My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Saturday, October 8, 2011

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURES - Frascati Park, Mobile, Alabama

Frascati Park, on the western shore of Mobile Bay, was the major attraction for white Mobilians for many years after the end of the Civil War. Henry Nabring, who owned the famed Battle House hotel in Mobile, started the park in 1867. Martin Horst (1830-1878), my great-great-great-grandfather, purchased the park from him and it was Horst who developed it into a major entertainment park.
Advertisement for Frascati
Mobile Register
July 5, 1876

The park was situated at the end of the Old Shell Road. A drive down this beautiful road alone was considered an enjoyable Sunday outing.
"Toll at Frascati" Vintage Postcard
(writing dated 1905)
Frascati had a hotel on the grounds for many years, as well as a restaurant. The park featured light opera, performances by militia drill teams, open air concerts, Labor Day demonstrations and other amusements, and was popular for picnics and other social gatherings. It was also the sight of encampments of the Alabama National Guard. Apparently it appealed more to the upper classes of Mobile society.

In an interview in the Mobile Register in 1977 with then 95-year-old Mrs. John Marston, she remembered Frascati:
 "It was about two acres, most of it along the bay. Mrs. Marston remembers that there were benches, and that summer theatre was presented there. Light opera companies presented the Mikado and similar fare, and that Frascati had an open air restaurant with latticework.
There were swings and seesaws for amusement, as well as something called a 'Flying Jenny,' Mrs. Marston said. 'It had about a 12-foot board hitched to a post in the middle of the board. People would get on each side, and somebody would get in the middle and push. Then when it was going he'd sneak out on all fours." [Mobile Register, July 10, 1977; page 18]
Horst Summer Home at Frascati (built about 1840)
[photograph taken by WPA 1937]

Family Summer Residence (left) & Park Restaurant
 Two story structure now torn down
The Horst summer home, a large frame house put together entirely with wooden pegs, was located on the Frascati grounds facing Mobile Bay. Many happy days were spent there by the family in the summers. Frascati was located at the western end of Franklin Street, at what is now called Choctaw Point.

On July 4, 1876, the date of America's 100th birthday, cities and towns across the country organized and held grand celebrations. Mobile, too, celebrated throughout the city, including a large all day event at Frascati Park. [Read article below]
Centennial Celebration in Mobile
from Mobile Register
July 5, 1876

After Martin Horst's death in 1878 Edward (1858-1901), his second son, managed Frascati. By 1888, the property had been sold to R.C. Kennedy who continued to run it as before.

In June 1882, Oscar Wilde, the famed Irish writer and poet, lectured on 'Decorative Art' at Frascatti's Summer Theatre during his tour through the South, still recovering from the War. In a retrospective published 1978, the Mobile Register recalled the days leading up to his visit:
"In Mobile 96 years ago, June was a hot month especially the last week in June. Mobilians who could do so forsook the nearly 100-degree weather for cooler surroundings while those who remained made the best of it by going, whenever possible, to the bay.
An especially popular spot on the bay was Frascati near Choctaw Point. Here one could enjoy the beach, sip something refreshing at the bar, attend a program at the Summer Theatre, or just lounge under the live oaks swaying in the gentle breezes.
On the last Sunday of the month the crowd of bathers were treated to an additional and very uncommon amusement: two men came onto the beach and, after undressing themselves, entered the water where they frolicked for some 15 minutes. The shocked crowd scattered in all directions. Later, at Recorder's Court, the judge whose notions of proper ways to beat the heat did not include this one fined the men $5 each. All a bit sensational, and later in the week occurred another exhibition that was not much less so." [Mobile Register; August 20, 1978; page 108]

On October 2, 1893, Mobile was hit by the severest storm ever recorded there at the time. Southeast gale winds of 72 miles an hour hit the area and waters from the bay overflowed into downtown. There was a record-breaking rain and many of the cities old live oak trees fell. The storm completely destroyed Frascati and the Old Shell Road. Frascati was not reconstructed.

After the park was destroyed, Monroe Park was opened (where Brookley Field is now located) and it reportedly catered to a "more democratic clientele . . . of middle and working class people".

The entertainment park Mobile's citizens once enjoyed is now part of the industrial area around Mobile's Port Authority property. "Frascati Shops", a railroad car service company, was still using the original 1800's building attached to the right side of the Horst family's summer residence for its tools and equipment, as late as 2009. Alabama Port Authority Bids for the building were announced in 2009 - its fate is currently unknown.


  1. I found your blog while researching the Martin Horst house for my website. I had not expected to find the connection to Frascati. I've known of Frascati my whole life as my great-grandfather, grandfather and uncles worked there. My daddy talks of delivering lunch to his grandfather and learning to swim in the KC Ditch on premises. I became friends with James Watson, the current superintendent, over the last few years and visited the home/office and railroad museum before the moved up river a few years ago.

    I have also attended many functions at the Horst House, aka Moon Gate because of its spectacular round wrought iron gate. I've claimed for many years that the Horst Carriage House is my favorite building in all of Mobile.

    I have a few pictures of Frascati on my website from when it was the original Country Club of Mobile. Check them out at

  2. Recently on one of my frequent visits to Mobile (I was born and grew up there) I visited Frascati and observed with some anguish that there is nothing whatever left of it except the land. It has been laid waste and barren by the State Docks. What was once the Frascati Yard of the GM&O Railroad (itself defunct) is now a hostile field of rockachaws. In my lifetime, extending from the first half of the 20th Century to the present, Frascati was never an attractive place. Perhaps a vacant area of land could be seen as being better than one immersed in decay and urban industrial blight. You decide.

    1. About the time this post was made (2014) I was driving around the old Frascati yard area and noticed a complex set of low rail trestles over the creek that comes through there. There were about 6 or 7 trestles very close together...all that remained of the rail yard. I think they probably ed to the turn-table. About 2 weeks later I returned with my camera (with heavy boots on due to the rough terrain) to capture this unique scene. Much to my dismay, it had all been bulldozed into a pile of rubble! Missed opportunity...

  3. My great uncle is the RC Kennedy who bought Frascati is 1888. It was fun to read your blog. Thanks. Sue