2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
(By Sally Tippett Rains) “We hope to get into the storage facility next week to see it,” said Herb Bridges owner of some Gone With The Wind memorabilia that was stored in the Hudson self-storage facility in Stockbridge, Georgia which went up in flames last week.
Speaking on Friday Feb. 17, Bridges said they have not been able to see the storage unit due to the impending investigation into the fire.
The big fire scene in Gone With The Wind has always been identified with the movie, and last weekend word began to spread about the real-life fire in the area depicted in the movie, possibly involving the Gone With the Wind items.
Friday morning a guard stood outside a charred section of the storage facility which is across from the Super Eight Motel in Stockbridge, Georgia, just off I-75.
“We’ve seen the pictures of it in the newspaper and on TV, but we can’t tell from the pictures where our unit is,” said Bridges who has always been known as the foremost authority on Gone With the Wind and once owned what was considered the largest collection of GWTW memorabilia in the world.
He sold much of the collection and loans part of the rest of it to the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro, Georgia. The museum rented the storage facility and stored excess items there.
“A lot of my stuff was taken out of the storage unit for an exhibit, but unfortunately they returned it just two weeks ago,” he said.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “An overnight fire Friday morning (Thursday night Feb. 9 / Friday Feb. 10) at a Stockbridge self-storage facility destroyed or damaged 200 of 400 units, including one holding GWTW memorabilia worth an estimated $200,000.”
Also according to the newspaper article, the managers of the facility, Michelle Strickland and Thomas Williams, who lived on-site with their children, were left homeless by the fire. As of Friday, it has not been determined if the GWTW memorabilia was lost.
“The fire appears to have damaged probably about a fourth of the units,” said B.J. Rains, the son of this writer who along with his father Rob Rains was headed to Jupiter Florida to cover the Cardinals Spring Training.
They stopped off at the Super Eight Motel so they could report back on the damage.
“It was a heck of a fire,” said Rains. “Parts of the roof were caved in. There is not much salvageable in the front units, so hopefully none of the GWTW memorabilia is in the front units.”
The storage facility is blocked off with construction tape and there is a guard at the entrance 24-hours a day, not letting people come in. The storage facility is on Hudson Bridge Rd. near the highway.
“It doesn’t look like people with items in the back units would be able to get to their stuff yet,” said B.J. Rains. “The ones in the front looked like a tornado had gone through it. I’ve seen major tornado damage from the Missouri tornadoes that hit Sunset Hills last year, and when I first saw the damage I thought I was looking at tornado damage–until I realized that was the storage facility with the fire.”
Visitors come from around the world to the Road to Tara museum housed in an old train depot in downtown Jonesboro, Clayton County.
The day after the fire, the Road to Tara Museum put this on their Facebook page: “Friends and fans, thank you for your love and support. As many of you have heard, the storage facility where we house portion of our GWTW items caught fire late last night. We are hopeful that items in our storage unit will be salvageable. We are happy to report that the most valuable items in our collection were safely housed within our museum. Once again thank you for your support of the official home of Gone With The Wind.”
According to the Henry Herald (HenryHerald.com) in Mc Donough, Ga which is near Stockbridge, Henry County firefighters responded to a commercial structure fire at Hudson Self Storage, in Stockbridge, that Thursday night. Henry County 911 received several calls reporting smoke coming from the storage facility.
“We remain hopeful that our damage is minimal,” said Rebekah Cline, the marketing and communications director of the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Henry Herald shortly after the fire. “We did have primarily posters stored at the Hudson Storage. Fortunately for us, the majority of our most valuable items were safe in the Road to Tara Museum [in Jonesboro] … such as original props and wardrobe items, as well as first editions of ‘Gone With the Wind’ books.”
We spoke to Cline later in the week and she added: “From our understanding of preliminary fire department reports, the fire began on the upper level of the storage facility and our items were stored in the lower portion of the facility. We remain hopeful based on the unit’s location that our items have sustained minimal damage.”
Herb Bridges said he was promised they would be able to get in and see the site on either Monday or Tuesday. Though he does not know if it is damaged, he fears water damage more than fire damage.
“There are two levels in the facility,” he said on Friday. “We’re on the lower level. I’m afraid if they put the fire out on the upper level, then the water would go to the lower level.”
Bridges, who has not been out to the Stockbridge location to see the damage, has been fielding calls from reporters and friends all over the country wondering if anything was saved.
“I’m just so grateful it wasn’t the museum,” he said. “Whatever I lose, I’ll hate it, but that’s just how life goes.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
“At present, we are awaiting the completion of the police and fire departments investigation to be granted approval to enter our unit and review our contents,” said Cline.
“The good news is best stuff is still in the museum,” said Bridges.
Sally Tippett Rains is the author of 13 books including The Making of a Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With the Wind. [www.GWTWbook.com] Rains is also the content manager for TheStLSportsPage.com a sports website based in St. Louis, Mo.