bandstand was added to the park in 1941 to replace one from the Victorian era.

The square is used for many of the city's cultural functions:
Jazz in Bienville by the Gulf Coast Ethnic and Heritage Jazz Festival.
The annual Lighting of the Trees celebration and the lighting of Mobile's official Christmas tree.
Kids Day in Bienville Square.
The square is the epicenter for Mobile's annual Bayfest Music Festival.

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