American Village

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American Village is a village-scaled interpretive museum built as a recreated colonial-era town located on a 187-acre site on Highway 119 in Montevallo, Alabama. It can also be reached by accessing Exit 234 off I-65 in Shelby County. The village is owned and managed by the American Village Citizenship Trust, which was chartered in 1995 as a public educational institution by the state legislature. The trust's mission is " to strengthen and renew the foundations of American liberty and self-government through citizenship education."

The village, which officially serves as the trust's "campus", was opened to great acclaim on November 30, 1999. Initially it welcomed mainly school groups from around the region. After a 2005 expansion the village expanded to include more general tourism, conferences, and other public and private events. School groups, private groups, and individual visitors encounter and interact with costumed historical interpreters from the American Revolutionary era including George and Martha Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, Eliza Hamilton, and others.

Each Independence Day on July 4th the Village hosts a patriotic celebration with massive fireworks, costumed historical interpreters, special events like the Independence Ball, The battle at Concord Bridge, and the infamous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

American Village's founder and executive director is Thomas G. Walker. He began lobbying for its creation in 1993, with preliminary legislation to create the Citizenship Trust sponsored by Frank Ellis Jr and Tom Butler in the Alabama Senate and Al Knight in the House. Construction funds from lodging taxes were earmarked for village construction by a separate measure sponsored by Rep. Johnny Curry in 1998. Butler served as chair of the board of trustees at the time of the opening in 1999.

In 2004 American Village was named "Attraction of the Year" by the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel. Later that year a site adjacent to the village first came under consideration for the Alabama National Cemetery which opened in 2009.

The village architect is Mike Hamrick, who researched the plans and details of the structures on which American Village's buildings are patterned.

American Village in 2010

Facilities

  • A new 11,000 square-foot "Visitor's Center", was completed in 2009 with banqueting facilities, including a replica of the White House East Room.
  • An older visitor's center includes the Estes Family Visitors Orientation Theatre, a gift shop, and meeting and conference facilities.
  • "Constitution Green" is the open centerpiece of the village, hosting a variety of themed activities and historical characters.
  • "Washington Hall", patterned after Mount Vernon, Washington's Virginia estate. Washington Hall dominates the primary axis of Constitution Green. Adjacent to the Hall is the "Southern Living Colonial Garden" with changing botanical displays.
  • The "James B. and Sylvia S. Braswell President's House" is a recreation of the presidential residence in Philadelphia which was used from 1790 to 1800 by both George Washington and John Adams. It was built with the support of Southern Living and served as that magazine's "Showcase House" and today serves as the Administrative offices of the Village.
  • "Colonial Courthouse", patterned after the 1770 Williamsburg Courthouse which hosted the Virginia Convention. Presentations on that convention and on the colonial-era legal system are given in the courthouse.
  • The "White House Oval Office" is a full-scale reproduction of the modern President's office.
  • Three tradesmen's buildings.
  • A "Continental Army encampment" showcasing the revolutionary army under General Washington.
  • "Founders Hall", which is used for historical interpretative programming.
  • The "Old Meeting House", with space for private meetings and historical interpretive programming.
  • "Colonial Chapel", constructed with private funds and is used for historical interpretative programming and appropriate special programs at Christmas, Memorial Day, and other special events.
  • The "American Village Barn Theatre", a barn-shaped venue for live performances, private events, and historical interpretative programming.
  • Offices of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, a collaborative research center formerly based in Northport, Alabama.
  • A pedestrian-scale replica of the Old North Bridge of Concord, Massachusetts, site of the first shots in the Revolutionary War, spans a medium sized lake with a statue of "The Embattled Farmer" on the far side of the bridge.
  • The National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor is located in a building patterned after Philadelphia's "Carpenters Hall" and its exhibits honor the service and sacrifice of the American serviceman and servicewoman from every generation.
  • The Pettus Randall Miniature Museum of American History features a collection of figurines of all American Presidents and First Ladies among its exhibits.
  • The "Rotunda" building which evokes Thomas Jefferson's Monticello serves as both a classroom space and is available for rental for private events.

Developments

In June 2009 American Village was awarded $406,918 in federal stimulus money to fund irrigation and landscaping work, primarily along a buffer area between Highway 119 and the attraction. Shelby County applied for the funding on the attraction's behalf.

References

  • Wilstach, Nancy (October 14, 2006) "History park now home to full-scale Oval Office." Birmingham News
  • Wilstach, Nancy (January 4, 2008) "American Village expands programs with civic life center." Birmingham News
  • "The American Village to build $6 million Independence Hall replica." (November 12, 2009) Shelby County Reporter
  • Daniels, Malcomb (November 30, 2009) "Montevallo's American Village still growing after 10 years." Birmingham News
  • Daniels, Malcomb (October 23, 2010) "Montevallo's American Village marches onward." Birmingham News

External link