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History and Culture

Current-day Monroeville was once the home of the Creek Indians, where the land was clashed over by France, Spain and England. In 1815, the Creek Indians surrendered the land at the Treaty of Fort Jackson and the county was created by proclamation of the governor of the Mississippi Territory. The county was once about one-third of the size of present-day Alabama and is often referred to as the “Mother County.”

Monroeville, named Monroe County’s seat of government in 1832, was incorporated in 1899. Both Monroeville and Monroe County were named in honor of U.S. President James Monroe.

While visiting Monroeville, make sure to partake in a historic walking tour or participate in the town’s 10 K Volkswalk sponsored by the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce. Visitors can access a guided walking tour by contacting the Chamber.

Famous historic sites throughout the county not to be missed include the Masonic Hall at Perdue Hill (circa 1823 and visited by the Marquis De Lafayette), Burnt Corn (the site of the outbreak of the Creek Indian War of 1814), Rikard’s Mill (a restored gristmill and park north of Beatrice) and the Alabama River Museum on the Alabama River (the only river museum in the state and featuring many Native American artifacts), open by appointment only.

Monroe County Heritage Museum – The Main Attraction!

Monroeville’s 1903 courthouse, which once served as the county seat, is home to the Monroe County Heritage Museum. The building was lovingly restored in a grassroots effort beginning in 1989 and concluding in 2002. The museum today features permanent exhibits dedicated to Monroeville writers Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Capote, who were childhood companions. The museum annually attracts over 30,000 visitors, more than the county’s population.

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird was published July 11, 1960. Its publication put Monroeville on the map. for literary tourists; the novel, now in its 56th year of publication continues to draw visitors to Monroeville from all over the world.

The film version of To Kill A Mockingbird debuted in 1962, and won a best-actor Oscar for Gregory Peck, who portrayed Atticus, and an adapted screenplay award for Horton Foote.

Christopher Sergel’s ever popular theatrical version followed, and has been a springtime tradition at Monroeville’s historic courthouse since 1991. Enacted by a volunteer cast, The Mockingbird Players, and set in the Otha Lee Biggs Amphitheater, on the west side of the courthouse square, (Act 1) and upstairs in the historic courtroom (Act 2), the production annually plays to sold out audiences. The 25th Production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” was listed in the Top 10 Events for Alabama Tourism for 2014.

A whole industry has grown up around Monroeville’s role as “Literary Capital of Alabama,” a title bestowed in 1997 by official declaration of the Alabama Legislature.

There are two walking tours of the downtown area; one narrated with signage that relates a history of homes and structures in the downtown historic district. In 2009, over 400 structures in Monroeville’s historic downtown were designated by The National Park Service as worthy of designation on “The National Register of Historic Places.” These include the 1903 museum, the U.S. Post Office and many other commercial and residential structures.

Businesses throughout the downtown maintain a “main street” flavor. In 2014, Monroeville became a certified Alabama Main Street community, and hired its first Main Street director, currently sharing office space with the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce. Artists and entrepreneurs in the Monroeville Main Street district offer unique items for sale, such as original artwork, pottery, quilts, handpainted ceramics, embroidered items, furniture, woodworking and more. The Bird’s Nest Gift Shop, inside the Monroe County Heritage Museum, offers a wide selection of items, ranging from Rikards Mill grits and cornmeal, to old fashioned childrens toys, artwork, hand towels and more. The gift shop has been termed “a destination in itself.”

On July 14, 2015, Monroeville and the release of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman was the No. 2 news story in the country, second only to the discovery of ice on the planet Pluto. Monroeville was the center of attention for the national and international press as numerous news organizations descended on the town for several days, and the Monroe County Public Library became a center for visiting members of the press. The Chamber of Commerce hosted walking tours based on Go Set A Watchman, while the Monroe County Heritage Museum hosted a big read of the book, themed around the older Scout’s visit to her hometown from New York set in the 1950s. Ol Curiosities and Books held a midnight launch party for sales of the book, which was attended by several hundred people. The town known as the “Literary Capital” added another notch to its literary belt, thanks to its most famous citizen, Nelle Harper Lee. Signs posted around town proclaimed, “Thank you, Miss Lee” and “Can’t Wait to Read Watchman.” The release of the book spurred a new wave of tourism for the town and its businesses.

Whaever the occasion, a visit to Monroeville is not complete without an extensive tour of the courthouse square area!

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