The Margaret Mitchell House & Museum: Atlanta's Monument to its Favorite Daughter


The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum is the apartment house where Margaret Mitchell lived while she wrote most of Gone with the Wind (GWTW). The museum is located in the Midtown area of Atlanta in the cultural and arts center of the city. Nearby attractions include the High Museum of Art, Atlanta Symphony Hall, the Alliance Theater, the Fox Theatre and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has a train station about two blocks away, and a bus line serves the area.

The building that houses the museum began life as a single-family home in 1899. In 1919, it was converted into a ten-unit apartment building. In 1925, "Peggy,'' as she was known locally, and her husband John moved into the building, into an apartment she called "the Dump.'' In 1978, the building was abandoned and was nearly demolished. Mayor Andrew Young designated the house as a city landmark in 1985 to prevent its demolition, and a group of preservationists came together to restore the building and create the museum. In 1994 and again in 1996, the apartment building suffered devastating fires, but both times, it was rebuilt through generous donations from the public and corporations.

In 2004, the building's ownership was transferred to the Atlanta History Center, which maintains and operates it today. The Mitchell House and the History Center hope that the association will benefit them both; the Mitchell House draws more than 50,000 visitors a year, and the History Center gets about three times that many. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said, "The union creates an institution that is expected to offer a revitalized focus on Southern culture, while enabling both facilities to reach bigger audiences, share costs and maximize fundraising.'' The former executive director of the History Center explained, "`Part of what we're trying to do here is look from the Civil War to the civil rights era and beyond. This allows us to explore Southern history from the standpoint both of literature and historical evidence.'''

The Margaret Mitchell House & Museum is more than a GWTW memorabilia collection, although it

certainly has that, too. Its features include:

The house tour. Mitchell's apartment is set up as she had it, with period furniture and some of her personal items. Two exhibits chronicle her life and the making of the movie.

Collections and research. The Atlanta History Center holds most of Mitchell's personal writing, including correspondence and writing from her youth. The museum also has a collection of memorabilia from both the book and the movie.

The Literary Center. The Literary Center is perhaps the most vibrant part of the museum. It sponsors lectures with authors like Alice Hoffman, Richard Russo and Marilynne Robinson; writing classes; a poetry recitation competition for high school students and summer writing camps and writing workshops for young people.

Guided tours with a teacher's curriculum for school groups.

Internet reviews of the house and museum are not very favorable. A few visitors love it, but many more agree with this person, who said, "The museum is a little dull.'' Many reviewers complain about the price - 12 dollars - which they don't think is a good value. Most people think that only diehard GWTW fans will enjoy the museum, but even some fans are "not impressed.'' In January of 2009, the Atlanta History Center laid off all of the Mitchell House employees but one. Perhaps the museum should start hoping that "tomorrow is another day.''

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