Old Courthouse Museum, AL
The Monroe County Courthouse dates from 1904 and was the courtroom in which a young Nelle Harper Lee used to watch her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, practice law. She later went on to write the Pulitzer Prize winning novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird”, set in the fictional town of Maycomb, but based on the town in which she grew up. The courtroom was recreated in the 1962 film of the same name starring Gregory Peck. While it wasn’t actually filmed here, the set designer spent time in Monroeville documenting everything, to be able to recreate it in exact detail on set.
Visitors can spend time in the courtroom, which is hugely evocative and while being a fan makes it even more special, it is still a wonderful and fascinating place to visit, even if one has never read the book. Although if you haven’t, do soon! One can sit on the balcony and imagine Scout watching Atticus fight a losing battle for Tom. There is even a replica of the transcript of the case.
The museum also documents Harper Lee’s life from her early childhood and her friendship with Truman Capote who lived next door, through to the writing of the book and her later years. Much of this is in Ms Lee’s own words. A very private individual, she did however grant a number of interviews in the 1960’s, which form the basis for this marvelous exhibition.
There are many exhibits that fans of the book will appreciate including a piece of the tree.
The museum also houses an exhibition about Truman Capote, most known for the non fiction “In Cold Blood’ as well as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While not from Monroeville, Capote spent a lot of his childhood there and the exhibition documents many of the difficult family relations he had throughout his life.
There is also a shop which sells many ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ products, including books and souvenirs, alongside many locally produced items. If you haven’t read it, buy a copy and do so as soon as you can. If you have, treat yourself to a special edition with a ‘unique to Monroeville’ embossed stamp and read it again. And again.
General accessibility information
There is a ramp to access the courthouse at the side of the building. The staff are absolutely wonderful and keen to help in any way they can, including sharing their obvious pride in their two famous residents.
The courtroom is fully accessible with the exception of the balcony. There is a lift upstairs which is large enough for a wheelchair but unfortunately the balcony is up a further flight.
There is plenty of parking including a car park to the right of the building.