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Stately Oaks

Story and photos by Judith Royce American Roads Travel Magazine

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Scarlett greets guest to Stately Oaks mansion.

 

When you think of the color red, the synonym “scarlet” may come to mind. But in Clayton County, Georgia, that word is spelled “Scarlett” and it conjures up images of a bygone era and a sassy, smack-in-your-face Scarlett O’Hara.

We were fortunate to meet the embodiment of Miss Scarlett herself while visiting Stately Oaks Plantation, a meticulously preserved Greek Revival home built in 1839, 100 years before the premiere of the film, “Gone With the Wind.” and was a prominent landmark back in the days of Rhett Ashley, Melanie, Scarlett and the War Between the States.

“Gone With the Wind” author Margaret Mitchell’s family, the Fitzgeralds, lived in Jonesboro and many students of her book believe that Stately Oaks may have been a major inspiration for her fictional Tara.

Today, this home, which survived the Civil War and was moved to Margaret Mitchell Memorial Park in 1968, serves as a representation of antebellum life and Tara.  The park where it stands honors the celebrated author.

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Original movie poster for “Gone With the Wind”

That Stately Oaks was spared, later becoming home to the Robert McCord family before beginning a new life as a local attraction and a listed property on the National Register of Historic Places, is remarkable enough in itself. That it has been so faithfully restored and preserved makes it a treasure.

As you walk onto the property off Jodeco Road in Jonesboro, you are invited into beautiful gardens ringed with oak trees.  Take it all in by relaxing on a bench or a rocker before touring the period outbuildings such as Juddy’s General Store with its host of interesting and unusual collectibles reminiscent of the “Gone With the Wind” era.  Don’t pass up a sample of Juddy’s unusual “Moonshine Jelly.”   It won’t knock you for a loop but it’s taste is memorable. Another well-preserved building is Bethel School, which dates from the turn of the 19th century.

Inside the handsome house, you almost expect the McCord family to be at home. The dining room table is set, the sitting room appears to have a card game in progress, even the beds upstairs are neatly made. Some say that an occasional Confederate ghost can be seen roaming Stately Oaks’ halls!

Then comes the best experience of all, if you visit on a tour that offers dinner. You will dine on authentic country fare including Scarlett’s Fried Chicken, Rhett’s Prize-Winning Sweet Potatoes, Mammy’s Baked Potato, Melanie’s Green Beans and much more.

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Dancing comes next, with period-costumed docents and tour guide leading the way. We did the Virginia Reel non-stop to the tunes of an excellent banjo player. What fun!

While you are being caught up in the sense of truly being at Tara and experiencing a warm, wonderful feeling of bygone days, the best is yet to come – Scarlett O’Hara. Portrayed by Clayton County native Melly Meadows, a professional actor chosen as Clayton County’s first Scarlett twenty years ago, she is  beautiful, smart, funny and so authentic in her period dress and hoop skirts that you feel as if you are seeing Vivien Leigh from the Academy Award-wining “Gone With the Wind” movie. She has also served  as an international spokesperson for such companies as Coca-Cola is character as Scarlett. Now living in Texas, Meadows is rarely at Stately Oaks these days, but has helped prepare several other actresses to greet and entertain guests as Scarlett.

Stately Oaks is so appealing that if I had my druthers, I’d return there tomorrow. But tomorrow…is another day!

For additional information on Stately Oaks Plantation and its tours, go to www.historicaljonesboro.org

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.



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