Since the start of the Saving Tara Project there have been some who decried what I was doing, they wanted the façade packed up and shipped to the Smithsonian, or some other high profile (and well financed) museum where it could be pampered and rebuilt and displayed,…. Or more than likely, stored away for the next 50 years while they asked for donations or sought out an “angel” to foot the bill for the work. Some were so bold as to say that the Saving Tara Project was a hoax and that Tara had long since disappeared into a pile of rubble on the back lot in Hollywood or rotted into a pile of saw dust in Mrs. Betty Talmadge’s barn in Lovejoy….But they could never produce the documentation to refute that which Mrs. Betty so carefully preserved and they could not argue with the photographic evidence that was sent along with the Tara façade as it made its way to Atlanta Georgia in 1960.
Today, I want to introduce another piece of evidence as to the Tara facades residence in Mrs. Betty’s barn and how she sought it, bought it, and saved it…..and most importantly….why she went to the trouble. For if there is one thing I have learned in my 30+ plus years of sharing the history is that a lot of folks will talk about the need to share and preserve and save the history of our past but few ever take one step toward doing anything about it. Mrs. Betty was not that kind of person, she moved into the historic 1835 Crawford Plantation as a new bride and began its restoration, she later played host to world leaders who came to enjoy a taste of the old south in the buildings and grounds and the southern cooking (and hospitality) she provided. And in 1979 she went on a car ride to the north side of Marietta to see the Tara façade with hopes of purchasing it and bringing it, “home”.
Today’s photo is of the two books my wife and I acquired (actually Sharon bought them cause the little store near Callaway Gardens won’t take American Express) on our jaunt down to Callaway Gardens last Sunday to see the changing foliage. The books are cook books written by Mrs. Betty in 1977 and 1983. Each of these cook books are filled with great recipes and information for those looking to feed a family or a corporate meeting….and among the pages are anecdotes and stories as only Mrs. Betty could tell them. In the pages of these books you’ll find the reason for Mrs. Betty’s purchase of the Tara façade and later the purchase of the Fitzgerald Plantation House (Margaret Mitchell’s family home and model for Tara), for you see, Mrs. Betty did not hide anything, “under a bushel” for long and she proudly showed of the artifacts of the Tara façade and Fitzgerald as she sought a way to properly display them.
According to Mrs. Betty her hope was to have the Tara façade restored and displayed on her 3500 acre plantation and later when she had the opportunity to purchase the Fitzgerald House to save it from the wrecking ball, …. It was for the same reason,… to restore and display it along with the Tara façade and her beloved home, the Crawford-Talmadge House. You see, Mrs. Betty understood from her own research how important all three were to the story penned by Margaret Mitchell, and the movie produced by Mr. Selznick and she wanted them all to be accessible to the fans around the world who made the trek to Georgia seeking Tara.
But Mrs. Betty’s vision was not entirely her own, as her good friend and Atlanta Historian, Franklin Garrett told her on more than on occasion that he hoped to see both the Fitzgerald House and the Tara façade restored and on display. And in her files I have letters from Wilbur Kurtz, (historian and consultant for the movie) writing to Julian Foster when the façade first came to Atlanta and saying he so hoped that it would be restored and displayed so the world could see in three dimensions what Selznick had created on the silver screen. It was Kurtz who teamed up with Margaret Mitchell and shepherded the Selznick Executives to the south side of Atlanta to see Margaret’s vision of the old south prior to the filming (and yes, they traveled to both the Fitzgerald and Crawford Houses) and it was Kurtz who later sat next to Garrett on the platform as the Tara façade was introduced to Atlanta in 1960 (Welcome Home Tara).
The work continues as I look forward to making your acquaintance… up at the gate.