With only a few volunteers and money out of his own pocket, Lovejoy resident Peter Bonner is carefully restoring the facade of Gone With the Wind's famous plantation using pieces from the original set. Wood, windows and fixtures from the classic 1939 film sat on the back lot of Selznick Studios until 1959 when the set was dismantled and returned to Atlanta under a banner saying, "Tara has come home." The intention was to turn it into a tourist attraction, but that never happened. Later, in 1979, the pieces were purchased by Betty Talmadge, the ex-wife of Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge. Betty cared for the facade and attempted to work with municipalities to put it into a museum. She paid for the front door to be restored and it is currently on display at the Margaret Mitchell House. Unfortunately, Talmadge passed away in 2005 before anything could be done with the facade, and poor Tara remained in storage.
The set has been sitting in a dairy barn ever since. Now, Bonner, who acquired the pieces from the previous owner's son, has made it his mission to recreate the facade (that's all there really was — interior shots were filmed on a soundstage). Of a photo from the film, Bonner says, on the project's Facebook page, "I have stood near that window, I have touched those pieces of the doorway and I have the opportunity to display those other pieces that are in the 'shot' and in a way speak for those who created this wonderful piece of cinematic history."
Bonner, a historian who gives Civil War and Gone With the Wind themed tours, tries to put the weathered pieces in the right place without the help of blueprints or guides, occasionally asking the project's Facebook fans to help sort out where a particular piece belongs. There are no plans to permanently reconstruct the facade because of the frailty and age of the pieces. Instead, the pieces are being mounted in cradles with the aim of photographing them next to their scene in the film. He has written a book entitled The Official Guide to the Saving Tara Project to help fund the restoration.
· Saving Tara [Facebook]
[All images via Saving Tara]