Monroeville’s 1903 courthouse, which once served as the county seat, is home to the Monroe County 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 58th 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 Finch, 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” has been listed in the Top 10 Events for Alabama Tourism.
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 self-guided 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, including the 1903 courthouse museum, the 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 and woodworking.
The Bird’s Nest Gift Shop, inside the Monroe County Heritage Museum, offers a wide selection of items, ranging from books to old-fashioned children’s toys, local artwork, home décor and more. The gift shop has been termed “a destination in itself.”
In 2019, the City of Monroeville will celebrate 120 years since its founding. The Monroe County Public Library will host the State of Alabama Bicentennial exhibit.
Monroeville is a featured stop on the State of Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail, as well as a prominent stop on the Southern Literary Trail. The Alabama Writers Symposium, held each spring in Monroeville, brings writers, scholars and literary tourists to the area. The old courthouse museum hosts daily groups of visitors from all over the United States and the world at large.
Whatever the occasion, a visit to Monroeville is not complete without an extensive tour of the courthouse square area!