American Village closes for renovation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The American Village shut down this week to complete several construction projects.

When the work is finished in early September, the history park will feature more buildings and renovations of existing ones.

&8220;With the grand reopening, our visitors will find new ways of experiencing the Village,&8221; said Tom Walker, executive director.

The centerpiece of the new facilities will be the Southern Living Showcase House, to be known as the James B. and Sylvia S. Braswell President&8217;s Home.

A replica of the country&8217;s first presidential mansion in Philadelphia, this home will be open for tours, dinners, receptions and other meetings.

Other projects include expanding the President&8217;s Classroom into a full size replica of the Oval Office and restoring the water damaged wooden exterior of Washington Hall.

The Village is also adding an orientation center that will be the first-stop for visitors and a support building that will house a library and be used for research and programs.

Final plans include expanded parking, more streets, sidewalks and landscaping.

&8220;There&8217;s never been a better time for students and school groups to visit the American Village than this fall,&8221; said Walker.

While the park is expected to reopen on Sept. 5, the &8220;grand reopening&8221; is set for Oct. 14-15 to coincide with the opening of the Southern Living Showcase House.

The weekend will also feature a craft fair and musical performances.

During the hiatus, the park will still offer free &8220;blueprint&8221; tours Monday through Friday to overview the construction and expansion.

Besides the approximately $2 million in current construction and renovations underway, the Village plans to received bids by late fall for a $3 million expansion to the visitors center.

In addition, a National Veterans Cemetery, proposed to run adjacent to the Village, just passed an environmental impact study and is now up for public comment.

The public comment period runs through July 28, after which Walker expects Veterans Affairs to purchase property at one of three possible sites by Sept. 30.

The cemetery is expected to open in 2009, with a small section possible being completed by late 2008.

&8220;The construction of this cemetery is significant for Alabama&8217;s aging veteran population,&8221; said U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus, who was key in getting a national cemetery in the Birmingham area.

&8220;It is only fitting those in Alabama who have served our country with honor are afforded a final resting place near their loved ones.&8221;