I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
Garden Lovers Delight
Bellingrath Gardens is located on the Fowl River in Theodore, Alabama, just off of Mobile Bay, which connects with the Gulf of Mexico. The address is 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Rd, Theodore, AL 36582. Pictures will be shared with readers of this post as well as videos showcasing this unsurpassed beauty in the southeastern part of the United States.
My mother, niece, and I were traveling to Florida from Houston in the year 1986 and decided to detour slightly off of our path to take in the renowned gardens and home. It was not much of a detour since it is only about 25 minutes south of Mobile, and we had planned to spend the night in Mobile anyway.
We had heard of the stunning beauty from my grandparents, who had traveled extensively in the United States. Assuredly the detour was well worth it!
Walter Bellingrath was the President of the Coca Cola bottling plant in Mobile, Alabama, after he and his brother William secured the franchises to do the bottling in Montgomery as well as in Mobile. Mr. Bellingrath chose to operate the plant in Mobile.
Bessie Mae Morse was a stenographer at the Mobile Coca Cola bottling plant and became Walter Bellingrath's wife.
In addition to the Coca Cola enterprise, Walter Bellingrath was a founding partner in the Waterman Steamship Company in 1919 and went on to acquire the National Mosaic Tile Company located in Mobile in 1920. He was entrepreneurial and very successful financially.
He originally purchased this land in 1917 as a fishing camp for recreational purposes for himself and his buddies.
Architect George B. Rogers
The architect who built the home in which the Bellingrath's had chosen to reside in Mobile, Alabama, was George B. Rogers. They liked his designs and enlisted his help later in developing the gardens at that address of 60 South Ann Street.
When they decided to have a home built on their fishing camp location called "Belle Camp," they chose George B. Rogers to help them with that project of both the residence and the gardens.
The Bellingrath second home construction took place between 1935 and 1936, and great use of recyclable materials was utilized. The architect saw the beauty and utility in using bricks, flagstone, and even ironwork from other sources. The result is a gorgeous 15-room home that overlooks the Fowl River. The landscaped gardens with land and water features seem to mesh perfectly into this great tapestry of design.
Azalea Trail and Beyond
The Bellingraths allowed people to tour their home gardens in Mobile when the first Azalea Trail happened. But what drew even greater interest was when their gardens at Belle Camp opened for the occasion of the Alabama Federation of Women's Clubs annual meeting in 1932.
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The renamed Bellingrath Gardens has never closed since that date when droves of people first visited those gloriously designed garden sites. Naturally, the word spread and those 65 acres (26 hectares) have been visited by countless individuals ever since April of 1932 when it first opened to the public. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Open every day except for Christmas be sure to tour the home and chapel in addition to the gardens. Fine antiques decorate the house. The Bellingraths had amassed an extensive porcelain collection over the years, which includes porcelain from the finest makers.
Each season of the year showcases something special in the Bellingrath Gardens. These year-round gardens are beautiful no matter what season one may visit them. My mother, niece and I saw them in August.
In the winter, one can count on seeing vast amounts of camellias in bloom. Azaleas, some 250,000 of them, fill the gardens with their particular kind of beauty in the spring. Roses of every type and color highlight the gardens in the summertime. Chrysanthemums rule the days of the fall and holiday lights fill the Christmas season with sparkle and an extra air of festivity.
Numerous other plants artfully dot the grounds adding to the enjoyment of the gardens in each season of the year.
Types of Gardens
There are distinct forms of gardens that are on view while strolling the extensive grounds at Bellingrath Gardens. They include the following:
- Mirror Lake aptly named due to the reflections of the sky, clouds, and surrounding landscaping.
- Oriental - American Gardens
- Rose Garden
- Formal Gardens
- Butterfly Garden
- Great Lawn
Also to be enjoyed is a conservatory on the grounds which houses tropical plants and other specimens.
The gardens at Bellingrath extend down to the water, and the walkway along the Fowl River is pleasant. The breeze coming off the water gave us a little respite from the heat on the day of our visit. How delightful it would be to sit on that covered area of the pier merely enjoying the river views for a while.
45-minute river cruises can be arranged from February to November if one chooses.
Bellingrath Morse Foundation
Bessie Bellingrath preceded Walter Bellingrath in death. Before his last days on earth, Mr. Bellingrath graciously saw to the establishment of a foundation to care for their beloved home and gardens so that the public could enjoy these grounds in perpetuity. He did this in honor of his beloved wife.
If you wish to see a site of unsurpassed beauty near Mobile Bay, make it a point to visit the spectacular Bellingrath home and gardens if you find yourself anywhere near the southeastern part of the United States. Be sure to take your camera! You will want to capture pictures of your own making.
For ticket prices, hours of operation, and more information, click on the links at the bottom of this page.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Peggy Woods