Lying west of the city, the Old Dauphin Way District is part of the Price and Espejo tracts, large Spanish land grants of the early 1800s. Very little development occurred in the area until 1830-1840. From then on frequent listings in Mobile city directories show residents on Spring Hill Road, Spring Hill Shell Road (now Old Shell Road) Dauphin, Common, Ann, Julia, and Lafayette Streets.
Most of the older structures in the district are simple frame cottages which originally housed carpenters, florists, bar pilots, steamboat captains, and commission merchants. Grander houses were also built and can still be seen along Dauphin Street and Spring Hill Avenue. Some street names reflect families who settled the area. For example, Espejo Street was name for Antonio Espejo, recipient of the western land grant by the Spanish crown, and Catherine Street was named for his wife Catalina. Reed Avenue was named for W. A. Reed who lived on that street, and he later subdivided Gladys and Kenneth Streets, which were named for two of his children.
This one block of Common Street between Conti and Dauphin, along with six buildings on Dauphin Street adjacent to Common, were all listed on the National Register in 1982 as the Common Street Historic District. In 1984 this area was absorbed into the Old Dauphin Way Historic District. This unique one-block area has a concentration of residential buildings that create a visual record of the major residential architectural styles seen in the city from the 1850s to the 1940s. Many of the buildings are Victorian cottages from the late 19th-century. Other buildings on the street are vernacular working-class cottages such as the house at 17 Common Street. The houses located at 959 through 1002 Dauphin Street principally date from the mid-19th century, although some underwent major alterations in the Victorian era.
At right, five cottages on Common Street featured on ODWA's Candlelight Home Tour in 2002. From top to bottom: numbers 7 (1901, Queen Anne style) and 9 (1910, Classical Revival); 13 (1874) and 15 (1896, Classical Revival); 16 (1907, Queen Anne)
Towle House, built in 1874, faces South Hallett Street but has an address on Montauk Avenue. It was constructed for Amos Towle, who both lived and operated the Towle Institute, a boys’ school, from the house. This Italianate residence with its bracketed eaves and lacy porch decoration is now operated as a bed and breakfast.