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T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 238 These are all questions to be answered in future books. For the present, all readers should be grateful to Professor Pace for reopening in graceful and lucid fashion an important and fascinating element of the history of higher education in the South. THOMAS G. DYER University of Georgia An Ornament to the City: Old Mobile Ironwork. By John S. Sledge. Photography by Sheila Hagler. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006. xv, 109 pp. $34.95. ISBN 0-8203-2700-X. For many years the city of Mobile exhibited a distinctive architectural style that charmed visitors and residents alike. The popularity of ornamental ironwork in the middle-to-late nineteenth century ranked among the city’s most visible and aesthetically pleasing characteristics . An Ornament to the City documents the history of the city’s decorative ironwork from the 1850s through the present. Through text and photographs the book explains the evolution of iron as a decorative form and the vulnerability of iron to changing times and tastes. The text—authored by John S. Sledge—traces the history of Mobile’s ornamental ironwork from its origins in the antebellum period through the preservation movement of the twentieth century. This overview outlines general trends in style, form, and function as the use of ornamental iron peaked in post–Civil War Mobile. Sledge’s description of nineteenth-century manufacturing techniques and the Mobile foundry business is useful but non-technical. His account of the marketing of iron wares in Mobile links the city and its factors directly to Robert Wood of Philadelphia—the founder of American ornamental iron. Sledge also chronicles the disappearance of Mobile’s iron in the brisk World War II–era scrap market. Much of the city’s decorative iron vanished during the 1930s and 1940s, with even greater destruction wrought by urban renewal in later decades. Sledge credits the destruction, however, with the birth of a healthy preservation movement in Mobile. He concludes that Mobile’s re- J U L Y 2 0 0 8 239 maining decorative iron constitutes a valuable resource that will help retain the city’s distinctive cultural characteristics and also attract tourist dollars. Ornament to the City derives its greatest strength through the liberal use of photographs that focus attention directly on the ironwork. Historical photos are interspersed with modern images taken by Sheila Hagler. The historical photos document the heyday of ornamental iron in Mobile while the new images connect the city’s present to its cultural roots. The Hagler photos deserve special note for their composition, lighting, and artistic appeal. Some of her images focus on the motifs that helped characterize individual castings—see, for example, the veranda photos of the Richards House (pp. 38–39). Other studies—notably the Le Clerk Hotel (p. 86)—illustrate the juxtaposition of old and new South in contemporary Mobile. In either case, the photographs ably connect the book to the ironwork. The book makes two useful contributions to the study of Alabama and southern architecture. Ornament to the City provides a quick primer on the basic styles that were common to nineteenth-century ornamental iron. The book will also serve as a historical document in its own right for many years to come; it effectively preserves the remnants of Mobile’s decorative ironwork in photographic form. Given the destruction of so much of the city’s distinctive architectural past, this accomplishment may prove even more significant as the years pass and more ironwork succumbs to the elements and the torch. An Ornament to the City should appeal to a wide range of readers. Architectural historians and enthusiasts will find the study a useful reference and a good companion to existing studies of southern architecture . The story of Mobile’s historic preservation movement will resonate with preservationists and public historians. Local historians will appreciate the focus on a neglected aspect of the port city’s architectural past. EDWIN L. COMBS III Mississippi University for Women ...


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