Donna on the Side

by Donna Dye

Mobile Before the Meet

Here we are back in Mobile and fishing for a Donna-on-the-Side story. In our quest for the perfect catch, we decide to follow in the footsteps of Walter Duncan Bellingrath, who followed his doctor's advice and went fishing at a camp on the Fowl River. He ended up buying the fishing camp along with 900 acres. Years later he and his wife Bessie Marse Bellingrath created the Bellingrath Gardens and Home.

Walter Duncan Bellingrath made his money as a Coca-Cola bottler in Mobile and Montgomery. He started out with foot and hand operated machinery and a mule driven delivery cart. He refined the business into one of the most productive bottling operations in the United States and received national attention for his innovative marketing ideas.

The Gardens were transformed from muddy grounds and a few planted azaleas into gradens modeled after formal gardens in Italy, France and England. In 1932, Mr. Bellingrath invited a national garden club and anyone else interested to visit "Bellecamp," as he called it then. The public was very interested in the Gardens--so much so that the crowds that came created a traffic jam. In 1935, three years after the Gardens were opened to the public, the Bellingrath home was completed.

At the age of 80 Mr. Bellingrath created a non-profit foundation to assure the continued existence of his beloved gardens in perpetuity.

Camallias in bloom.
Iris at pondside in the Oriental Garden
Warm climate loving Hibiscus
The everloving amarillas
Roses just thinking of blooming . Unfortunately March is too soon for much bloom on the roses.
More Amarillis
A stunning Tree Azela in the Oriental Garden
A view of the Home
The view of the garden and pond and Fowl River and boat dock from the back of the home.


The Bellingrath Home and adjoining gardens
Part of the fountains, pools and waterfalls of the property. This waterfall overlooks the Fowl River and cascades down to a grotto.
One end of Courtyard Garden and pool.
The opposite end of the Courtyard Garden pool.
An open area to clear the visual pallette.
Azaleas are everywhere especially along the walk. Most are huge--6ft x 6ft--grown together to form what looks like one long, solid bush.
The path goes forward to the Rose Garden and the Conservatory. There must be hundreds of roses filling this section of the Garden. Alas, it was too early for them to be in bloom. The Conservatory was filled with lovely warm climate plants including the hibiscus and amarillas.

The Oriental Garden with American Touches

The entry is marked with a Tori arch and a peek of what's ahead.
No Oriental Garden is complete without bamboo. Here, it grows tall and thick.
Views of the Fowl River flora and fauna are available by boat on a river cruise. The Fowl River was so named because of the water fowl attracted by the fish found in its brackish waters.

Dauphin Island

After leaving Bellingrath, we headed south to Dauphin Island. The Island was first settled in the 1700s by the French who realized its potential as a defense post. They first names it Massacre Island because of all of the skeletons found there but soon changed the name to Dauphin, the title of the eldest son of Louis XIV.

Today, much of the island is a bird sanctuary and beach resort. Long, wide, white sand beaches provide a wonderful place to enjoy the sun, water and warm weather.

The island is reached by bridge or ferry. The bridge is rather long and provides a dramatic entrance.


Dinner at Mary's Place

We were hungry by the time we left Dauphin Island. So, we headed for a place recommended by the cashier at Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Mary's Place. It's on Hwy 188 at Hwy 59 (Bellingrath Garden Road). It's a colorful place that was established in 1935 as a place for fresh seafood prepared with a touch of Creole by Mary. Today Mary's has new owners that boast "The Finest Southern Seafood & Steaks."

We ordered the specials: chicken fried steak with home fries and fried shrimp with fries. The special came with salad and desert bar. The portions were plenty and good home cooking. The waitress was very attentive and friendly. We enjoyed ourselves and walked away well fed. Make a stop to Mary's along with your visit to Bellingrath Gardens and Home.

A Side trip to Biloxi MS

On our drive from New Orleans to Mobile (from last week's Sugar Bowl Classic), we made a stop in Biloxi MS on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Biloxi is a resort city loaded with casinos and white sandy beaches. But the city has a long history. It goes back to 1699. It was at one time the capitol of the Louisiana Purchase and through the years under six different flags (France, Spain, Great Britian, the West Florida Republic, the Confederacy and the United States) that have influenced its culture and customs.

Today, one of the main reasons to come to Biloxi are the casinos and entertainment. One of the biggest casinos is the Beau Rivage Casino and Resort Center. A bit of history is also located in Biloxi: Beauvoir -- the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library.

white sandy beaches and lots and lots of casinos.
The Beau Rivage Resort and Casino
The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library
A statue of Jefferson Davis looking out toward the Gulf.



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John Dye

Baltimore MD