Settled since 1874, Daphne, also known as the Jubilee City, has retained a lot of its history in its traditions, culture, and of course, its buildings. Walking through the streets of Olde Towne Daphne, you’ll come across many historic structures that take you back in time to the first few decades of what would become the bustling town of Daphne.

When exploring these buildings, it’s always good to know some of the history behind them and why they’ve remained so important over 100 years later. In this post, we delve into the stories of some of the landmark historic buildings in Olde Town Daphne.

Howard Hotel

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Perhaps the most famous and well-preserved historic building in Daphne, the Howard Hotel has now been converted into the administration building for the Bayside Academy. Yet, it retains its beautifully designed turn-of-the-century features and facade.

As trade and travel picked up in Mobile Bay in the early 19th century and the bay’s ports increasingly became a popular stop for steamer ships, Daphne experienced rapid growth. Built in 1833, the two-story Howard Hotel was originally meant to accommodate the influx of visitors arriving by boat to the Daphne area.

The proprietors of the hotel, the Howards, were known as Uncle Billy and Aunt Betty locally. They were respected and prominent citizens of the area who took pride in treating their guests like family and offering them the best hospitality and entertainment in town. Traveling musicians came by the Howard Hotel to play for its guests, and many New Orleans mainstays spent their summer entertaining here as well.

The hotel went through rough times when the plague swept through town, followed soon thereafter by the battles of the Civil War. In 1864, during the Battle of Mobile Bay, cannonballs breached the walls of the hotel.

Shortly after the battle, the Howards’ descendants, William L. Howard and his wife Elizabeth, helped set up the town of Daphne, even giving the area its name. To properly set up a post office, a town name was needed on the application, and at the time there were many different communities in the area. Elizabeth was very fond of the laurel trees that grew in the area, which were also known as “daphnes,” so she decided to name the town Daphne after this beautiful natural creation.

William ended up receiving a lot of the local mail, which was dropped off by incoming steamers at the time, so in 1874 he became the town’s first postmaster, helping further connect Daphne with the rest of the country.

Little Bethel Baptist Church and Cemetery

Religion has always been an important institution in our area, and the careful preservation of Little Bethel Baptist Church and Cemetery reflects this tradition. Located at 1902 Main St., the Little Bethel Baptist Church and Cemetery contains the graves of many of the town’s old residents, including over 200 unmarked graves tied to the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the U.S.

As one can see on the historical marker outside the church, the land was given on April 15, 1867, by Major Lewis Starke to four people he had previously enslaved who were now free: Nimrod Lovett, Stamford Starlin, Narcis Elwa, and Benjamin Franklin.

One of the most famous residents of the Little Bethel Cemetery is Russell Dick, the son of a woman named Lucy, who was on that last voyage on the Clotilda. Dick ended up a free man, locally remembered as “an outstanding and industrious citizen who acquired much land in the area and once owned all the downtown of Daphne.”

The town was officially founded years after the church was established, so Little Bethel has actually been here longer than the incorporated town of Daphne itself. The church continues to be in use today, and you can drop in or walk through its historic cemetery to get a feel for Daphne in the first days of its inception.

Daphne Old Methodist Church Museum

This building is worth stopping to see because not only is it a historic landmark as the second oldest surviving church in Baldwin County, but it has now been converted into the Daphne History Museum. If you really want to go back in time and explore the foundations and old stories of the town, there’s no better place than the Daphne Old Methodist Church Museum.

The church was originally founded in 1858 and served as a local congregation for Daphne residents. It was built by L.E. Edmondson and Isaac Alexander, who handmade the pegs still holding the building’s framework together today, on land donated by William L. Howard. In 2001, it was designated as a museum and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is located at 405 Dryer Ave. and is open on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Once you enter the museum, you’ll see antique tools and contraptions from the old Daphne farming days, as well as historic black-and-white photos published in The Daphne Times over the years. Vintage May Day dresses are on display as well, giving guests an idea of what residents wore decades ago when out and about during town celebrations.

Though the building does not currently function as a church, it still houses the original pews and original chandelier of the church, which has now been converted to electricity. Exit the museum and walk out to the serene, shady cemetery to observe the historical grave markers scattered all around the area. The oldest marked grave here dates back to 1847.

Here at Tameron Buick GMC, we love to explore Daphne’s culture and historic buildings and remember how the town was founded, formed, and developed over the years. If there’s a historic landmark in the area you love that isn’t listed here, contact us at Tameron Buick GMC to let us know. We would love to include it in a future list.


Courthouse 1898 Daphne by smwbcal is licensed with Public Domain Mark 1.0
 
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