Atlanta: Celebrate Your Inner Scarlett

MMhouse

photo courtesy of Margaret Mitchell House

Key West has Hemingway’s home and Amsterdam has Anne Frank’s attic. Visitors to Atlanta get a literary and cinematic twofer, though: the Margaret Mitchell House and the adjacent “Gone With the Wind” movie museum, both recently renovated and re-opened to the public this summer.

“Gone With the Wind,” the epic 1936 novel — and American movie classic that celebrates its 70th anniversary this year — is still very much a part of Mitchell’s hometown, some 40-plus translations after its original publication. That’s at least partly due to the fact that when Mitchell crafted her Pulitzer Prize winner, her biggest concern was getting the details right. She wasn’t about to cut any corners for the sake of a good story. After all, her father was the founder of Atlanta’s historical society.

The Mitchell House, actually a small Peachtree Street apartment (in an 1899 Tudor-style rowhome) that she affectionately called ‘the dump at tight squeeze,” is full of family photos, mementoes and 1920’s furnishings. Mitchell wrote the novel while on leave from her job at the Atlanta Journal, recovering from a broken ankle. Today, like grandmothers scanning family albums, guides tell tales about the family clan, including Mitchell’s second husband, John Marsh (who supposedly served as inspiration for milquetoasty Ashley Wilkes) and her cousin Melanie, a Catholic nun. Legend has it that Sister Melanie gave Mitchell her blessing to name a character after her, so long as the character was ‘a nice person and morally upright.”

Next door, the “Gone with the Wind” Museum will always have Tara — or at least its front door. Also here: props from the mansion, like the port-stained portrait of Scarlett that hung in Rhett’s bedroom. Visitors can also re-enact scenes from the film using the actual script.

To get in the GWTW spirit, consider staying at the Georgian Terrace Hotel, half a mile away on Peachtree in the midtown arts and culture district. On the National Register of Historic places, the hotel hosted the “Gone with the Wind” premier party in 1939. Erected in 1911 as a Southern interpretation of a Parisian hotel, today it’s an all-suite option, with a rooftop pool that offers the best views of the city.

While you’re being swept up in old-fashioned Hollywood glamour, pop into the Fox Theater across the street. Originally built as a Shriner’s Auditorium in 1929, the Fox later became a movie palace. (Another, the Loews, where GWTW received its premiere, has since been demolished.) All of the original Arabian-style décor favored by the Shriners has been meticulously restored and the theater is an eye-popper. Take in some live theater (in early Sept., Jerry Springer arrives in “Chicago”); and watch as  the azure ceiling turns to a twinkling night sky.