The Wren's Nest House Museum Home of Joel Chandler Harris

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Archive for December, 2008

Wren’s Nest Conservation Update — Preparing for Paint


Written on December 31, 2008 at 1:39 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

You may or may not have noticed that the Wren’s Nest needs a paint job.

The Wren's Nest Needs New Paint!

The last time the Wren’s Nest was painted, the year was 1988.

The first President Bush had taken office, perestroika began in the USSR, Rick Astley was #4 on the Top 40 charts, and it would be at least five more months before I learned to tie my shoes.

Painting isn’t as easy as it sounds.  First, our professionals needed to remove the old paint as best they could.  This takes, scraping, hair dryers, sanding, hammering stuff, and a lot of patience.

Painters Preparing to Paint the Wren's Nest

On the days when the weather isn’t so warm, the painters will use hair dryers to heat up the old paint.

Then they’ll scrape the paint off, cover the nail holes with putty, and sand everything down until it’s smooth.

The Wren's Nest -- Scraped, Sanded, and Puttied

It’s painstaking, especially on cold days.

Right around Christmas I was always cranky because the painters were scraping, sanding, and hammering about 18″ away from my head.

Wren's Nest Front Porch Looking Good

Pretty, ain’t it?

At least the Benjamin Moore paint rep was impressed with their work.  All of our other visitors are convinced we’re getting ready to tear the place down.

One mystifying side-effect of this construction work is that our visitors no longer ring our doorbell.  Folks just call us from the porch to ask if we’re open, even though our doorbell has been successful and functional since the beginning of time.

The Wren's Nest, Still Being Scraped and Sanded

If you’re feeling limber, compare this picture with picture #2.  Not bad!

The Von Trapp Family and the Wren’s Nest Family Aren’t So Different


Written on December 30, 2008 at 2:30 pm, by Amelia

Last week the New York Times published an article about the Von Trapp family, made famous by the 1965 movie The Sound of Music. You remember — it’s one of your favorite things.

YouTube Preview Image

Turns out the family portrayed in the movie isn’t quite the same as the actual family.  The Von Trapps now run a successful ski lodge in Vermont, and the confusion between film and reality can lead to strain and confusion.

For example, family members bristle when asked which “character” they are.  Especially when their equivalent wasn’t represented in the film family at all.

Johannes and Sam Von Trapp

The Von Trapp’s relationship with the Sound of Music reminded me quite a bit of the Wren’s Nest’s relationship with Song of the South.  On the one hand, we’re thrilled when it brings visitors to the museum, and it’s an important part of film history.

But some people come here ready to expound its virtues, crying that there’s not a racist bone in its celluloid body.  Others let us know all of its sizable problems the moment they enter the home.  Either way, we stand there awkwardly, ready to start talking about Joel Chandler Harris again.

Like the Von Trapps, we don’t want to let down people who love the film.  But it can be a trifle awkward when they find our house museum rather than an homage to Disney.  Or in the case of the Von Trapps, when visitors find an inn instead of the film come to life.

The Von Trapp family is currently working to figure out how to exploit the success of the film to their advantage without exploiting themselves.  Tricky!

Anyhow, take a read.  It’s a good one — Von Trapps United, Without the Singing

Related:

Edit: Wednesday, December 31 — Whoops!  Amelia was the author of this post!  Fixed.  Our bad.

Brer Possums Sent to White House for Christmas in 1907


Written on December 24, 2008 at 10:55 am, by Lain Shakespeare

On December 23rd, 1907 the New York Times ran a little story about Mrs. Helen D. Longstreet, widow of Confederate General James Longstreet.  Mrs. Longstreet sent two possums to the White House for the Roosevelt Christmas dinner.

The possums “surrendered” near the Wren’s Nest.  Click the article for a larger version.

'Possums 'O the Wren's Nest

I have many questions.  Here are a few–

  • Who elected Mrs. Longstreet to the position of “Presidential Possum Postmistress?”
  • Who currently holds this office?
  • Where do I apply?

Here are a few more–

  • Were the possums on vacation just prior to their surrendering?
  • Did Mrs. Longstreet take possums on vacation regularly?
  • Did the possums enjoy a warm reception at the White House or were they thrown in a heap with all of the other marsupials the Roosevelts had been sent?

I could do this all day.

Thank you, New York Times Archive, and Merry Christmas.

Cyclorama Hits Hard Times, Remains Totally Awesome. So Go!


Written on December 23, 2008 at 2:39 pm, by Amelia

I’ve never made any secret of my overwhelming love of the Cyclorama, the largest painting in the world that’s just down the street from us in Grant Park.  It is so awesome, guys.

Unfortunately, it rarely makes it into the news unless there’s trouble afoot, so it’s with a touch of displeasure that I mention yesterday’s article in the AJC.  Although, publicity!  Good, right?!

Keith Lauer at the Atlanta Cyclorama

The actual news, however, isn’t so heartening.  Director Keith Lauer has been let go and his position has been “frozen” after the staff had already been reduced to a skeleton crew.  Naturally, visiting hours have been affected.  In short, things are rough for one of the country’s most unique attractions.

To put that in perspective, the only other cyclorama painting, the Gettysburg Painting, recently underwent a multi-million dollar restoration and has a brand new museum to house it.  Lucky.

A seemingly noteworthy difference between the Gettysburg Painting and Atlanta’s Cyclorama is the fact that the city of Atlanta owns the latter painting and employs its staff, whereas the National Park Service runs the former.

Is being run by a federal agency is the way to go?  Or perhaps they should become a 501c3, a la Grady Hospital or countless other nonprofit institutions?  What do you think?

No matter what, you should visit the Cyclorama.  It really is one-of-a-kind and super neat, and it misses you.

Southern Accents Magazine Lights Up Our Life, Yard


Written on December 20, 2008 at 12:56 pm, by Amelia

Behold — the “holiday” (Christmas) issue of Southern Accents magazine.

Southern Accents Magazine November 2008

Ooh, what a sparkly tree.  I wonder who designed it?

Barbara Howard, decorator, in Southern Accents magazine

None other than Barbara Howard, Mrs. Shakespeare’s* Monday night bridge partner.

Man, if only I knew where all those pretty lights went after their late-August photo shoot.

The Wren's Nest Well Trellis All Lit Up

Wait, is that the Wren’s Nest?  All gussied up for its fall concert?  It is!

Wow, who knew our lights were such glamorous cover models.  And who do we have to thank, other than Barbara up there?

Karna and Ellis in Southern Accents Magazine

Karna and Ellis!  They stole them!  Thanks, everyone!

Though this post is more than a little late, we figured it made sense to do it now for the following reasons:

  • ‘Tis the Christmas season, a time for giving and thanks!
  • The Wren’s Nest is poor, so giving and thanks play significant roles over here.   Any gift, large or small, is a big deal to us.
  • And really, we probably have a use for most of your discarded items.  I mean, Christmas lights in August were huge.  Look how easy we are!

*Great-great granddaughter of Joel Chandler Harris.  Sure, you should totally know that by now, but I’m feeling generous.

Wren’s Nest Conservation Update — Reinforcing Structural Beams


Written on December 18, 2008 at 9:34 am, by Lain Shakespeare

One of the scarier sites in the Wren’s Nest basement is that of the wooden beams that seemingly hold the house up on their own.  The beams are pressure-treated, but they rest on the ground with nothing underneath.

These in particular were originally installed many years ago to prevent the hallway from bouncing when groups of children rumbled through the Wren’s Nest.

While it’s nice that the children are no longer scared to walk through the house, other beams are more structurally significant, so we gave them a solid footing.

Wood Beams at the Wren's Nest with and without Footing

Eh, four out of five ain’t bad.

There are several more, as modeled by our only-sometimes-helpful and occasional part-time urchin, Imani.

Imani and Foundation Support

She’s, like, 41 inches tall for those of you updating your scaled replicas of the Wren’s Nest at home.

Versace Mansion Open for Tours — Just Like the Wren’s Nest!


Written on December 17, 2008 at 11:10 am, by Amelia

Yesterday the AJC published an Associated Press article about the Versace Mansion, dubbed Casa Casuarina, in Miami.  It has recently opened to the public for tours.

Welcome to the house museum club, Casa Casuarina.

People take pictures here, too!

Previously, the home was only open to, well, very very rich people who needed a place to crash for the night.  But you know what?  The Wren’s Nest isn’t so different.

Sure, Madonna, Cher, and the Clintons stayed at Casa Casuarina in years past.  Did we mention we had James Whitcomb Riley and Teddy Roosevelt?!

So what if their tours cost a wallet-boggling $65.  Many adults are stunned by our $8 price tag!

You say you’re impressed by a pool made of more than one million Italian mosaic tiles and 24-karat gold pieces?  Have you seen our bird bath out back?  It’s cement!

They have one tub?  We have one tub!

We too have tiles in our home!

(We too have tiles in our home!)

Our upstairs is off-limits to tourists, too!  But mostly because we don’t want you to trip on something.

The guides at the Versace Mansion don’t like to dwell on their namesake’s death, nor where he died.  They will, however, gesture you towards the general area.  Here, we threw a centennial celebration and call Joel Chandler Harris’s bedroom a tour highlight.  Well, that one wasn’t my best example.

(We... do not have one of these.)

(We... do not have one of these.)

Really, the only difference between us and the Versace Mansion is that we’re a non-profit, while they’re… very much the opposite.  But what’s $1,200 a night (base price, peak season) when tourist season historic preservation is at hand?!

In short — how much would you pay to stay here for a night?  Contributions are tax-deductible!

Wren’s Nest Conservation Project — Repairing the Porch


Written on December 16, 2008 at 1:32 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

You’ll be happy to know that Blalock Construction Co, our contractor, started exterior and foundation work on the Wren’s Nest around Thanksgiving.  Workers have been busy banging on the house ever since.

We’ll be spending about $107,000 on this phase of the project.  Curious as to what we’re doing?  Let me show you!

Our carpenter started on the porch, which had been a victim of wood rot.

Brer Rabbit and Friends ...and a hole in the Wren's Nest porch

See where that subtle green arrow is pointing?  That hole is the result of a pinhole leak, clogged leaves, and years of water dripping and dripping and dripping.

Fixed Water Rot on The Wren's Nest Porch

We fixed it.  And those leaves are coming down soon, promise

Around back, the beam in the southeast corner had suffered from the same problem.

Working on the southern portion of the Wren's Nest Porch

We took it out completely and replaced it in-kind.

Wren's Nest Porch Rail Repair

Our carpenter took off the rail and replaced the rotted pieces in-kind too.

Many of the pieces, such as the wood that spans the bottom of the porch railings, had identical pieces underneath the house.  They were left over from our restoration in the late 1980s.

Luckily, most of the porch was in decent shape, so mostly we repaired spots hither and thither.

Wren's Nest Porch Floor

Like here.

Front Side of the Wren's Nest Porch

And here.

Finally, you might have noticed that you can now click on the pictures and scroll through larger versions of them.  We aren’t just making changes to the house, folks.

Patrick Heagney at the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery


Written on December 12, 2008 at 4:05 pm, by Amelia

Last Thursday Lain and I went to go see Patrick Heagney’s show at the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery in Buckhead.  Two of the photographs from the show were taken at the Wren’s Nest!

Photo by Jenn Alexander

Photo by Jenn Alexander at Burn Away

We met Patrick a couple years ago here at the Nest when we hosted a goblin-burlesque photo shoot. You know, typical house museum stuff.

Patrick’s work speaks for itself, but I will say this in the meantime — he is a super, super nice guy, which is an added bonus.  You need to see his show.

Some related items:

  • The Hagedorn Foundation Gallery is a non-profit.  Their website may not be up right now, but no matter — they have a working phone and proceeds from artwork sales go to various charities, both local and national.
  • The Wren’s Nest looks way better as shot by Patrick. The goblins definitely add something.
  • The Hagedorn Foundation Gallery’s sales manager is Maggie Hagedorn, one of Lain’s high school friends.
  • One of my own chums from high school in Illinois, whom I had not seen for about 10 years, has a collection showing in the bathroom of the gallery. That was an unexpected run-in, I tell you what.

The show runs through January 15th, with an artist’s talk on January 8th at 6 pm — you should totally go if you can.  Don’t believe us?  Check out the review at the really cool art blog Burn Away.

Atlanta’s Top Preservation Official Laid Off


Written on December 11, 2008 at 12:14 pm, by Amelia

This stinks.

Today’s AJC reports the dismissal of Karen Huebner, now former executive director of Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission.

The Urban Design Commission’s “mission to preserve and protect the city’s architectural heritage often pits the UDC against developers and sometimes even city government.” Needless to say, we’re fans.

You may also remember the UDC from when they presented Lain an Award of Excellence last summer.

Mayor Shirley Frankline, Shakespeares, and Amelia with closed eyes

(I’m pretty sure the photographer told Shirley to take a big bite of something at that moment.  I was, as usual, instructed to close my eyes.)

More recently, they greenlighted our construction permit.  Thank them when you don’t fall through the floor, please.

The Urban Design Commission is a leader in Atlanta’s struggling preservation efforts.  Not only do they highlight wee preservation underdogs like us, but they also applaud creative preservation (the recently-closed Spotted Dog springs to mind, among others).  The dismissal of their executive director is a major blow, to say the least.

So — where’s the petition?