The Bellingrath Museum Home
Until 1934, Walter and Bessie Bellingrath had been residents of Mobile, where they maintained a beautiful home and garden at 60 South Ann Street. When they decided to have their weekend property open year-round to guests, the Bellingraths realized that it would require a great deal of supervision. The couple decided to establish residency at their now-famous Gardens, which were beginning to receive national recognition.
The 15-room, 10,500-square-foot Home was built in 1935 and was designed by the prominent Mobile architect George B. Rogers.
The exterior features handmade brick salvaged in Mobile from the 1852 birthplace of Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, who was a notable American socialite and major figure in the women’s suffrage movement. Ironwork was obtained from the recently demolished Southern Hotel, also in Mobile. The result was dubbed “English Renaissance” by Rogers.
Flagstone terraces, a slate roof and figural copper downspouts join with a central courtyard, balconies and covered galleries to give the Home a Gulf Coast flair. The architect wanted the visitor to think of the house as a home, not a mansion, and it is situated to give the impression of a much more modest residence. He also wanted the Home to reflect the architectural heritage of the region.
The Home was the most modern of its kind in 1935, but Alabama Power had not brought electricity to this remote area of Mobile County. The Bellingraths therefore depended on a large Delco generator for electricity until 1940.
Find out more about the construction of the Bellingrath Home in the video below:
The Bellingrath Home appears as it did in the Bellingraths’ era and is open for tours (see schedule). All of the Bellingraths’ original furnishings are on display to guests. Guests can enjoy seeing the “ultra modern” bathrooms of 1935, and the kitchen with its original appliances — German silver countertops and sinks — as well as the Butler’s Pantry overflowing with Mrs. Bellingrath’s collection of silver, crystal and china.
The Delchamps Gallery of Boehm Porcelain
The Bellingrath Home was adjoined by a guest house with a six-car garage beneath. Completed in 1939, it was built to accommodate the growing number of house guests invited to the Gardens by Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. A small chapel was included in its design, as well.
In 1967, the open garages were enclosed to become the Delchamps Gallery of Boehm Porcelain and a visitors lounge. This fine American porcelain collection was a gift to the Bellingrath-Morse Foundation by Oliver and Alfred Delchamps and their sister, Annie Delchamps Moore, who were long associated with the Bellingrath family. Their donation of rare and early porcelain sculptures by Edward Marshall Boehm has become the largest display of its kind in the United States.
Edward Boehm started his porcelain artistry in 1949 after a career as a farm manager and veterinarian’s assistant. His deep love and understanding of animals of all kinds was translated into priceless porcelain sculptures featuring incredible detail and color. In less than a decade, the Eisenhower administration had taken note of his unique American artwork and began a longstanding tradition of sending pieces of Boehm porcelain as official gifts to overseas dignitaries. Within a short time his work was being admired from Peking to Buckingham Palace.
During his lifetime, Boehm was honored by commissions from five American Presidents and his works were given to Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. A duplicate of the crucifix given to the Vatican in 1959 is on display within the Delchamps collection.
Bellingrath is fortunate to house a collection which covers such a broad range of natural and beautiful subjects. Boehm’s birds amidst the branches of realistic flowers are a fitting compliment to the Gardens which surround them. As an art form, this collection represents the first successful American hard-paste porcelain.