A number of folks have had the courage to ask how much of Tara is left to see in that old dairy barn? And my answer is usually, “pretty much all of it”,….but let me make it clearer this morning and lead you on an imaginary tour through the door of the current dairy barn/museum.
When the Tarleton Twins appeared on the screen with Scarlett O’Hara and Bret Tarleton (Fred Crane) spoke the first lines as they whiled away the afternoon on Tara’s front porch they stood in front of the tall windows. Today that exact tall window stands just inside the door of the barn. Nearby the pieces of the other tall windows that wait for me to have room to reassemble them also. And along that same wall stand all the other windows and shutter for Tara’s front.
Just a few feet away, a 3’x 5’window the size of the one Hattie McDaniel stuck her head out of to call to Scarlett is in a “flat” (a cradle that holds it upright). If you are like most of our guests you want to stick your head and shoulders through it (ala Mammy) and call to Scarlett.
Nearby is the ceiling from Tara’s massive front porch. The columns and porch floor of Tara were real brick and so when Tara was dismantled they were simply knocked into a bulldozer pit and buried, but the ceiling (that still shows the unpainted ghosts of the columns) survived and is ready to be displayed in a way that shows its size in total.
Crossing the barn are the side porch steps where Melanie Hamilton sat with Beau as she talked with the soldiers who had stopped to beg for food. I can’t wait to reassemble the steps completely with its wooden columns and rails, ceiling support and shake shingled roof (also in the building). The side door and window of the porch is also there (that Scarlett used to enter and exit more than once) but for now is assembled separate due to the limits of our space. Nearby is the window and shutters that stood behind Prissy and Pork as they served watermelon in the same scene.
Sitting to the left of it all stands the curved window that stood at Tara’s landing just behind Scarlett as she faced the Yankee intruder and gave him his due. There is still much more work to do with this large window but, as with all the pieces we simply gather the parts and assemble them as we can. According to a recent Hollywood Director who made the trip to see the façade, this window and the large inner shutters would not have been reproduced for the sound stage scenes (something about how cheap Hollywood tends to be) and so our cathedral window and the tall shutters would have been disconnected from the façade and used on the inside scenes before being reattached for safe keeping.
Which brings me at last to the tall shutters that were made to close inside Tara’s tall windows on the lower floor,… they were witnesses to the sultry summer days on the front porch, the prayers in the parlor, Gerald O’Hara’s office, Mrs. O’Hara’s wake and of course the removal of the green velvet drapes to be made into a dress.
I did not mention Tara’s front door for the majority of it stands safely on temporary loan in the temperature controlled confines of the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. I used the term, “majority” for when Betty Talmadge had Tara’s front door restored (yes she paid for it) there were many pieces that had to be replicated and replaced. In the barn we have a number of the original pieces of Tara’s front door along with extra pieces that were specially milled to use in the repairs. For now Tara’s doorway remains in Atlanta to help remind the visitors that there is more to see and more to do before all of Tara is displayed in one place.
I am presently working to build Tara a larger building to better house it and the Fitzgerald House which was Margaret Mitchell’s inspiration for her story. At some point I may call for lots of helpers and those who can give monetarily to come forward and “stand in the gap”. But for now keep telling the story, and buying copies of the Official Guide to the Saving Tara Project and together we will make this a reality.
I’ll be looking for you up at the gate.