These are the Alabama gardens that Coca-Cola built. Originally disguised as a fishing camp.

It was 1917 when Coca-Cola magnate Walter Bellingrath went to his doctor, complaining of a sort of undefined malaise but worried about the national flu epidemic. The doctor told the workaholic he needed to learn how to play. He suggested fishing.

So Bellingrath bought property along the Fowl River about 15 miles southwest of Mobile, Alabama. He built a fishing camp and invited his buddies to spend time with him there. It didn’t take long before they’d get late afternoon visits from Bellingrath’s wife, Bessie.

“And why would Mrs. Bellingrath come down to a fishing camp with no running water, no electricity and no plumbing?” asked Tom McGehee, grandson of that doctor who had advised Bellingrath. McGehee is the museum director at Bellingrath Gardens.

“She was coming down (from Mobile) about five in the afternoon to see if Mr. Bellingrath and his fishing buddies were drinking. She was a teetotaler; he was anything but. And she could never catch him with anything but a brand-new bottle of Coca-Cola.”

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