Village breaks ground for showcase

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Joined by Alabama’s First Lady Patsy Riley, officials of The American Village in Montevallo announced last Friday nearly $4.5 million in projects and broke ground for the Southern Living Showcase House.

The home will be called the James B. and Sylvia S. Braswell President’s House, patterned after the country’s first presidential residence from 1790-1800.

The Southern Living Showcase House will open by mid-2006 and serve for one year as Southern Living Magazine’s third such house in its history.

By mid-2007, the house will be furnished with period furniture from the late 1700s and will be used in the American Village’s history and civic education programs, focusing on the early American republic.

The project was made possible by a $500,000 gift from James B. Braswell of Vestavia Hills in honor of his late wife, Sylvia S. Braswell, and by a $350,000 Alabama Power Foundation donation in support of the house and the educational programming, which will take place there.

John Floyd, editor of Southern Living, said, &uot;Mr. Braswell, what an honor for Southern Living to share your house.&uot;

He said the house would reflect the history and livability of today.

He also said it will help The American Village to become &uot;more destinational&uot; for visitors.

Braswell said it is a &uot;genuine pleasure&uot; to be involved in the future growth of The American Village. He said the community has helped on this project as well.

Alabama First Lady Patsy Riley said she is a woman who not only reads Southern Living magazine but also collects them.

She also read a note announcing people from 37 states and six countries have visited the American Village.

She noted the Braswells’ interest in the President’s Home was in memory of the love of his late wife. And she called the President’s House a &uot;wonderful educational tool.&uot;

Riley concluded, however, &uot;God did not leave us here to wallow in grief. He left us here to glorify him and get the job done.&uot;

The program at the President’s House will be titled &uot;The Alabama Power Living Liberty Experience at The President’s House.&uot;

The Alabama Power Foundation donation is the largest corporate cash contribution in the history of The Village.

&uot;The goal of this experience is to inspire visitors of all ages to be good citizens,&uot; said Gordon Martin, Alabama Power vice president and chairman of the board of trustee for The American Village.

&uot;Through the support of our foundation and educational initiatives, the Living Liberty Experience will be a resource to teach history, civics and character in an interactive, entertaining and unforgettable way.&uot;

In addition, an expanded visitor center is expected to welcome 250,000 visitors each year once expansion is complete.

The expanded visitors center will feature reception, ticketing, The Estes Visitors Orientation Theater, expanded retail space, a colonial-themed tavern and meeting and conference facilities.

Visitors will also find expanded parking, street, sidewalk, landscaping and exhibit amenities to facilitate visits by school groups, tour groups and others.

Also announced were grants and gifts including $1 million in federal transportation funding announced in December by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby; $300,000 from the city of Montevallo; $400,000 from the city of Pelham; $200,000 from James F. Estes and Norman Estes of Northport for the theater; and $1.5 million from Shelby County.

Some of these grants and gifts will be paid over a period of time, Village officials said.

It was also announced that $220,000 in funding has been received or committed toward a project to complete a full replica of the Oval Office and to fund expansion of teaching programs at The American Village.

This part of the campaign is led by Ed Rogers, a Birmingham native who serves as chairman of the Washington D.C. based public affairs firm of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers, which he co-founded with now-Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi