As I have been branching out to other sites connected to Gone with the Wind (and finding a welcome from their administrators….thank you very much) I have been peppered with interesting questions from those who (up til now) did not know of the existence of the Tara façade or the Fitzgerald House. The other day I was asked to explain the reason for both being in the barn and how I was able to tell the difference between the two. I thought that was a great question which should be posted (and answered) on my sites so here goes.
The Tara façade was of course the outdoor location on the backlot of Selznick studio where the scene’s around Tara (and a few just inside the doors) was filmed. The interior shots were done on a sound stage with a few of the outside pieces brought into to stand in a shot (like the cathedral window and the tall inner shutters seen in the velvet curtains shot). When Desi Arnaz made the decision to dismantle Tara so that the set for Stalag 17 could be built the windows, doors and side porches of Tara were shipped to Atlanta with the intent of Julian Foster and his partners to create a Gone with the Wind Museum in Atlanta. When that failed to materialize, the pieces were shipped to Holly Springs (north of Marietta, Georgia) and stored in two tiny barns. It was there that Mrs. Betty Talmadge first saw them and there that she collected the pieces and brought to her farm in Lovejoy, Georgia in 1980. Today the Tara façade is still in the barn where Betty put them after being bought and shipped and then repatriated back to the barn when the deals fell thru. Today I (with my volunteers) have retagged the pieces and begun assembling certain, “Hero Pieces” so that the public can come and take a look and that a ground swell will bring us the money needed to build a proper building to display it all.
The Fitzgerald House was the home of Phillip Fitzgerald; his wife Eleanor and their daughters. He was Margaret Mitchell’s great grandfather and it was his story and the stories of the generations to come that made up the lives of the O’Hara’s and their friends in Margaret’s book ( she said practically all of the incidences are true in a letter in 1936). Margaret on many occasions stated that the Fitzgerald House (known to the family as Rural Home) was her Tara. Mr. Phillip had wanted Rural Home to provide a place for any of the family to come and live and to always be a refuge (sound like Gerald and his attitude toward the red dirt of Tara?) but when all the family had passed on or built lives elsewhere the property was sold for development and Mrs. Betty Talmadge (ever the showman) was given the house if she would move it and this she did; a few miles south to her farm at Lovejoy. It was Mrs. Betty’s plan to see the restored Fitzgerald House and Tara displayed together so that the “book Tara could stand next to the movie Tara”.
Both buildings are housed on the Talmadge farm and both have extensive written histories and paper trails to differentiate between the two. Tom Jones work in the 1980’s with both buildings gave us the best inventory of both and there is NO DOUBT that Tara is still there and the Fitzgerald House is nearby. There is a difference in construction and materials and the appraisal and documentation of Tara has left no doubt. When I first started the work I was contacted by the children of those who built Tara (and was awarded an Academy Award for it) and they noted their experiences and many confirmed that they had traveled to the Talmadge’s over the years to view the iconic set.
So today the Tara façade and the Fitzgerald House rest just a few feet away as they wait for those who will stand up and help me build the proper building there for their display. I am selling books to help fund my project but soon I hope to see the large funds that are needed to save this piece of movie history (Tara) and Georgia History (Fitzgerald House) so that future generations can behold its countenance.
I’ll be looking for you, up at the gate.