Scouting Monroeville, Alabama

My hometown of Castleberry, Alabama. This beautiful picture was taken by Amber Hartley in April 2013.
My hometown of Castleberry, Alabama. This beautiful picture was taken by Amber Hartley in April 2013.

Maycomb Always Looked Like Home... Now I Know Why!

When I first watched the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, it seemed so familiar - it felt just like home. No wonder. Harper Lee based her fictional town of Maycomb in her Pulitzer Prize winning novel on her hometown of Monroeville. I grew up just 30 miles from Monroeville, Alabama, in a similar sleepy Southern town.

I had no idea that the world famous author of a beloved American novel lived just 30 miles away from me or that she based her novel on a town that I only visited for the Vanity Fair Outlet. You'd think that my high school literature teacher would have organized a field trip or at least mentioned this fact. However, if you think that then you are giving much too much credit to the state of Alabama's education system in rural areas during the 1970s and 80's.

Sometime during my college education I learned of Monroeville's claim to fame, which meant I had to watch the movie and read the book all over again. Hearing of my interest, my sister-in-law, who worked in a bank that Harper Lee used, asked her to autograph a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird for us, which my husband and I cherish to this day.

The foyer of Radley's Fountain, a restaurant in Monroeville.
The foyer of Radley's Fountain, a restaurant in Monroeville.

Don't Expect Maycomb When You Visit

Of course, Monroeville doesn't look like a small town from the mid 1900s and why was I expecting it? The area around the courthouse museum is still charming and the courthouse alone is worth the trip.

While googling Monroeville, I found a blog titled "When the 1940s is All a Town Has" by a Monroeville native that I thought gave an interesting perspective on the book and the town.

We had lunch at Radley's Fountain. Two ladies seemed to be doing all the work - I don't know how they seated, cooked, served and ran the cash register with such efficiency, but they did so, smiling and gracious.

My Cousin is Atticus Finch? What?

So now you know I didn't know Harper Lee grew up near me and I didn't know Maycomb was based on a nearby town of Monroeville. I'm blaming that on my substandard high school education. However, my cousin stars as Atticus Finch in Monroeville's annual play and I didn't know that either! I found out by seeing his picture during our visit to the old courthouse. I don't know what to blame that on. I hear on Comedy Central that everyone in Alabama is kin to everyone else since we are all marrying our siblings, so perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on myself. With that many cousins, it would be extremely hard to keep up with all of them.

The yearly play is held by the Mockingbird Players in late April and runs into May. People come from all over to attend the play and I can't wait to see it. Click here for more information.

There's my handsome cousin Everette Price as Atticus Finch courthouse museum exhibit about Monroeville's annual production of To Kill a Mockingbird.
There's my handsome cousin Everette Price as Atticus Finch courthouse museum exhibit about Monroeville's annual production of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Set designers meticulously copied this courthouse for the movie, making it one of America's most recognized courthouses.
Set designers meticulously copied this courthouse for the movie, making it one of America's most recognized courthouses.
The beautiful first floor of the Old Courthouse Museum.
The beautiful first floor of the Old Courthouse Museum.

The Old Courthouse Museum - Why Your Trip is Worth It

When the movie was being made, set designers came to Monroeville and measured, photographed and sketched the courthouse in meticulous detail. They reproduced the courthouse on the movie set. This courthouse is one of, or maybe the most, recognized courthouses in America.

The courthouse that was in use when Harper Lee grew up is now the site of the Old Courthouse Museum. At first glance, it is vaguely interesting. Go inside. The woodwork and the arches over the doors are so very beautiful -- and that's just the first floor. The gift shop has photographs signed by Mary Badham (Scout) for sale. When you are on the second floor balcony, look up at the detail on the ceiling. The rooms are full of interesting information and items. Don't miss the Truman Capote room.


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