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Historical Context

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Apartment #1

Furnishing Plan

Sources

This is part of a series of historic structure reports on the historic architecture of Georgia and the Southeast by Tommy H. Jones. It is posted here for educational purposes only and may not be used or reproduced for commercial purposes or without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

Published Sources

Atlanta City Directories, 1885-1980.

Clower, George W. "The Sheehan Family--Atlanta Pioneers," Atlanta Historical Bulletin, XIII, no. 4.

Farr, Finis. Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1965.

Garrett, Franklin. Atlanta and Environs. 2 vols. Athens: Univeristy of Georgia Press, 1954.

"A Short History of Land Lot 105 and 106 of the Seventeenth District of Fulton County, Georgia," Atlanta Historical Journal, XXVII, no. 1, Spring 1983.

Gwin, Yolande. I Remember Margaret Mitchell. Lakemont: Copple House Books, Inc., 1987.

Knight, Lucian Lamar. "Cornelius Sheehan," "Joseph N. Moody: Captain of Industry, Banker, Organizer and Financier," Georgia's Bicentennial Memoirs. Atlanta: 1933.

Marsh, John. "Margaret Mitchell and the Wide, Wide World," Atlanta Historical Journal, XXIX, no. 4, Winter 1985-86.

Martin, Harold. "Some Memories of Peggy," Atlanta Historical Journal, XXIX, no. 4, Winter 1985-86.

Mitchell, Eugene M. "Queer Place Names in Old Atlanta," Atlanta Historical Society Bulletin, I, # 5, April 1931.

Mitchell, Stephens. "Margaret Mitchell and Her People in the Atlanta Area," Atlanta Historical Bulletin, IX, # 34, May 1950.

Preston, Howard L. Automobile Atlanta: The Making of a Southern Metropolis, 1900-1935. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979.

Pyron, Darden Asbury. Southern Daughter: The Life of Margaret Mitchell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

"Making History: Gone With the Wind, A Bibliographical Essay," Atlanta Historical Journal, XXIX, no. 4, Winter 1985-86.

Shavin, Norman, and Martin Shartar. The Million Dollar Legends: Margaret Mitchell and "Gone With the Wind". Atlanta: Capricorn Corporation, 1974.

Steed, Hal. Georgia: Unfinished State. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942), 165-176.

Walker, Marianne. Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh, The Love Story Behind Gone With the Wind. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1993.

Weldon, Jane Powers, editor. "Through the Eyes of Youth: A Civil War Story," Atlanta Historical Journal, XXIX, no. 4, Winter 1985-86. Transcription of story that may have been written by Margaret Mitchell, c. 1910.

Williford, William B. Peachtree Street, Atlanta. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1962.

 

Unpublished Sources

City of Atlanta, Building Permits. Library, Atlanta History Center. Microfilm.

Edwards, Anne. "Road to Tara Research Materials." Library, Atlanta History Center.

Fulton County, Georgia, Clerk of Superior Court. Deed Books, 1898-1985.

Mitchell, Margaret Munnerlyn. Original letters, 1927-1936 to Harvey Smith. Special Collections, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University.

________________________. Papers, 1923-1971. Library, Atlanta History Center. MSS 146.

________________________. MSS coll. at University of Georgia.

Raines, Leonora Sheehan. Scrapbook. Library, Atlanta History Center.

 

Photographs

1905: Earliest image of Sheehan house (1899) is in photograph of Martin R. Emmons house (c. 1902-03) contained in architect Willis F. Denny's professional portfolio. Original at AHC.

1908: View of Peachtree Place and Peachtree Street, northwest corner.  Publishers, Lester Book & Stationery Co.  Shows Emmons House and newly-constructed Elysee Palace Apartments between it and the Sheehan House.  #3149 AHC.

1953: "Crescent Ave."; Oct. 30, 1953; Ga. Power Co.; Peachtree & 10th; Crane.  Lane Bros. Coll. Special Collections, Pullen Library, Georgia State University.  Shows construction of office building next door to Crescent Apartments.  Porches gone.

c. 1955: View of "The Dump."  Nissen Coll.  AHC.

1962: "Margaret Mitchell lived here at 10th and Crescent," Atlanta Sunday Times Observer.  27 May 1962.

1966: "Peachtree Place Dial Office bldg., Atlanta, GA, Southern Bell; Saggus, Williamson, Vaught & Spiker, Architects; Barge-Thompson, Contractors."  Photo dated 17 February 1966.  Shows Crescent Apts. in background.

1971: View of the Crescent Apartments, November 1971.  AHC #698.

1977: Interior and exterior views of Crescent Apartments by Boyd Lewis.  Color and black and white, prints and slides; mostly details, especially of apartment alcove; no negatives.

1987a: Interior views of Crescent Apartments by Les Faulk.  Twenty-one b/w images and negatives of apartment #1 and three more in stairwell of house.

1987b: Fifteen images, mostly exterior, color prints and negatives; source unknown; date uncertain, possibly later.

1991: Margaret Mitchell House publicity photograph of Peachtree St. facade.

1993: Eighteen interior color prints and negatives; one exterior.  Probably June 1993, Surber/Barber.

Thirty-five color prints and negatives of interior, including apartment; dated 30 June 1993; Surber/Barber.

1995: January, after the fire; before cleanup; twenty-five color prints and negatives; Surber/Barber

 

Notes on Documenting Apartment #1

Documenting the furnishings, decoration and other objects that filled the apartment when Marsh and Mitchell were in residence there from the summer of 1925 through the summer of 1932) began with investigation of the scant physical evidence that survived. Much was lost in the 1964 remodeling and subsequent neglect, but even after the massive water damage suffered in the two fires, elements of the interiors of every room survived intact, including portions of plaster walls and ceilings, some wood trim, tile floors, doors, and other features. As a result it was possible to accurately reconstruct missing features and recreate historic colors on walls, ceiling, and woodwork.

Although no photographs of the Crescent Apartments prior to the early 1950s have been located nor photographs or inventories of Apartment #1 from the period during which Mitchell resided there, a significant amount of information has survived that documents the general character and many of the specifics of the appearance of Apartment #1, 1925-1932. The most important of the sources are, of course, the Mitchell and Marsh papers that have survived from the period, although most of these, as one might expect, date from after publication of the book in 1936. For example, the large amount of material in the MacMillan Collection at the New York Public Library was not searched because it all dates no earlier than 1936. In addition, neither the Atlanta History Center nor the Atlanta/Fulton County Library have any Mitchell letters relevant to this project, although both have extremely significant artifacts that relate to Apartment #1.

There are scattered collections of letters which provide a number of specific details about Apartment #1. Also of major importance is the furniture inventory that Mitchell made in the 1940s. Some of the items mentioned in that inventory correspond with items mentioned in other sources and are likely to have been used at "the dump."  Abstracts from the Mitchell/Marsh letters and the entire inventory are included in Appendix D. The records that have been retained by the Mitchell estate have also proved useful to this project, especially Stephens Mitchell's notes from conversations with Bessie Jordan, which are included in Appendix F. Those papers contained in the Mitchell Estate law office operated by the Paul Anderson and Hal Clark. Medora Field Perkerson's unpublished memoirs at the University of Georgia also contain useful information.

Finally, a number of oral interviews, particularly those with Joe Kling and Harvey Smith, that were done by Mary Rose Taylor and others beginning in the late 1980s have provided valuable information on the interiors. Not surprisingly with this sort of documentation, it is not comprehensive and there are even some contradictions among the sources, particularly among the numerous oral interviews that have been collected in recent years. However, analysis of these sources within the context of  the primary documentation, which is found in Mitchell and Marsh's own writing and in the history and fabric of the building itself, most of the major pieces of furniture can be identified if not always precisely described. It is, therefore, necessary to consult other secondary sources in order to fill in the gaps in the information from the primary sources. Unlike earlier periods, very little has been written about interiors of the 1920s. However, many catalogs, magazines and newspapers from the late 1910s to the early 1930s survive or have been reprinted and can be used to fill in these gaps and develop a complete collection list.

 

Mitchell/Marsh Papers: Although Mitchell left specific instructions that her personal correspondence be destroyed after her death, a surprising amount of that correspondence has survived (see Appendix D).  Of particular importance in documenting the interiors of Apartment #1 are the letters that Mitchell and Marsh wrote his family and that have survived. Darden Pyron quoted a number of letters from Mitchell and Marsh to Frances Marsh Zane, John's youngest sister, in his book Southern Daughter (1991). In her book Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh:  The Love Story Behind Gone With the Wind (1993), Marianne Walker used these same letters but, more importantly, additional letters that Mitchell and Marsh wrote to his mother and his siblings over a twenty-five year period. (See Walker, xii-xiii, for details about these collections.

Except for photocopies of parts of three of these letters, graciously provided by Ms. Walker, this study has relied on the material as quoted in these books. Three of these bear specific references to the furnishing and decoration of Apartment #1:  two undated letters to Henry Marsh, one in early 1926 and one marked "Tuesday AM," from May or June 1926; and one undated letter to Mary Marsh, marked "Tuesday afternoon," from early 1926, and which is particularly informative as to the way the apartment was used.

The Margaret Mitchell Collection in Special Collections at Emory University's Robert F. Woodruff Library includes a small collection of letters that Mitchell wrote her friend Harvey Smith between 1925 and 1933 (Box 1, 1927-1933). Upon his donation of these letters to the University, the late Mr. Smith attached a gloss to each that provide further insight into Mitchell's attitude toward and approach to interior decoration. Four of these—dated 23 July 1927, 14 July 1932, 29 December 1932, and 15 March 1933—provide important references to the specifics of the interiors of Apartment #1. Abstracts from the Smith letters and other letters relevant to the apartment interiors are included in Appendix D.

The Margaret Mitchell Collection in Special Collections at the University of Georgia's Hargrett Library contains most of Mitchell's papers that have survived, numbering over 50,000 pieces. Unfortunately for the current project, virtually all of this material dates from 1936 or later. However, the collection does contain Mitchell's own typed inventory of furniture and silver that had belonged to her family (MS 905, Box 164, folder 1). There is also a detailed inventory of Mitchell's personal effects, mostly clothing and jewelry, along with notes from Marsh's disposition of some of these items in 1949 and Stephens Mitchell's disposition of the remainder in 1952 (MS 905, Box 152, folder 6). Copies of both of these inventories are also included in Appendix D.

The Mitchell estate files contain some significant documentation. Included are four photographs of the exterior of 979 Crescent Avenue in the mid-1950s (see Appendix B.1) and an informative exchange between Arthur Neeson, Margaret Baugh and Stephens Mitchell over the presence of a Murphy bed in Apartment #1. These files also contain notes, probably by Stephens Mitchell, from an interview with Bessie Jordan in 1956 about the interiors of Apartment #1. Of additional interest, but not of particular relevance to this project, are the notes in the estate files concerning the disposition of mantles and other items when the Mitchell house at 1401 Peachtree was demolished in late 1952. Copies of these documents, which are not in the public domain, were obtained by Mary Rose Taylor from Paul Anderson, attorney for the Mitchell estate, in 1995. Some of this material is included in Appendix F.

 

Photographs: A series of five color photographs were taken of the interior of the Della Manta apartments following Mitchell's death in 1949, probably as part of the estate settlement. The original negatives of these images are in the Lane Brothers Collection, Special Collections at Georgia State University's Pullen Library. Copies were also donated to the Atlanta Historical Society by Stephens Mitchell in 1953. Although these images were taken long after, Mitchell's residence in Apartment #1, they are, nevertheless, useful in establishing a collection list for the restored apartment. See Appendix E.

 

Oral Interviews and Memoirs: The transcriptions of the thirty oral interviews that Mary Rose Taylor and Mitchell House, Inc., conducted in the early 1990s (see Appendix E) are useful for the support they provide for the primary documentation. Especially important are the extensive interviews with the late Harvey Smith. These interviews and the associated notes and drawings (see Appendix F) provide the most extensive memoir of the interiors by someone who actually visited Apartment #1 during Mitchell's residence there. Martha Bateman's interviews with Elinor Hillyer Von Hoffman and Margaret Sage, both of whom knew Mitchell during the 1920s and '30s, and other recent interviews have been useful as well. However, as with any such information collected long after the fact, caution should be used in drawing conclusions. Infirmities of age (Kling, e.g., is nearly blind) or simple distance in time (Rutledge and Wokenfuff were both under ten years of age when they visited the apartment) clearly place limits on these as a source for information on specifics about the apartment and its interiors.

Similar to these, but perhaps not suffering so much for distance in time, is Medora Field Perkerson's memoir of Mitchell in Special Collections at the University of Georgia's Hargrett Library. Her description of Mitchell's marriage to John Marsh in 1925 is particularly helpful in determining the couple's use of space.

 

Collections: There are three surviving collections of furniture and other artifacts whose provenance is clearly linked to Mitchell. The Atlanta/Fulton County Public Library has among its large collection of mostly book- and movie-related memorabilia the typewriter Mitchell used in writing GWTW.

The Atlanta History Center also has, in addition to its Mitchell-related manuscript collections, a collection of objects that includes the typewriter desk and chair that Mitchell used with the typewriter. Except for Mitchell's and her brother's christening dresses and a set of exterior shutters from the Mitchell house at 1401 Peachtree, the remainder of the collection is related to the book and movie.

Finally, Elliot's Antiques, which appraised Mitchell's estate upon her death in 1949, had the largest authenticated collection of furniture and objects belonging to Mitchell. Upon Marsh's death in 1952, James Elliot Sr. appraised the estate again and negotiated with Stephens Mitchell for those things the family did not want. Many of these item were displayed for many years at Eliot's Atlanta Museum at 537 Peachtree Street until the family dispersed the collection and sold the house in the 1990s. Although Eliot was unable to locate their inventories from 1949 and 1952, provenance for many of these items can be established through the Lane Brothers photographs, which were probably made in conjunction with Eliot's inventory of Mitchell's estate. Mitchell herself was photographed sitting on the large ottoman that was in Eliot's Atlanta Museum. [See photographs preceding p. 299 in Pyron's Southern Daughter.]

In addition to these collections, whose provenance is reasonably secure, other private collections have also been investigated. Only two of these, those of Carolyn Arnold of Atlanta and Bruce Harkness of Demorest, have objects that might have a provenance to Mitchell. Ms. Arnold's dining room suite, while perhaps appropriate to the period, cannot be authenticated through any existing documentation and almost certainly was not used at "the Dump." Harkness' collection was later stolen in a burglary of the warehouse in which it was stored.

 

Secondary Sources: Although relative to Victorian, Colonial and other historic interiors little has been written about interiors of the 1920s, Fitzgerald's Four Centuries of American Furniture does provide a good overview of the period, placing it in the context of the evolution of interior design. In addition, Old House Journal's articles on post-Victorian interiors are important secondary sources for documenting typical interiors of the period.

The most important of the secondary sources are the catalogs, magazines and newspapers from the late 1910s through the early 1930s. Several issues of Ladies Home Journal and Woman's Home Companion from the 1920s have provided good images of typical interiors of the time. Likewise, period catalogs that have been reprinted are extremely helpful, especially American Life Foundation's Alladin Homes, 1918-1919  and Gordon-Van Tyne, Architectural Details, 1915; Fredgant's American Manufactured Furniture; Morgan's Building With Assurance; and Winkler's The Well-Appointed Bath.  Special mention must be made, too, of Kennedy's Hoosier Cabinets, which is one of the best sources for information on the furnishing and functioning of kitchens in the 1920s.

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