Getting to know you

By RENE’ DAY / Community Columnist

Let me state the obvious – Spring is here. Most students in the county are enjoying Spring Break as I write and that, along with the longer, pretty days, brings thoughts of places to go and things to do. Now, the attraction of a certain rodent with large ears in a nearby state is certainly understandable – but one doesn’t have to go long distances to discover amazing places and people.

A recent interviewee made an excellent suggestion – why not write about the major must-see sites around the county so that newcomers and visitors can get to “know” their environment? Excellent idea – but what constitutes a “must-see” site? Is it just the most popular, heavily visited, or best documented of places? Although many of those certainly are characteristic of local communities, they don’t tell the entire story. Some of the least traveled roads are the most interesting. Therefore, over the next weeks, join this columnist on a journey to learn Shelby County geography through its best and worst kept secrets.

We will start with one of the worst kept secrets (thank goodness for good publicity!) in the county. The American Village has received national and international accolades, and they are well deserved. It rises on a small hill just outside Montevallo, Alabama. Prior to the 1990s, people traveling the site along Alabama 119 enjoyed looking at the bucolic land encircled by a white fence. A single barn stood on the property, giving it a perfect country Kodak setting. It was a peaceful and scenic place. Except, it didn’t seem to be serving a purpose or serving people. Enter an unusual visionary in the person of Tom Walker. And, the rest, they say, is history.

And, speaking of history – that is exactly what they built. By bringing together architects, artists, artisans, carpenters, educators, elected officials, private citizens and inspiration from America’s history, the Citizenship Trust built a village to teach future generations about why America is so special. In one location is Mt. Vernon, Liberty Hall, Bruton Parish Church, the Oval Office, the Liberty Bell and a colonial courthouse, all built to mirror their authentic counterparts with amazing detail. It is like visiting Williamsburg, Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Concord, Massachusetts; and Washington, D.C., at the same time.

So, you are not a history buff? The American Village is still a must. Remember that bucolic land encircled by a white fence? It’s still there, only better. A total of 113 acres welcome a visitor with huge trees in a lush, green meadow, a colonial garden and tulip fields. It is a premier location for family picnics, photography sessions or just enjoying the pretty weather. The replica Concord bridge offers an amazing backdrop and the nearby National Cemetery provides solace and a place for contemplation.

If you have been around for any length of time, you have probably heard of the American Village. But, take some time this spring to visit and get to know this Shelby County landmark.