The daughter of a suffragette, Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) was a debutante. She wrote one of the world’s best-selling, most-translated novels, Gone with the Wind. And she called her home “The Dump.” Today it’s anything but.
Atlanta, Georgia’s, historic Peachtree Street is the city’s main north-south arterial. At 990 Peachtree Street, a Tudor Revival mansion built in 1899 was once the home Mitchell lived in. Twenty years after its construction, the house was converted into a 10-unit apartment building.
While in apartment Number 1, Mitchell wrote her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Gone with the Wind, published in 1936. Set in Georgia during the Civil War, the novel tells of Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara and her stormy relationship with debonair Rhett Butler.
Today the home is the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum, and it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Apartment Number 1 is shown as a residence; the rest of the space is used for exhibits about Mitchell.
Visitors to the museum can expect a 60- to 90-minute docent-guided overview of the life of one of America’s greatest novelists. The tour begins at the Visitor Center, adjacent to the mansion, where guests explore self-guided exhibits, including “Before Scarlett: The Childhood Writings of Margaret Mitchell” and photos of the writer.
A video showcases Mitchell and her famous epic novel. Next up is a visit to apartment Number 1, where the tile foyer and furnishings hearken back to Mitchell’s life and era.
After touring the wordsmith’s abode, guests may review an exhibit of photographs in a separate building that chronicle the Civil Rights Movement and the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Mitchell was an avid civil rights activist. She gave anonymous scholarships to fund medical-school educations for as many as 50 African-American students.
A final stop is the new Gone with the Wind Movie Museum, also in a separate building. It highlights the making of the motion picture through such memorabilia as the doorway of the house at the fictional Tara Plantation (the movie was actually filmed in Jonesboro, Georgia) and a portrait of the movie’s heroine Scarlett O’Hara (played by actress Vivian Leigh) that made movie history; liquor stains from a drink flung by character Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) still mark the painting.
Mitchell showed talent well before her novel-writing days. A prolific writer from girlhood, she wrote novellas, plays and journals. Her stint as a reporter had this carefully-bred young lady banging out columns at the mostly male, hard-charging offices ofThe Atlanta Journal.
As a journalist she used an Underwood typewriter so old it lacked a backspace, and brought a hacksaw to work to shorten the legs on her chair. Mitchell worked at the paper from 1922 through 1926. During her newspaper sojourn, she researched and wrote profiles of Georgia’s Civil War generals. Scholars believe they formed the basis of her work on Gone with the Wind.
Success changed life for Mitchell. Like most overnight celebrities, Mitchell then faced a barrage of media scrutiny. She was said to have uttered things she hadn’t, and credited with personality traits she did not possess. Most of the writing Mitchell did after Gone with the Wind was letters to fans.
Letters written to close friends show she didn’t relish her new image. The letters were privately held until 50 years after Mitchell’s death, and were only recently published. A novella she wrote as a young adult was published in 1996. Mitchell was hit by an off-duty cab driver in 1949, and died of her injuries. She was 48 years old.
Today the museum nurtures talents like its namesake. The Center for Southern Literature, housed here, presents a series of literary events. Each explores the human experience through the works of writers and journalists in forums encouraging dialogue. The latest releases in fiction and non-fiction, global issues of conflict and the works of leading journalists are covered.
If You Go
The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum