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Go See a Watchman: A Literary Map of Harper Lee's Hometown

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Is it always good to go home? As readers grapple with the implications of Go Set a Watchman, the proti-Mockingbird novel recently released by HarperCollins the adds a different layer to some of literature's most beloved characters, now may be a good time to indulge in a little literary nostalgia. Both novels are set in Maycomb, a fictional version of author Harper Lee's childhood home of Monroeville, Alabama, where she grew up with close friend and literary collaborator Truman Capote. Ever since Lee's debut became an instant classic, the town has been a place of pilgrimage for book fans, with tens of thousands visiting annually, a figure that should only rise as presales for Lee's book set records. A cottage industry of To Kill a Mockingbird locations, from the Mockingbird Inn to a restaurant named for the recluse, Boo Radley (perhaps service isn't its strong point), have sprung up in town, but plenty of historic buildings and homes can give readers a glimpse of Lee's live and inspirations. Here's a tour of some of the sites that inspired Jem, Scout and Atticus.


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Mel's Dairy Dream

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The former site of Nellie Lee's childhood home, Mel's Dairy Dream serves up drive-in burgers and shakes to accompany your literary nostalgia. Originally opened as Hardee's by Frances and Ruth Hardee in 1954, the restaurant has changed hands a few times over the decades. Customers can grab a shake or sweet tea and walk to the lot next door, previously the home of the Faulks, cousins of Truman Capote. While the original home burned down in the '40s and a replacement was torn down, a historic marker still stands in yard, which supposedly one contained a treehouse where Lee and Capote would work on short stories as kids.

Monroe County Courthouse

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Recently renovated in 2002, the charming old courthouse, the setting of Atticus Finch's impassioned defense of Tom Robinson, hasn't seen an actual trial for decades. When the county offices moved in 1963, locals began a campaign to preserve the building as a local museum, it's current role to this day. Lee supposedly sat in the balcony as a child, observing her father working on the courtroom floor below. A statue by Alabama artist Branko Medenica depicting three children reading To Kill a Mockingbird was recently installed out front of the building in 2014.

Alfred Boulware's Grave

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Locals claim that Alfred "Son" Boulware was the real-life inspiration for Boo Radley. Caught destroying school property as a teen, Boulware's father convinced a judge to release the boy into his custody instead of a more standard form of punishment; he was promptly not allowed to return to school and slowly turned into a recluse.

La Salle Hotel

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Currently the Monroe County Public Library, this building was once a hotel that played host to visiting bands set to play at the Monroeville Cotillion Club as well as famous guests such as Gregory Peck, who stayed here while researching the role of Atticus Finch.

The Lee Home

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Harper Lee spent many years living at this home, across the street from her junior high school, splitting her time between here and New York City.

Amasa Coleman Lee's Office

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Harper Lee's father worked inside this restored bank building, first as the financial manager of a law firm, then eventually as a lawyer once he passed the bar in 1915. He's considered a partial inspiration for the character of Atticus Finch. Harper's sister Alice Lee, who would help manage her affairs for years, was also a lawyer in the family firm. Harper called her "Atticus in a skirt."

Atticus Finch Monument

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The state bar created this fitting monument for the fictional lawyer, a solid, modest stone and plaque inscribed with a tribute that reads, in part, "the legal profession has in Atticus Finch, a lawyer-hero who knows how to use power and advantage for moral purposes."

Inspiration for Boo Radley House

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According to Marja Mills, author of "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, a dilapidated home on Claiborne Street spooked a young Harper Lee enough to become to model for Boo Radley's fictional home.

The Prop and Gavel

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A relatively new addition to the map, this restaurant was first opened in 2013 by Tonja Carter, the lawyer and Harper Lee confidant who discovered the manuscript to Go Set a Watchman.

Mel's Dairy Dream

The former site of Nellie Lee's childhood home, Mel's Dairy Dream serves up drive-in burgers and shakes to accompany your literary nostalgia. Originally opened as Hardee's by Frances and Ruth Hardee in 1954, the restaurant has changed hands a few times over the decades. Customers can grab a shake or sweet tea and walk to the lot next door, previously the home of the Faulks, cousins of Truman Capote. While the original home burned down in the '40s and a replacement was torn down, a historic marker still stands in yard, which supposedly one contained a treehouse where Lee and Capote would work on short stories as kids.

Monroe County Courthouse

Recently renovated in 2002, the charming old courthouse, the setting of Atticus Finch's impassioned defense of Tom Robinson, hasn't seen an actual trial for decades. When the county offices moved in 1963, locals began a campaign to preserve the building as a local museum, it's current role to this day. Lee supposedly sat in the balcony as a child, observing her father working on the courtroom floor below. A statue by Alabama artist Branko Medenica depicting three children reading To Kill a Mockingbird was recently installed out front of the building in 2014.

Alfred Boulware's Grave

Locals claim that Alfred "Son" Boulware was the real-life inspiration for Boo Radley. Caught destroying school property as a teen, Boulware's father convinced a judge to release the boy into his custody instead of a more standard form of punishment; he was promptly not allowed to return to school and slowly turned into a recluse.

La Salle Hotel

Currently the Monroe County Public Library, this building was once a hotel that played host to visiting bands set to play at the Monroeville Cotillion Club as well as famous guests such as Gregory Peck, who stayed here while researching the role of Atticus Finch.

The Lee Home

Harper Lee spent many years living at this home, across the street from her junior high school, splitting her time between here and New York City.

Amasa Coleman Lee's Office

Harper Lee's father worked inside this restored bank building, first as the financial manager of a law firm, then eventually as a lawyer once he passed the bar in 1915. He's considered a partial inspiration for the character of Atticus Finch. Harper's sister Alice Lee, who would help manage her affairs for years, was also a lawyer in the family firm. Harper called her "Atticus in a skirt."

Atticus Finch Monument

The state bar created this fitting monument for the fictional lawyer, a solid, modest stone and plaque inscribed with a tribute that reads, in part, "the legal profession has in Atticus Finch, a lawyer-hero who knows how to use power and advantage for moral purposes."

Inspiration for Boo Radley House

According to Marja Mills, author of "The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, a dilapidated home on Claiborne Street spooked a young Harper Lee enough to become to model for Boo Radley's fictional home.

The Prop and Gavel

A relatively new addition to the map, this restaurant was first opened in 2013 by Tonja Carter, the lawyer and Harper Lee confidant who discovered the manuscript to Go Set a Watchman.