American Village celebrates nation’s founding
by Jennifer Cohron
Jul 06, 2014 | 1159 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
American Village in Montevallo is a popular tourist attraction during the summer. Below is an aerial photo of the entire site. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
American Village in Montevallo is a popular tourist attraction during the summer. Below is an aerial photo of the entire site. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
It is always Independence Day at American Village in Montevallo.

Visitors can drill with the Continental Army, sit beside the Liberty Bell, play colonial games on Constitution Green or stroll through George Washington’s beloved Virginian home.

Approximately a dozen historical interpreters roam the grounds portraying patriots of the past such as Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.

The 183-acre campus, located on Highway 119 in Montevallo, is laid out like an 18th century village. Significant structures include a colonial courthouse, a chapel inspired by one of America’s oldest churches, Liberty Bell Garden, Concord Old North Bridge and Washington Hall, which is patterned after Mount Vernon.

A full-sized replica of the Oval Office is located adjacent to Washington Hall and features a reproduction of the Resolute Desk, a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes that has been used by most presidents since 1880.

“Teachers say this is the best school field trip they have ever taken. They see their children learning by experiencing and participating,” said spokesperson Melanie Poole. “Adult visitors are pleased to have a place like this in Alabama. They don’t have to travel to Philadelphia, to Boston, to the nation’s capital to experience America’s history. They just come to Montevallo.”

The newest addition to American Village is the National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor, which opened in February.

Its purpose is to recognize the men and women from each generation who have served and sacrificed for America and for liberty. Their stories are told through art, sculpture and interactive technology.

“It is not a museum of war. It is not a museum of artifacts. It is a museum of living history. It is the story of those individuals,” Poole said.

A companion website allows individuals to add biographical sketches as well as photos and videos of the veterans or current service members in their family to the Register of Honor.

Visitors can pull up this information on eight computer kiosks set up inside the shrine.

“We take the statistics — the service records, the awards they won, the wars they were in — and we pair that with some video content that we produce. You get to see about a four to six minute mini-movie about that individual veteran,” Poole said.

More than 700 veterans are currently registered. The goal is to eventually have all of Alabama’s more than 400,000 living veterans included in the register.

The National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free to veterans and active military.

This summer, American Village is hosting Veterans Salute Sundays. The shrine is open from 1 to 5 p.m. A special service for veterans is held in the chapel at 2:30 p.m.

Honoring America’s veterans is an extension of founder Tom Walker’s original vision for American Village when it was established in 1995.

“He felt like there should be a place where young people were taught about America’s founding and could reconnect with their history,” Poole said. “So many schools, even colleges and universities, no longer require American history so our young people are losing that connection with their own history.”

More than 35,000 schoolchildren visit American Village each year. Programs have been developed for every grade level from pre-K through high school.

Special events, such as a children’s colonial Christmas and a birthday celebration for George Washington, are also offered throughout the year.

The current program, “Celebrate America,” is geared for the public and runs through Aug. 29.

Admission is $10 for adults and $9 for youth and seniors. There is also a $25 rate for families of up to five members.