After my last post about upcoming tours, I was questioned as to where the Tara façade was located and so I thought it might be advisable to post a little “refresher” for those who may not know that Tara had two addresses.
After Peggy’s (Margaret Mitchell) book, Gone with the Wind took the literary world by storm in 1936, David Selznick purchased the rights to turn it into a film and set about procuring the funds, the actors and more information about this, “land of cavaliers and cotton fields”. He sent representatives from the studio to Georgia and they were shepherded about on the “Selznick Tour” by none other than Peggy (who coined the phrase) and her sidekick, Wilbur Kurtz (Kurtz would be hired by Selznick to come to the set and consult on the look and historical accuracy of the film). Although they spent a lot of time in Georgia, no filming was done here nor any other states other than California. So when the filming began in 1938, Tara’s address was the Selznick Studio lot in California.
When filming completed and the movie had had its run, Tara became a celebrity on the backlot as folks paid to take a tour and see some of the landscapes from their favorite films. Remember, filming outside of Hollywood was not done until much later so there were plenty of sites to see and sets to admire on the lot. But as time passed, the films were shot in other areas and as the old sets were reworked or torn down to make way for new, the Tara façade became a strange tie to the past,…but seldom a part (even as a bit player) in other films.
In 1959, the decision was made by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, (husband and wife power couple who then owned the old Selznick lot) to dismantle Tara to make room for a new sitcom (Hogan’s Heroes) and so Tara was given to Julian Foster of Atlanta and he shipped the doors, windows and side porches to the place where Tara’s story originated. The “brick” walls were actually 2×4 fir planks covered in thin plywood veneer that was covered with “staff” a concoction of stucco held together with old cloth, hay and straw so there were not sturdy enough to be dismantled and instead were push into a pile and set on fire.
After Tara’s arrival in Georgia it was hoped a museum would soon take shape (as Foster, Wilbur Kurtz and others dreamed) but the plan failed and Tara was left in storage north of Marietta from 1960-1980 before being purchased by the late Mrs. Betty Talmadge, wife of the late Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia. Mrs. Betty brought the original windows, doors and side porches to her plantation in Lovejoy (she paid to restore Tara’s front doorway and has allowed it to be on temporary display a the Atlanta History Center and the Margaret Mitchell House since 1989) and set out looking for a suitable historic site to house her treasure but each attempt met with failure when it was found that the groups were not as financially viable as they claimed.
So, to answer the question asked since the movie premiered in Atlanta in 1939, where is Tara….I say, “it has had two addresses….one in Hollywood before coming home to Georgia in 1960 and then relocating just south of Atlanta”. When Kurtz was asked about the filming he said, “the filming was all done in Hollywood, but if they want to know where the story came from, tell them to ride that red earth trail from Jonesboro to Lovejoy”. If you want to take the tour with me, head south from Atlanta to the little town of Jonesboro and then turn south again and drive a few miles to where the County of Clayton and County of Henry meet. There at the line stands the 1835 Crawford-Talmadge Plantation on 3,000 acres and in its barn,…Tara,…right where Kurtz said it should be, at the end of that red earth trail.
I look forward to meeting you up at the gate.