Horsing Around

Take a look back at the historic Arlington Fairgrounds through the lens of a 1925 photograph.

Photo courtesy Erik Overbey Collection, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama

Arlington Fairgrounds, which served as Mobile County’s fairgrounds since the 1870s, was located along Bay Shell Road, once named the “most famous of all Alabama driveways.” (The seven-mile stretch of shell-paved road was home to a myriad of recreation destinations, including Frascati Park, Crystal Pool and the original location of the Country Club of Mobile.)

At the turn of the century, horse breeding and racing were popular pastimes, and in addition to hosting fairs and housing permanent exhibits, Arlington also had a race course. Whether the unidentified man, pictured below in 1925 at Arlington, was taking a racehorse out for a spin is unknown.

Mobile was also home to another racetrack, Bascombe Race Course, located about two and a half miles north of Arlington, which later became Hartwell Field, then ultimately turned over to horses again — Mobile’s Mounted Police Unit currently uses the property to train its equines. Fort Whiting Armory was built on the Arlington Fairgrounds in 1936, and the annual fair is now held at the 90-acre site on Cody Road, its home since 1975.

“I bought him a horse and spring wagon. He was very proud of it and enjoyed driving out in the early morning. But one evening he told of the horses having taken fright at the dummy engine on the street railway, and my mother refused to allow him to drive again.”

Edward Bloch, son of musician and professor Joseph Bloch, writing in 1883 about his father’s early-morning ride to Spring Hill College. “Edward Bloch Memoirs: The Early Years,” Gulf Coast Historical Review, Fall 1991

Did you know?

Believe it or not, the City of Mobile has ordinances regarding horse-drawn carriages. Here are four of the more interesting ones:

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Sec. 7-135: Route limitations.
“No horse-drawn carriage may operate, except by express written consent of … the city traffic engineering director on the following streets within the city: Beauregard Street; Broad Street; Dauphin Street, west of Broad Street; Government Street; Springhill Avenue, west of Broad Street; and Water Street.”

Sec. 7-161: Drivers — Minimum qualifications.
“… Be clean in dress and not addicted to drugs or intoxicating liquors. Be a person of good character …”

Sec. 7-168: Carriages not to be used in crimes.
“No horse-drawn carriage shall be used in order to perpetrate a crime.”

Sec. 7-184: Pace.
“Horses shall be walked at a pace not faster than a slow trot, except when traveling through intersections.”

By the Numbers

$2.75 – Cost of a satin-lined hat called “The Railroad,” similar to the one shown above, as advertised by Montgomery Ward & Co. in 1895

33,333 – Foot-pounds of work a horse can do in one minute, which equals one horsepower

1920s – Decade motorized truck usage exceeded horse-driven transportation

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