Fort Conde Museum
In 1711, the site of what is now Mobile, Alabama, was relocated and a temporary wooden stockade fort called Fort Louis that was built to protect the town. Twelve years later, a permanent fort – one of brick with a stone foundation – was built and renamed Fort Conde, after the brother of King Louis XIV.
The original edifice was built by the French to defend against an attack from the British and Spanish who wanted Mobile and its strategic coastal location along the Gulf of Mexico. If the fort and town fell, French forces would have allowed access to all the land between the Mississippi River and the Alabama River, which were strategic Atlantic colonies.
Built of brick, stone, and wood and walled with earthen dirt, twenty black slaves and five white workmen labored to build the fort initially. Today’s rendition is merely a replica of it, both in size and materials, but the original fort covered some eleven acres of land. Were it the original size today, it would cover a huge section of downtown Mobile.
Although Fort Conde helped to protect Mobile and its residents for nearly a century, the stronghold was not always in the hands of the French. From 1763 to 1780, it was under the control of the English, who occupied Mobile. Accordingly, the fort was renamed Fort Charlotte to honor the wife of King George III. Spain wrestled control of the fort from the English in 1780, renamed it Fort Carlota, and held it until 1813, when Mobile became occupied by United States forces. It again underwent a name change, as the Americans changed the moniker back to Fort Charlotte.
Seven years later, because the fort was no longer needed for defense, Congress sanctioned the sale and subsequent removal of the fort. Three years after that, the city of Mobile paid to have it demolished. New streets and buildings were erected as the city expanded toward the river and southward. By 1824, nearly every trace of the fort had been eradicated.
Today, Fort Conde Museum and Welcome Center is a must-see when in Mobile, even though it’s just a replica. It lies in the heart of Mobile on South Royal Street. To the south of the fort is Fort Conde Village, a community of restored Victorian properties that gives one a glimpse of what life was like in nineteenth-century Mobile. The village was built from the mid-1820s until the 1830s and now includes the Conde-Charlotte House historical museum.
Fort Conde is a treat for the family. History buffs will love its replicated attention to detail and enjoy the rooms of the fort, which are arranged and furnished as they would have been in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Children will love the fact that old cannons are pointed at modern skyscrapers of downtown Mobile.
The Fort Conde that contemporary visitors enjoy is one-third the size of the original fort and is built on a four-fifths scale. It opened on July 4, 1976, as part of Mobile’s U.S. bicentennial celebration. Admission to the fort is free.
Visit the web site (http://www.museumofmobile.com/other_locs.php) for more information on the Fort Conde Museum and Welcome Center.