Museum History

The History Museum of Mobile, a national historic landmark, is a destination in itself. Artifacts, text, audio, video, and hands on interactives in the Museum’s permanent exhibit galleries help bring Mobile’s history to life. Our Special Exhibition Gallery also changes periodically so that visitors discover something new with each returning visit.

A modern museum housed in the Southern Market/Old City Hall National Historic Landmark, the History Museum of Mobile is a visual masterpiece that provides an unparalleled museum experience.

An 1855 resolution, passed to construct a building for the city market and departments of city government, now The Museum of Mobile, declared that this structure should be, "of handsome appearance-an ornament to the City." Indeed it is. This beautiful Italianate building was, "quite the pride of Mobilians," then - and still is today.

Built between 1855 and 1857, the building currently housing The History Museum of Mobile originally served three functions. The top floor accommodated the Mayor of Mobile’s office and served as the City Council’s meeting place. Mobile’s City Council (City governing body) continues to meet in this building a few times a year in order to carry on the tradition of having met in this location continuously since its opening in 1858.

When it opened in 1858, the second floor was also headquarters for a few local militia units, most notably the Mobile Cadets. Founded during the Mexican War in 1848, the Mobile Cadets served with distinction during the Civil War and long afterwards. They held their training and marching practices here as well as their formal dances well into the late 1800s.

The third and perhaps most important function of this building was the Southern Market of Mobile. The public market was a venue where licensed food venders rented out stalls on the ground floor to sell meat, vegetables, seafood, and fruit. The market stalls were located in what today is the museum atrium. Mobile’s Southern Market did not completely close its doors until 1942.

Designed in the Italianate style of architecture, Mobile’s City Hall and Southern Market complex comprised four buildings and covered two-thirds of the block between Royal and Church streets. Between 1997 and 2000, an addition was added to the back of the building to house the History Museum of Mobile’s permanent exhibits and staff offices.