Since the publishing of Margaret Mitchell’s book in 1936, and especially after the Premier of the Movie in Atlanta in 1939, a steady stream of visitors have stepped onto Georgia’s Red Clay to ask the question, “where’s Tara”. At first it was welcomed, and kind of cute, but eventually it became an annoyance for some and for others a cruel joke that allowed them to respond that Tara, “was only a movie set” or it was “never a real place”. When I began my tour in 1995 the local tourism brochure explained that, “it was only in our imagination”. My research disabused that response and today those who want to hear the true stories found in Margaret’s book can take my Gone with the Wind Tour that is given in connection with the Road To Tara Museum every day at 1:00 PM.
So, for those who have kept the faith and continued to search for Tara and the O’Hara family,….and for those whose hearts were broken by the ney sayers,….let me say TARA EXISTED AND STILL EXISTS TO TODAY! For (as Margaret said on many occasions) the Tara from the book was based on the four room two story house that sheltered Phillip Fitzgerald and his wife, Mrs. Ellen and their children thru the turbulent years of the Civil War and Reconstruction. So Margaret’s Tara existed before she changed its appearance for her book by adding white washed brick (the original was frame) and putting it on a hill away from the road. Today that building (known as the Fitzgerald House, or Rural Home) is stacked in the dairy barn on the Crawford-Talmadge Property.
And what of Hollywood’s version of Margaret’s masterpiece?….did it survive the shooting only to be repurposed in another movie or burned to provide pyrotechnics for an upcoming thriller. No, Tara stood her ground on the backlot in Hollywood until 1959. After her appearance in GWTW she would never be used as a set again. He façade can be seen in passing on numerous projects and a few even ventured into her side yard to film but she was too iconic to be given a full shot or a pullback…she simply stood and faced the years with the same fortitude she showed while watching over the O’Hara’s.
In 1959, when she was dismantled and brought it Atlanta her “rescue” was a long way from complete but without that trip and the subsequent purchase by Betty Talmadge in the early 80’s Tara could have been deconstructed like many of the old sets on the back lot and lost to time. Instead she still survives and her green shutters, white windows and enormous front porch can still be viewed,….and appreciated. For there are those, like Scarlett who still look to Tara as an anchor in the storm, and a source of strength when the world again turns upside down (as it has been known to do) and they desire a look back to the past to shore up their present,…and future. Today, the grand dame of Hollywood, is stored in the same dairy barn as her name sake, the Fitzgerald House and with the help of volunteers she is once again welcoming those who seek her.
It will be my pleasure to make the introduction.