Bon Secour, AL
Summerdale, AL - Events of Saturday, Nov. 26 to Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
Bon Secour is a small town about 15 miles south of where we were staying in Summerdale. It lies on Bon Secour Bay, which is located along the southeastern edge of Mobile Bay.
Bon Secour was started as a Creole fishing village in the 1800s. The name means "good security" in French, which refers to the fact it was considered to be a safe harbor because it is located inside the mouth of Mobile Bay. The mouth of the bay was also guarded by Fort Morgan, which was completed in the 1830s to help defend the shore line of the fledgling United States following the War of 1812 with Great Britain. We visited Fort Morgan when we were in the area last November. Click here to read about that visit.
The main thing we wanted to see in Bon Secour was the Swift-Coles House, which is a mansion built along the Bon Secour River in the late 1800s. The mansion is normally only open on Tuesdays and Fridays, but they were having special hours on Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving for their Christmas open house. We thought about going then, but there was an extra charge for admission during the open house because there were refreshments. We decided we didn't need the refreshments or the crowds of the open house, so we waited until the following Tuesday. It's just as well because Saturday was cloudy and windy, then the heavens opened up and it rained over two inches from Saturday night right through Sunday. The photo below is a view of the lake outside our motor home on Sunday.
As we mentioned previously, the soil in this area is sandy so it doesn't get very muddy, and most of the water had soaked in by Monday morning.
The rain came through ahead of a cold front, and it was cloudy, cool and windy on Monday. Tuesday was still cool and breezy, but at least the sun came out for our visit to Bon Secour. The photo below shows the entrance to the Swift-Coles House...
...and the next photo shows Paul on the porch.
The Swift-Coles House was originally built as a 4-room, dog-trot fishing cabin around 1882. A dog-trot cabin is two small cabins separated by a breezeway (where the dogs tended to hang out in hot weather) all under one roof.
Charles A. Swift, who owned lumber mills in the area including one near the cabin, bought the cabin around the turn of the century and moved in with his wife and 9 children. They enclosed the breezeway of the dog trot and added on several rooms behind the original cabin. Around 1908, they added a second story. By this time, there were 11 children. The mansion ended up having 16 rooms with an area of about 6,000 square feet. There are also over 3,000 square feet of porches surrounding the house. The next photo shows another view of the sprawling mansion and some of the porches. The original dog trot cabin is the ground floor portion of the wing that juts out to the right.
And the photo below shows the side entrance, which is the enclosed breezeway of the original cabin.
Descendants of the Swift family occupied the house until 1976 when Nick Coles, a restaurant owner and antique collector from Gulf Shores, bought the house. Coles performed extensive renovations and furnished the house from his collection of antiques. Nick Coles willed the mansion to Baldwin County when he died, and the house is now operated as a museum.
There is a guided tour of the entire house, but unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside so we can't show you any of the rooms or furnishings. However, if you click the link above to the Swift-Coles House, there are several good photos of the interior on the web site.
After touring the house, visitors are free to walk the grounds. There was an old barn and an out building behind the main house. They were a little run down, but they had a lot of character. What stories could they tell if they could talk?
The Swift-Coles House is located on the Bon Secour River near the point where the river empties into Bon Secour Bay. Ferries bringing Mobile residents to their summer homes in Bon Secour used to dock near the Swift-Coles House. The next photo is a view up the Bon Secour River from an area near the mansion.
It was a little chilly and breezy, so we didn't walk around the grounds long. Bon Secour is the home of several seafood packing companies, so another thing we wanted to do was to see if we could find some fresh seafood to take back to the motor home with us. We had gotten a tip from some of the other visitors on the tour who were familiar with the area that Billy's Seafood was a good place to get shrimp, so we hopped into the car and drove down the road to Billy's. On the way, we passed fishing boats tied up in the river.
We passed several other seafood places, and we soon arrived at Billy's at the end of the road.
They had a nice selection of different size shrimp at reasonable prices.
We picked out relatively large ones to sauté for dinner that night and some slightly smaller ones to freeze for shrimp au gratin at a later date.
After we bought our shrimp, we put it into the cooler in the car and walked back to the docks behind Billy's. The shrimp boat in the next photo was apparently preparing to head out into the Gulf because they were taking ice on board.
From the dock, we headed back to the motor home. We had some of the shrimp for dinner that evening, and they were outstanding! They were some of the best we've had. They were so good we went back the next day to get some more.
The cool air that moved in after the rain the weekend before was a reminder it is time to continue making our way south. We have a few errands to run over the next couple of days here in Summerdale, then we'll be off to Florida.