The American Village is celebrating 20 years of engaging people of all ages in lessons of liberty.
By Melanie Poole
It is hard to believe the American Village in Montevallo will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. When it opened its gates for the first time on November 30, 1999, only four buildings existed: Washington Hall, inspired by George Washington’s Mount Vernon; the Courthouse, modeled after Colonial Williamsburg’s Courthouse of 1770; Founders Hall, which served as the first administrative building for American Village staff; and the original Barn that remained from the time when the 188-acre campus was a working cattle farm.
Today you will find more than 20 buildings on the American Village’s 188-acre campus, all inspired by some of our nation’s most iconic and cherished historic sites. Replicas of the President’s Oval Office and the East Room of the White House; a Colonial Chapel reminiscent of Bruton Parish Church of Williamsburg; Concord Bridge, which spans a one-and-a-half-acre lake; and the National Veterans Shrine, patterned after Philadelphia’s Carpenters Hall are but a few of the additions to this unique place. But the American Village is not about its buildings, but rather it is about building in the hearts and minds of young people and adults alike a sense of stewardship of what George Washington called “the sacred fire of liberty.”
Here, nationally acclaimed and richly immersive programs engage 35,000 K-12 students annually in discovering America’s stories of independence, liberty and self-government. Since 1999 the American Village has served well over 750,000 school students from five Southeastern states, and at least that number of adult visitors.
In addition to its school programs, public programs on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day draw large numbers of visitors. In 2016 the American Village Festival of Tulips made its debut, and now over 100,000 tulips are planted annually, drawing visitors from around the Southeast to enjoy the flowers each spring.
The goals of the American Village today are the same as they were 20 years ago:
- Teach youth the vital lessons of liberty.
- Remember the price of liberty and honor those who have paid it.
- Promote public regard for the Constitution and America’s Charters of Freedom.
- Engage citizens and leaders in the stewardship of liberty.
- Foster renewal of the American spirit of E Pluribus Unum (from many, one).
The American Village was created to combat a growing national amnesia of our nation’s founding and to help Americans discover the timeless relevance of the principles of equality, inherent rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the foundations of self-government by consent of the governed.
From Concord Bridge in 1775, to Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, and beyond, the American story has been the journey and struggle for liberty, independence, constitutional self-government and the fulfillment of the promise of the ideals boldly proclaimed July 4, 1776 in America’s Declaration of Independence.
There was a time when American students knew those stories well. They could recite the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, and they could say the preamble to the Constitution. But today our country suffers from historical and civic illiteracy. It endangers the very foundation of what George Washington called the “experiment in self-government.”
Jefferson said about such lack of civic knowledge: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and remain free, it expects what never was and never will be.” John Adams persuasively asserted, “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” And Madison declared that “…a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
A non-partisan national commission warned: “The next generation of Americans will know less than their parents about our history and founding ideals.”
“Our young people cannot safeguard what they do not cherish. And they cannot cherish what they do not know,” American Village founder and president Tom Walker said.
On July 4, 2026, America will celebrate its 250th anniversary of independence. As we look forward to that milestone, the American Village is endeavoring to help prepare a new generation of citizens and leaders to lead and serve our country.
For more information about the American Village, visit Americanvillage.org.
If you have a story you would like to share with the American Village about a visit to the campus, or if you came as a student or a teacher at some point over the last 20 years and want to recount a story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, post it to the American Village’s Facebook page or mail it to P.O. Box 6, Montevallo, AL 35115.