Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One of Willis Roberts Residences

 Willis Roberts Residences

In the post Civil War city of her birth, Joel Roberts Ninde had known the large, stately old homes as multi-family buildings, crowded and difficult to maintain. Joel’s father had chosen not to do as his sisters had done, by moving their spouses into the Roberts family home on Government Street and raising their children in a cramped family compound. Willis and Moffitt lived independently from them, moving every year or two to another rented home or apartment.

Willis appears to have had steady employment but the family moved around a great deal. Willis and Moffitt moved 20 times during their marriage of 47 years.[i] One explanation for their continual moves could have been the population shifts during the 1890’s as large building projects decimated entire neighborhoods. In the downtown area, construction of taller buildings on gridlocked streets necessitated the destruction of entire blocks. At least two of their moves were evidently due to this building frenzy. Another theory to explain the almost yearly move is that Willis and Moffitt were house sitters for the affluent. The addresses were in the most exclusive area of Mobile and these houses were considered mansions. Many wealthy families also owned homes in other parts of the country and lived there seasonally, even spending time abroad. It is possible that Willis and Moffitt rented furnished mansions while the owners were away. The Roberts would have been considered the best class of house sitters available as they came from a similar social class.

[i] Places of residence of the Willis Roberts family: In 1870-north side Government Street between Hallett and Broad, still standing; 1873-south side Congress 1 block east Jackson , (Detoni Square area in current Mobile); 1875- South side corner Monroe and Conception (Fort Conde area in current Mobile); 1876-11 N. Jackson -1 block North of Dauphin Street in current Mobile); 1877-Northwest corner Jackson and St. Louis, demolished; 1878 –North side St. Louis 2 blocks west Royal, 1879-South side St. Anthony, 2 blocks west Conception; 1880- 1884- 61 St. Louis; 1888- Southside St. Louis 2 blocks west St. Joseph; 1889 to 1895- Southside St. Louis, 4 blocks east Conception Street; 1896-50 S. Jackson;, 1897- 1900; 51 S. Jackson ; 1901- N. Jackson north of present Dauphin Street; 1902- 200 N. Conception; 1903-no listing; 1904 to 1906- 411 St. Francis; 1907 to 1908-108 Joachin Street, 1909-unknown, 1910-1917-St. Andrew Hotel, east side of Royal Street north of Dauphin, middle of the block between Dauphin and St. Francis. The St. Andrew Hotel was located between the Battle House Hotel and what is now the law firm of Lyons, Pipes at 2 N. Dauphin. Information derived and compiled from Mobile City Directories and Historic American Buildings Survey of 1939 by Roy Isbell for August 2005 driving tour for Corinne Toth, author.

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