A trip to the Wren’s Nest in Atlanta was on my mind ever since I read about it in the book “Off the Beaten Path” by William Schemmel. And I was lucky to finally see and feel that place. The National Historic House Museum is not only an eyewitness to life of Joel Chandler Harris, great author of Uncle Remus tales but holds so much history in the form of home furnishings, artifacts, letters, wall-papers and so much more. For someone like me who likes to get soaked up in history from time to time, it was a dream come true.
So after we drove for around 25 mins, we reach Ralph D. Abernathy Boulevard and the historical landmark was on our left. Once we entered, I could feel everything I read about this place coming back to me. And we were just in time for the storytelling session that happens there every Saturday. As we were seated, after few mins came our storyteller ‘Akbar Imhotep’ and I have to say he looked every bit the storyteller we all picture in our minds for a storyteller to be. Not only he had the best stories that kept us all plugged in but with his in-between foot tapping song routine he also brought out the kid in me and many other adults who were present there.
I haven’t even started with the house museum tour but I was already patting myself on my back with the place I chose to bring my son to who also enjoyed storytelling and was more keen when Akbar was singing songs. I was ready for all things historical but what really fascinated me was the good mix of people from different parts of the world who joined us that day and added many dimensions to an already lovely day. A family from London with three kids, a mother from Atlanta with her daughter, a gay couple from Atlanta and us from India.
The storytelling session comes to an end with a big round of applause for Akbar and we are next taken on the house museum tour by one of the employees. She tells us about Joel Chandler Harris in great detail starting with a beautiful portrait of the author himself hanging on one of the walls of the room we were in.
Right from when he was born to how he rented this home before finally buying it from his earnings that he made from his first book Uncle Remus: Songs and Sayings. And amid many important historical facts, how this landmark came to be known as the Wren’s Nest was the most interesting. The name Wren’s Nest came from the discovery of a family of birds called Wren having built their nest in the home’s mailbox. To this Mr.Harris said “Make other arrangements for mail. We must not break up a home.”
Then we move to the next room where there is another picture of Joel Harris that is referred as “The Photo With The Twinkle” taken by Frances B. Johnston. She happened to be one of the first prominent American woman photographer who was intrigued by Joel Harris’s disliking of being photographed. This same picture was used by Lewis Gregg for his oil portrait as seen above.
Moving on, I find myself in a very interesting room with all things oozing old world charm and some very fascinating stories behind them. Right from the most beautiful looking piano to a Coca-Cola bottle, a very scaring looking bird sculpture gifted to Joel Harris by former President of USA Franklin D. Roosevelt to the very famous Brer Rabbit picture who plays the central character in Uncle Remus’s stories.
Next, the room that we all were patiently waiting to see was unfortunately not for public access but we could peep in from outside. Joel Harris’s bedroom was every bit simple with very subtle decor and everything remains untouched to this date including the wall-paper one sees on the very top that touches the ceiling, except for a crib that originally wasn’t a part of his bedroom. It was handed over to the museum caretakers by one of his family members later.
We were told that Mr. Harris was really fond of his daughters and so his daughters had a lovely bedroom next to the master bedroom and his boys slept in the attic upstairs. Luckily daughter’s bedroom was open for us and so I absorbed everything I could. Rickety wooden racquets were standing in a corner while the comfy-looking bed was adorned with soft toys that my son wanted to bring with him.
Lastly, we move to their dining area which I found the most interesting place in Wren’s Nest. The family dining-table set was purchased for twenty-five dollars and back then that happened to be a full moth’s salary so it was really expensive by all means. Lovely china adorned the dining-table. Dinner plates were the ones used by Harris’s family and the tea-cup and saucer was from Mildred’s(Harris’s daughter) wedding china. Then there was this beautiful crockery cabinet again gifted to Mr. Harris by Franklin D. Roosevelt., that stands tall holding a bunch of delicate and beautiful china inside. Among other things, room also displays a very sweet picture of their helper named Chloe who had twelve kids who used to play with Mr. Harris’s kids and a happy picture of all his children that happened to be their last together.
Mr.Harris’s home was the first fruit of his literary success. What I loved most about this beautiful nest was that it welcomed sunshine from every corner. To see these pictures here is one thing and to go and see them with your naked eyes is an experience that I have tried to summarize but one blog is not enough.
People like me save pennies and make trips to beautiful locales but there are so many hidden jewels within our reach that are lost in time and commercialism hungry era that they are completely being overlooked or so I got the impression when I visited this place. Having said that, I am not one against a cool beach trip as I have done so many in the past and hopefully would get to do many more in the future but I truly believe we should not restrict our purpose to explore. To travel is to explore and explore by all means while one still can.