To Kill a Mockingbird Courthouse
We had a perfect top-down Saturday for our trip to Monroeville. Jess and Melena Nicholas organized this trip to Jess’ hometown for us to tour the Monroe County Courthouse that was the inspiration for, and later immortalized in, Harper Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird. We met and visited at Sinclair’s on Fairview Avenue between 8:00 and 8:20. Andy came in his TR6 to see us off but couldn’t make the trip with us this time. Jess gave us a overview of our route then led us out Narrow Lane Road, to US 80 W, then to AL 41 S on our two-hour trip. Our ten-car caravan stopped in Camden for a rest stop to stretch and top off with petrol. Once back on the road, we were treated to some really good driving over and around some hills that have no business being on a coastal plain. A few of our folks opted to travel on the Interstate or, as was the case for Lee & Mary Ann, a more direct route across AL 84 from their home in Daleville. The six British cars were two Jaguars, three MINIs, the Big Healey, followed by a couple of German cars and the domestics.
We all arrived at the courthouse right around 11:00 and began the self-guided tour of the beautifully restored and maintained building that now serves as a museum as well as the setting for the annual productions of TKAM each May. We enjoyed posing in Judge Taylor’s chair, the jury box, witness stand, and standing in the place where Scout, Jem, and Rev. Sykes stood as Atticus passed after the trial. One of the exhibits was part of the hollow tree where Boo left gifts for Scout & Jem.
After an hour of touring the courthouse, we adjourned to the beautiful home of Jess’ childhood just south of town, where his mother, Betty, had graciously arranged to have lunch for the 27 people who made the trip.
Betty worked with noted architect E. Keith McPheeters, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, and former dean of the School of Architecture and Fine Arts at Auburn University to design the home. It won a Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. Betty has tastefully appointed it with many works of art and tapestry.
BMC members chose their own route home. We, with Bobby and Brandon close behind, enjoyed AL 21 through sparsely populated areas, passing through the communities of Beatrice, Oak Hill, Braggs, Mt. Willing, and Hayneville before reaching US 80 just west of Dannelly Field.
Special thanks to Jess and his mother, Betty Nicholas, for making this a very memorable trip.
Here are Jess’ itinerary and directions:
Here is the route from Montgomery to Monroeville for our May trip. Montgomery-area folks will meet at the Capri Theater in Montgomery at around 8-8:15 a.m. on Saturday, May 19. We will roll wheels at 8:30 a.m. Those wishing to meet us en route may do so. I am not familiar with U.S. 80 between Montgomery and Selma, so I am open to suggestions as to where to meet vehicles coming from that area.
This is the “scenic route,” traveling along a very fun road to drive (Alabama 41).
1. Leave the Capri and take Fairview Avenue to Interstate 65 South.
2. Take Exit 167 (U.S. 80 West) towards Selma.
3. Turn left onto Dallas County Road 67 (this is the turn to get to Craig Field from U.S. 80).
4. The road will fork. Take the right fork onto Dallas County Road 145.
5. Turn left onto Alabama Highway 41 South.
6. Drive to the following address: 31 North Alabama Avenue in Monroeville. This is the address for the courthouse museum.
Various map programs show this route traversing 117 miles and taking 2 hours, 15 minutes driving near the speed limit. I believe it’s reasonable to make it to Monroeville in our cars in about 2 hours, 45 minutes at the most. We will arrive in Monroeville at approximately 11:15 a.m.
Once arriving in Monroeville, we will go straight to the courthouse museum. It is free to tour. The courthouse and museum is situated on the downtown square, which is all one-way traffic and can be a bit confusing to navigate if you’re not familiar with the area. There is no set parking area, but there are spaces on the square close to the courthouse and the area is very safe.
I figure we’ll spend about an hour at the courthouse before heading to Betty Nicholas’ house for a catered lunch. There will be no expense for club members or your guests. The home is roughly 15 minutes from the courthouse via surface streets. We will arrive there at approximately 12:30 p.m. Lunch will be prepared by Radley’s Fountain Grille.
For the return trip, you can either choose to make the same drive back, you can return on Alabama Highways 21 and 10 through Greenville, or you may take U.S. 84 out of Monroeville to I-65 at Exit 93. This is the shortest and quickest route, but not very scenic, and involves going through the notorious speed trap of Repton. Returning on this route shaves 10 miles off the total trip and can be covered in about 1 hour, 50 minutes driving near the speed limit. If you leave directly from Betty Nicholas’ house, you will be very close to the U.S. 84 route.
The Nicholas home holds some interest for fans of modern architecture. Codesigned by Mrs. Nicholas and the late E. Keith McPheeters, the former chair of Auburn University’s architecture department, it is a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, prairie-style home (McPheeters studied under Wright) and has been featured in Southern Living Magazine (there’s a tree growing in the middle of the home). There is copious parking at the Nicholas home and the home is secluded away from public streets.
You are welcome to stay at the Nicholas home that day as long as you care to.
For those wishing to shop or see other sights in Monroeville, one of the most popular is the Vanity Fair Outlet. Expect prices on various Vanity Fair labels to be about half of what you would pay for them at a mall. There are also several small shops on the courthouse square.
We hope you can attend and look forward to hosting you at our home.
The next week, treasurer, Andy Martin, received this lovely note from Betty Nicholas:
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