As a major Gone With the Wind fan there was one Atlanta attraction I would not have missed for anything-the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum. Since Tara doesn’t exist (well, except in the hearts and minds of us die-hard fans), visiting the home where one of the greatest works in American literature was ever penned seemed like a must.
The house is small, the museum rather sparse, and tickets somewhat pricey considering the size ($13 for adults although you can save $2 in advance by getting your tickets online), but it still felt “worth it” to me.
Docent-led tours provide visitors with a background on the life of Margaret Mitchell. The tour started in an area with objects and photographs of Mitchell’s life. While I knew the basics about her (she lived in Atlanta all her life and wrote Gone With the Wind after suffering a serious leg injury in a car accident), I didn’t know how many similarities she shared with the characters in her novel. The guide said that while Mitchell would deny until the day she died that she “was” Scarlett O’Hara, there were many parallels. Even if she hadn’t modeled Scarlett after herself, she certainly drew inspiration from events in her own life. I discovered that Mitchell’s own mother died from Spanish influenza the day before she arrived home (she had been away at college in Massachusetts) just like Scarlett’s own mother. I also learned that at Mitchell’s coming out ball as a debutante she danced the tango with a gentleman who was neither a husband nor fiance (the dance was already scandalous and made more so by her choice of partners), just like when the widowed Scarlett had the nerve to dance the Virginia Reel with the much talked about Rhett Butler at the famous Atlanta bazaar.
Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind in a three room apartment she shared with her second husband. She called it “the dump” and after seeing photos of how the building looked at the time that she lived there, I can see why she bestowed that name upon it (it didn’t look as nice as it did for today’s modern visitors). The building was originally a single family house but then converted into apartments. Mitchell and her husband lived on the first floor. The tour of her actual apartment was quite short considering its small size; it consisted of the living room complete with Mitchell’s desk and typewriter where she penned her famous work (starting from the last chapter and working her way backwards), their bedroom, and their very tiny kitchen which, according to the docent, wasn’t too bad since Mitchell hated to cook.
We arrived about 15 minutes before the start of a tour and made our way to the second floor where there was a small exhibit including everything from footage of the film’s premiere in Atlanta (complete with stars like Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable speaking) to Civil War era memorabilia to information on segregation in Atlanta and how future Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel declined attending the premiere since she would not have been able to stay at the same hotel or eat at the same restaurants as the film’s other stars. Perhaps this would be content boring to some but to someone like myself who is immensely interested in history and this timeless film/book, it was very interesting.
In a separate building across the courtyard, there was a small exhibit on the art and costumes of the film. Nothing too in-depth but it did feature the actual painting of Scarlett wearing the regal blue dress that Rhett had hanging in their Atlanta home.
For any of you who have not read or seen Gone With the Wind, well this post probably bored you a bit with all of the many references and yet “shame on you” for never having done so. Yes, it’s a long movie and an even longer book, but it’s such a classic. I first read the book as a young teenager and have seen the movie countless times since.
When General Sherman and his troops burned the city of Atlanta during the American Civil War, the Atlanta of the past went with it but one need only read or watch Gone With the Wind to experience it once more through Mitchell’s writing.
If you’re in Atlanta and even just a mild fan, I recommend visiting.
Margaret Mitchell House
979 Crescent Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30309