The Saving Tara Project was never, “just about” saving what was left of the structure built on the backlot of Selznick Studios for the movie Gone with the Wind. As one who likes to learn new things and is regularly digging around in old barns and attics chasing a story, I was hoping from the first time I stepped into the old dairy barn to begin the work, that there would be new things to learn about Tara’s construction and of course, how she ended up in the old barn in Lovejoy, Georgia.
Today I’d like to share a few of things I’ve have learned and maybe it will encourage many more of you to come and take a look for yourselves and also to help with the continuing restoration by giving of your time and your money. The next phase of the Saving Tara Project is the building of a “hay barn” style building that will provide the ceiling height to allow the tall front windows to stretch to their full length and to give us the room needed to reassemble the side porch where the family fed the soldiers. But like everything in life, it will take some work, and more than a few dollars.
When I first began the preservation and presentation of the Tara façade I vowed to never use glue or epoxy so that anything I put together (using screws and/or nails) could be taken apart if need be. I contacted a number of sources in Hollywood and even at the Smithsonian to ask questions but few had any more ideas than I as to how to preserve the pieces. So the work of putting the pieces of the windows and doors and side porches fell on me during the weeks after the volunteers scrubbed and cleaned and inventoried the piles of debris. I began with the tall window that framed the scene with Scarlett and the Tarleton Twins and put each slat into the tall shutters and created a frame to cradle the window when I stood it upright. From there I moved thru Prissy’s window (which stood behind her on the side porch as she cut and served watermelon to the soldiers), a couple of the 3’6”x 5’ windows the side porch steps and accompanying side door and window….and here are some of the discoveries I made.
- The doors, windows, and side porches are in amazingly good shape considering their stand on the lot in Hollywood from 1939-1959, then storage in north Georgia from 1960-1980 and the dairy barn in Lovejoy from 1980 to the present. The carpenter bees seem to prefer the new framework and do very little boring in or around the façade.
- The large strap hinges that held the tall shutters and all the smaller ones that held the regular size shutters on Tara’s windows were hand made by a blacksmith and thus each one is slightly different.
- Each shutter slat was hand nailed into place, and although never made to actually work, were provided with a dowel on the back as if they were in working order (could open and close).
- The size of the doors and windows all follow the idea of a large Greek Revival Manse and thus are all large and grand.
- The side porch steps where Melanie sat and talked with the soldier is large and heavy and will require a space the size of my living room (30×20) to put it and the porch rails, and columns on display.
- The colors of the green shutters, white windows, doors and ceiling,….and the blue gray of the tall inner shutters (where the green drapes hung) are still visible on many of the pieces of the façade.
These are just a few of the many new things I have learned about Tara. I also found its hiding place in north Georgia, where Mrs. Betty first saw it in 1979 and decided to buy it and I have stumbled across the letters from such notables as Wilbur Kurtz (historical consultant for GWTW) and Franklin Garrett (Atlanta Historian) who both encouraged the preservation and display of Tara.
I will be posting dates for the months of May, June and July for tours of the Tara façade and I hope you all will take advantage of the opportunity. Remember, if you would like to schedule a special day and time for a group tour you will have to have a party of at least 10 (or at least pay for 10) and I will work with you to set up a tour during the week or weekend that suits your schedule and gives you and your crazy family or friends their own special audience with the grand lady of cinema….Tara.
I’ll be looking for you up at the gate.