Tag Archives: Harper Lee

‘Literary Capital of Alabama’: Monroeville as Harper Lee’s Maycomb, Part 2

After my wife and I toured the Monroe County Courthouse (see Part 1) recently, we walked south on Mt. Pleasant Avenue to Oak Street, then east on Oak to Alabama Avenue, then back north to the Old Courthouse.

M-Ville map (3)

An image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Top of the photo is north.

An image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Top of the photo is north.

An image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Right side of the photo is north.

Another image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Right side of the photo is north.

One of several run-down-looking buildings in downtown Monroeville, on east side of Mt. Pleasant Ave.

One of several run-down-looking buildings in downtown Monroeville, on east side of Mt. Pleasant Ave.

Another run-down-looking building in downtown Monroeville, on west side of Mt. Pleasant Ave, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Another run-down-looking building in downtown Monroeville, on west side of Mt. Pleasant Ave, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Coxwell House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Coxwell House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, southwest of Old Courthouse.

View of "Deers Pasture" from Mt. Pleasant Ave. This was an open area Scout and Jem passed through. According to Rabun Williams of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, this has always been a low spot on which there've been no buildings.

View of what the book calls “Deer’s Pasture” on the east side of Mt. Pleasant Ave. The east side of this open area backs up to what would have been the Faulk and Lee lots. According to Rabun Williams of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, this has always been a low spot on which there have been no buildings.

Maxwell/Sawyer/Barnett House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Maxwell/Sawyer/Barnett House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, a couple blocks southwest of Old Courthouse. Along with the Coxwell house above, this house is one of “two blocks of houses … built by the leading families in town,” according to the “Monroeville in the 1930s Walking Tour” pamphlet published by the Monroe County Museum.

Current Monroeville Elementary school, facing Mt. Pleasant Ave. Note air-conditioners in each classroom.

Current Monroeville Elementary school, facing Mt. Pleasant Ave. Note air-conditioners in each classroom.

Facing east on Oak Street from north of school.

Facing east on Oak Street from north of school. To walk this street from the school to the Lee lot would require passing the Boulware (which I heard pronounced “Bo-ware”) house, where lived Alfred “Son” Boulware, Jr., “who, similarly to the character Arthur Radley, lived life as a reclusive shut-in,” according to the “Walking Tour” pamphlet.

School playground along south side of Oak Street.

School playground along south side of Oak Street.

Fence between school playground and Cannon gas station -- former Boulware house.

Fence between school playground and Cannon gas station, the former location of the Boulware house.

Boo Radley's convenience store. This is where the Boulware house stood. Some sources say Alfred "Sonny" Boulware, Jr., was the inspiration for the character Boo Radley.

This is a view of Cannon gas station from the north. Alabama Avenue, which runs due south from the courthouse square, turns southeast at the left side of this picture. This is the lot where the Boulware house stood. Judging from the old photos at the top of this post, the Boulware house faced north and the lot extended to the south and to the west.

View of Mel's Dairy Dream from the south.

View of Mel’s Dairy Dream from the south. This building replaced the Lee house in the early 1950s.”Go Set a Watchman” tells of Jean Louise getting ice cream at a store located where family’s house had been.

Mel's Dairy Dream stands where the Lee house stood on Alabama Ave. I can vouch for the chocolate shakes.

Mel’s Dairy Dream stands where the Lee house stood on Alabama Ave. My wife orders at the window on the left. She said the peach swirl was good; I can vouch for the taste of the chocolate shakes.

This is the view from Mel's Dairy Dream (the former Lee house lot) southwest toward the elementary school.

This is the view from Mel’s Dairy Dream (the former Lee house lot) southwest toward the elementary school.

View south on Alabama Avenue from an image at the Old Courthouse. Caption says the view is dated 1915 and the car is in front of the Lee house.

View south on Alabama Avenue from an image at the Old Courthouse. I read that the view is from about 1915 and the car is to the left of the Lee house. According to the book Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee’s Maycomb, the picket fences were gone by 1939 and sidewalks had been installed by then.

View of Alabama Avenue south from in front of Mel's Dairy Dream.

View of Alabama Avenue south from in front of Mel’s Dairy Dream, location of the former Lee house.

View east across Alabama Ave. from Mel's Dairy Dream (Lee house lot). Across the street during the Lee house era were the Dr. G.C. Watson houseAccording to the book Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee's Maycomb and according to the Walking Tour pamphlet.

View of the Goody’s store east across Alabama Ave. from Mel’s Dairy Dream (Lee house lot). Across the street from the Lee house was the Dr. G.C. Watson house, and Watson’s daughter Gladys Burkett was Harper Lee’s English teacher, according to the museum’s Walking Tour pamphlet. Also across the street lived Maggie Dees, secretary to A.C. Lee, and Velma Dees, who tutored Nelle and Truman, according to the book Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee’s Maycomb.

View north toward neighboring Faulk house from Lee house.

View from Mel’s Dairy Dream (former Lee house) north toward sign marking the neighboring Faulk house. The rock wall was near the old fish pool described in chapter six of To Kill a Mockingbird, according to the book “Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee’s Maycomb” by Monroe County Heritage Museums. The post office is the brick building at what looks like the end of the street. Presumably, if one were to walk from the Lee home to the courthouse, the fastest way would be to walk north on this street, Alabama Avenue.

Marker on Alabama Ave. at location of former Faulk house.

Marker on Alabama Ave. at location of former Faulk house, the next house to the north of what was then the Lee house.

Capote marker at Faulk house and one of many audio-tour signs in Monroeville.

Capote marker at Faulk house and one of many audio-tour signs in Monroeville. This view is from the sidewalk, looking southwest.

A view looking west behind the Trustmark bank. To the left here is the north end of "Deer Pasture"

A couple lots north of the Faulk house is now the Trustmark bank, and this view is looking west on the south side of the bank.To the left here is the north end of “Deer’s Pasture,” and the street to the west is Mt. Pleasant Avenue.

View north along Alabama Ave. Note the Old Courthouse to left of bank sign and brick white house to the right. Temperature was as of 2:55 p.m. 25 June.

View north along Alabama Ave while standing east of the Trustmark Bank. Note the Old Courthouse dome to left of bank sign and brick post office to the right. Temperature was as of 2:55 p.m. 25 June.

View north along Alabama Avenue. Brick

This view is north along Alabama Avenue from the southwest corner of Claiborne Street. The Old Courthouse is just out of the photo to the left, and the new courthouse is visible just behind the van. The brick building on the right side is the post office. The mural of three children hiding and watching the street (see previous post) was directly to my left as I took this picture.

Nelle Harper Lees gr

Two or three blocks east of the courthouse square on Pineville Road is a cemetery where we found a Lee family plot. This plot and many others were outlined in stone. When we visited on 25 June 2016, we found many coins at the headstone of Nelle (not pronounced  “Nellie,” according to her New York Times obituary) Harper Lee. The church steeple in the background is that of the First Baptist Church, but Harper Lee reportedly belonged to the First United Methodist Church, which is just out of the photo on the left side.

A.C. Lee, father of Nelle Harper Lee

Also at this plot, the grave of lawyer A.C. Lee, father of Nelle Harper Lee.

Mother of Nelle Harper Lee

Mother of Nelle Harper Lee. She and her son Edwin both died in 1951.

Brother of Nelle Harper Lee. He and mother Frances Finch Lee both died in 1951. In 1952, A.C. Lee moved from his house on Alabama Avenue.

Brother of Nelle Harper Lee. He died just weeks after his mother Frances Finch Lee both died in 1951. In 1952, A.C. Lee moved from his house on Alabama Avenue.

Older sister of Nelle Harper Lee. She was an attorney who reportedly managed business affairs of Nelle

Older sister of Nelle Harper Lee. She was an attorney who reportedly managed Nelle’s business affairs. A fourth Lee sibling, Louise, was born between Alice and Nelle (I think).

Also at cemetery, family names Deas and Tate, which were used as character names in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Also at cemetery, family names Deas and Tate, which were used as character names in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Leaving Monroeville on Routes 21/47. I was surprised to see how densely wooded much of rural Alabama seems.

Leaving Monroeville on Routes 21/47. I was surprised to see how densely wooded much of rural Alabama was.

Rural house along Route 21/47 northwest of Monroeville

Rural house along Route 21/47 northwest of Monroeville

I believe this is kudzu outgrowing and covering other vegetation along the roadside.

I believe this is kudzu outgrowing and covering other vegetation along the roadside.

More kudzu.

More kudzu, under the trees here.

Along Alabama Route 21/47. Red dirt.

Along Alabama Route 21/47. Red dirt. We say several small roads leading off the highway that seemed to be made only of red dirt rather than of rocks or pavement.

Rural building along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural building along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Kudzu

Kudzu, climbing trees.

Pine Flat Methodist Church and cemetery along Route 10, west of Butler Springs Road.

Pine Flat Methodist Church and cemetery along Route 10, west of Butler Springs Road. It may be hard to see in this picture, but this building seemed to have a foundation of brick piers, and I could see under the building.

Cotton, across the highway from the church in previous photo.

Cotton plants, I think, across the highway from the church in previous photo.

Kudzu at the edge of the church yard.

Kudzu at the edge of the church yard. I’d heard it was amazingly thick vegetation, and so it amazed me.

 

‘Literary Capital of Alabama’: Monroeville as Harper Lee’s Maycomb, Part 1

On the way driving back from our Florida vacation a few days ago, my wife and I got off I-65 to see Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Harper Lee, who seems to have based many of the settings in her book To Kill a Mockingbird on real places in this town. The old Monroe County courthouse has been preserved as a museum and gift shop.

View of Old Courthouse's east side.

View of Old Courthouse’s east side, from Alabama Avenue.

The Harper Lee books I borrowed from my hometown library are at Monroeville!

The Harper Lee books I borrowed from my hometown library are at Monroeville!

Explanation. Sign reads: ...

The sign explains that the Old Courthouse was used from about 1903 until the early 1960s, when the new courthouse was built. This is the building that contains the courtroom used as a model for the court in the book and in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.

View of Old Courthouse's south side. Note the curving walls, presumably matching the courthouse wall's curve.

View of Old Courthouse’s south side. Note the curving walls, presumably matching the courthouse wall’s curve.

South lawn of old courthouse, facing west. The old bank building in which A.C. Lee had a law office is visible.

South lawn of old courthouse, facing west. The old bank building in which A.C. Lee had a law office is visible as the brick two-story with the arched windows.

A sign near statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

A sign near statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

Statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

Statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

A live oak tree on the courthouse square, one of the shade trees described in the book.

A live oak (I think) tree on the courthouse square, one of the shade trees described in the book.

View of Old Courthouse's west side. The little houses are sets for the annual productions of a play of To Kill a Mockingbird put on by local actors.

View of Old Courthouse’s west side. The little houses are sets for the annual productions of a play of To Kill a Mockingbird put on by local actors.

A plaque to Atticus Finch from the Alabama State Bar located at courthouse grounds.

A plaque to fictional Atticus Finch from the Alabama State Bar located at courthouse grounds.

View of the Old Courthouse from a northeast perspective.

View of the Old Courthouse from a northeast perspective. To the right of this picture is the new courthouse.

The new (built in early 1960s) Monroe County courthouse. We were told that, like the old courthouse, there is just one courtroom in this building.

The new (built in early 1960s) Monroe County courthouse. It’s directly north of the Old Courthouse. We were told that, like the old courthouse, there is just one courtroom in this building.

Monroe County

Monroe County, Alabama, in the southwest corner of the state, has the Alabama River as part of its western boundary.

A view of the east side of Alabama Avenue while standing on east side of Old Courthouse. The two-story building was once the millinery shop owned by Truman Capote's Faulk relatives. The brick one-story to the right (south) is the post-office, dating to 1937. According to a book written by Monroe County Heritage Museums, the post office was on the south side of the courthouse square before 1937.

A view of the east side of Alabama Avenue while standing on the east side of Old Courthouse. The two-story building was once the millinery shop owned by Truman Capote’s Faulk relatives. The brick one-story to the right (south) is the post-office, dating to 1937. According to a book written by Monroe County Heritage Museums, the post office was on the south side of the courthouse square before 1937. At far right, there’s a mural of a mockingbird on a car dealership wall.

Mural on east wall of building at southwest corner of Claiborne and Alabama, southeast of courthouse and diagonal from the post office.

Mural on east wall of building at southwest corner of Claiborne St. and Alabama Ave., southeast of courthouse and diagonal from the post office.

Mural of a scene from To Kill a Mockinbird. This is on the west wall of a building south of Old Courthouse, which is at left side of this pic.

Mural of a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. This is along Mt. Pleasant Ave. on the west wall of a building southwest of Old Courthouse, which is at left side of this pic.

View of Mt. Pleasant Avenue, the street on the west side of courthouse, from northwest corner of courthouse square. The building with the slanted roof was the town jail at the time of the book's setting. The building with the two-story facade was the location of the town newspaper at that time. This seems likely to be the model for the scene in the book where Scout and Atticus break up the attempted lynching of Tom Robinson. In an old picture of this building, there is a smaller door, three upstairs windows, and one downstairs window.

View of Mt. Pleasant Avenue, the street on the west side of courthouse, from northwest corner of courthouse square. At the left side of photo is the brick building where A.C. Lee, Harper Lee’s father and the model for Atticus Finch, had his law office. Moving to the right (which is north), the building with the slanted roof was the town jail at the time of the book’s setting. The building in center of photo with the two-story facade was the location of the town newspaper at that time. This seems likely to be the model for the scene in the book where Scout and Atticus break up the attempted lynching of Tom Robinson.

Jail from courthouse lawn looking west. The short building in the middle now is labeled as belonging to Monroe County Sheriff.

Jail from courthouse lawn looking west. The building labeled “RSVP” was once the jail. In an old picture of this building, it had a smaller door, three upstairs windows, and one downstairs window. The short building to the north is now labeled as belonging to Monroe County Sheriff.

View of the courtroom from between judge's bench on right and jury area on left.

View of the courtroom from between judge’s bench on right and jury area on left.

My attorney wife was thrilled to pretend to sit (signs said to not actually sit there) at the judge's bench.

My attorney wife was thrilled to pretend to sit (signs said to not actually sit there) at the judge’s bench. She said she first considered becoming a lawyer after reading Mockingbird, and that visiting this courtroom was as exciting as seeing an original copy of the Constitution would be.

Cowhide-seated jury chairs.

Cowhide-seated jury chairs.

The third-floor balcony from where, in the book, Scout, Jem, Dill, Rev. Sykes, and others watched the trial. While the courtroom seemed to be air-conditioned when we were there, the third-floor landing was not, and it was noticeably warmer than the second-floor courtroom was.

The third-floor balcony from where, in the book, Scout, Jem, Dill, Rev. Sykes, and others watched the trial. While the courtroom seemed to be air-conditioned when we were there, the third-floor landing was not, and it was noticeably warmer than the second-floor courtroom was.

View of the court from the balcony.

View of the court from the balcony.

A note in Nelle Harper Lee's handwriting.

A note in Nelle Harper Lee’s handwriting.

The second floor of museum has a room dedicated to Harper Lee and another to Truman Capote, who were neighbors and childhood friends in Monroeville.

The second floor of museum has a room dedicated to Harper Lee and another to Truman Capote, who were neighbors and childhood friends in Monroeville.

This is a closer-up section of the poster.

This is a closer-up section of the poster.

A piece of the oak tree that was the model for the oak tree near the Radley house in the book.

A piece of the oak tree that was the model for the oak tree near the Radley house in the book.

Soap carvings and pennies, presumably there as examples of those objects mentioned in the book.

Soap carvings and pennies, presumably there as examples of those objects mentioned in the book.

This courthouse room off the central lobby of the first floor is set up as a typical lawyer's office of the 1930s, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.

This courthouse room off the central lobby of the first floor is set up as a typical lawyer’s office of the 1930s, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.

The book mentions that lawyer Atticus had a set of the Code of Alabama in his office. This photo's a bit out of focus, but I loved that the volume titles included "Bastardy."

The book mentions that lawyer Atticus had a set of the Code of Alabama in his office. This photo’s a bit out of focus, but I loved that the volume titles included “Bastardy.”

In the Bird's Nest gift shop, among the postcards, books, and t-shirts, there's a metal tub of old photos. Museum staffer George Jones explained that these photos belonged to a town photographer and local people come in and dig through the photos and buy ones they like for a dollar a piece.

In the Bird’s Nest gift shop, among the postcards, books, and t-shirts, there’s a metal tub of old photos. Museum staffer George Thomas Jones explained that these photos belonged to a town photographer and local people come in and dig through the photos and buy ones they like for a dollar a piece.

"Tequila Mockingbird" is long what "To Kill a Mockingbird" has sounded like -- I'm glad I'm not the only one.

I’ve always thought “To Kill a Mockingbird” sounded like “Tequila Mockingbird” — and so I was glad to learn that someone had made such a cocktail.

See photos, Part 2.