In 1936, local debutante-turned-journalist Margaret Mitchell, published a little book called Gone with the Wind. Within six months, it had sold more than 1 million copies and was well on its way to becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic. By December 1939, the novel’s long-awaited epic film adaptation debuted at a star-studded Atlanta premiere that’s become the stuff of local legend and family lore. A million people poured into the city hoping to get a glimpse of Vivien Leigh or Clark Gable, and three days of festivities culminated in the movie’s opening night at the Loew’s Grand Theatre on Peachtree Street. (How many of our readers treasure a parent or grandparent’s coveted program from the 1939 Junior League Ball honoring that premiere?) Now, 75 years after Scarlett and Rhett waltzed across the screen, Atlanta still offers signature experiences for the fans and curious armchair historians. Here are our top suggestions for creating a Gone with the Wind tour all your own.
Margaret Mitchell House
Visit the spot where Atlanta’s most famous former flapper morphed into an international literary sensation. The Margaret Mitchell House, operated by the Atlanta History Center, sits fittingly on Peachtree Street and offers programming that celebrates the impact of great storytelling. Currently, special lectures and exhibits detail the meteoric journey Mitchell experienced when GWTW exploded in popularity.
Margaret Mitchell died tragically in 1949 when she was hit by a taxi while crossing Peachtree Street. Her body is buried in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery. The landmark historic site also cradles the graves of many of the city’s founding families, influential leaders and some of the Civil War-era figures who inspired portions of Mitchell’s famous tale. Seasonal guided tours reveal the beauty and mystery of this local treasure.
Pittypat’s Porch Restaurant
From ladies’ lunches to tourist groups and birthday parties, Pittypat’s has served classic Southern homestyle cooking to GWTW devotees since 1967. This downtown Atlanta theme restaurant strives to resemble Aunt Pittypat’s house, complete with rocking chairs along simulated verandas, a character-driven menu (Twelve Oaks BBQ, Rhett’s Mixed Grill, etc.) and strong doses of movie kitsch.
Just south of the Atlanta Metro area in Clayton County sits Jonesboro, where the mythical Tara would have stood based on Margaret Mitchell’s descriptions. The Clayton County Convention & Visitors Bureau provides the ultimate resource for entering into Scarlett’s world. Daily bus tours hit the major sites and give background information on the area. Historic homes, such as Stately Oaks Plantation, seem frozen in time, and the Road To Tara Museum gives a unique perspective, tracing the progression of the real history of the area up to Margaret Mitchell’s novel and, ultimately, Hollywood’s reimagining of the time period. Visit the Clayton County website for venue openings, tour times and ticket sales.
Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum
One of the newest additions to the area’s GWTW tourism loop is the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum, nicknamed Scarlett on the Square. Open since 2003, the museum showcases memorabilia from the film, including costumes, nostalgic souvenirs, press details and more.
Other Points of Interest
If it’s not just the novel that peaks your interest, but the time period itself, visit some of the many historical locations in and around Atlanta for additional Civil War education. Many of these spots have special events or exhibitions to mark the sesquicentennial of the War, the Battle of Atlanta and Sherman’s March through Georgia:
- Atlanta History Center — Comprehensive and interactive museum exhibits tell the stories of local history, as well as Atlanta’s role in national and international events, including the Civil War. The center’s expansive grounds also include the Swan House, a 1930s-era estate, and the Smith Family Farm, an authentic, surviving antebellum farmstead with living history re-enactments. The Swan Coach House Restaurant remains a favorite for luncheon dining and special events.
- Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park — Enjoy a gorgeous hike along the trails of Kennesaw Mountain and wind through important battle sites of the Atlanta Campaign.
- Marietta National Cemetery — Donated by local merchant Henry Cole in 1866, this graceful cemetery interns nearly 10,000 Union soldiers who died during the Atlanta Campaign. Cole originally hoped that soldiers from both armies would be buried together here as a sign of peace and unity, but the local tensions remained too high at the time. The Marietta Confederate Cemetery is located a few miles away and is maintained by a private foundation.
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights — Atlanta’s newest museum and cultural attraction honors the incredible strength of the human spirit and the resonating voice of the Civil Rights movement. Visit, learn and carry the message of hope forward with you.
Pick a few of these spots to learn a bit more about the GWTW mystique. Revered (and sometimes reviled) for generations, GWTW holds an unprecedented spot in American social culture proving that, frankly, we all still DO give a damn.