Over the last few weeks there have been a number of news
reports regarding the Saving Tara Project and at some point the reporting got
off track and stated that I (yes, yours truly), “had bought an old barn and had
discovered the movie set from Gone with the Wind inside”. Well, that could not
be further from the truth,… for most folks know that Tara was brought from
Hollywood by Mr. Foster (in 1960) and later sold to Betty Talmadge (in 1980) who
was constantly trying to move the Tara façade out of the barn and into a
museum. It has been said many times that this was the worst kept secret in
Georgia history. Ms. Betty passed away and I made a deal with her son, the late
Gene Talmadge and grandson, Herman Talmadge III to make another attempt to
preserve and restore the Tara façade,….and with the help of social media
(22,000 fans) and a couple of dozen volunteers it is happening.
But make no mistake; there was a time when Tara was lost.
When Ms. Betty first met with Julian Foster in regard to
purchasing the Tara façade that he had personally shepherded off of the
Selznick lot in Hollywood and brought to Atlanta, he insisted on her wearing a blindfold.
According to Ms. Betty, Foster said that his insurance was wary of his bringing
anyone to see it because they really had no idea of its worth (it was appraised
at 1.25 million in 1992) so he would not bring her to the location without her agreement
to wear a blindfold and not try to discern the location. This was not a problem
with Betty so she agreed to the terms and was taken north of Roswell, Georgia
(Alpharetta) to see the Tara façade stuffed in what looked like a couple of
chicken houses that had been turned into car sheds (that is the ultimate barn
find). After viewing the items, Ms. Betty went home to consider the purchase and
never thought that not knowing the location would be an issue. However Julian Foster’s
untimely death after the deal was agreed upon BUT before she could take
possession did cause Tara to be lost for a short time.
Today I have a copy of the map used by Ms. Betty and her
associates as they trekked the back roads of Alpharetta, Georgia looking for
those old barns and the treasure inside. The original map is simply a number of
road maps taped together with a series of red “X” to show where they had
looked. The group was not able to find Fosters hiding place for Tara so Ms.
Betty asked his widow look thru his check book and that is how the façade was
located,….thru a $100.00 check stub for rental of a couple of old car sheds in
Alpharetta, Georgia. Mrs. Betty would travel to those Alpharetta barns and
bring back Tara in a few pickup trucks, a trailer advertising baled pine straw,
and the trunk of her car. And that began her quest to return the most recognizable
movie sets of all time, to the public eye.
So there was a moment when Tara was lost, but it long ago
when Ms. Betty first purchased the Tara façade. Later she would invite those
who had a hand in building and filming Tara on Selznick’s lot to come and add
their verification to the items in the barn. So today, there is no doubt that
Tara resides on the Talmadge farm (with the front doorway on loan to the Margaret
Mitchell House) and so I am just the fellow trying to complete the work that
Ms. Betty began in 1979.