A Look Inside The Town That Inspired 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

July 15, 2014 1:07 PM

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A Look Inside The Town That Inspired 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

The next morning, I stepped out of my motel room and into the furnace of Monroeville in August. The Best Western is on Highway 21, which becomes Alabama Avenue. To reach the courthouse, according to the clerk at the motel, all we had to do was follow the road about five miles. It ended right at the town square. We passed an unremarkable stretch of auto parts places and assorted businesses. Next we came upon the Monroe County Hospital, up a short, steep hill to our left, then a strip mall with a Winn-Dixie supermarket, a Rite Aid, and a dollar store. We passed Radley’s Deli, a weathered gray building, named for Boo Radley. We drove the generic stretch you find anyplace in America -- McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC -- before we spotted the low-slung Vanity Fair building. Pete’s Texaco, a classic, cluttered old gas station, looked like it hadn’t changed much over the decades. On the corner where Alabama Avenue crosses Claiborne Street was Lee Motor Company, also no relation to the author. I had read she didn’t like the mural of a giant mockingbird painted on the side of the brick building. Across the street, on another mural, Scout and Jem stand by the neighborhood tree. The snug 1930s post office anchors the southeast side of the town square. We parked in one of the diagonal parking spaces across the street, in front of the Old Courthouse. Adjacent to it is what everyone calls the new courthouse. It was built in 1963.

Seen from the north, Lee wrote, the Maycomb County courthouse was early Victorian and looked all right. “From the other side, however, Greek revival columns clashed with a big nineteenth-century clock tower housing a rusty unreliable instrument, a view indicating a people determined to preserve ever...

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