Self-Storage Fire Destroys $200K of 'Gone With The Wind' Memorabilia

Posted by Modern Storage Media on Feb 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM

A piece of Gone With the Wind history may have gone up in smoke. An overnight fire Friday morning at a Stockbridge self-storage facility destroyed or damaged 200 of 400 units, including one holding GWTW memorabilia worth an estimated $200,000. Artifacts kept there included large wooden posterboards depicting scenes from the movie that swept the 1939 Academy Awards, GWTW ads from such places as Italy and Russia and memorabilia from the world premier in Atlanta, where the story of the Old South and the Civil War was set.

The 20-by-12 storage unit was leased by the Clayton County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, which runs The Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro. The unit also held items from the collection of Newnan resident Herb Bridges, an authority on Gone With the Wind. Bridges, a GWTW collector for 40 years, loaned many items to Jonesboro museum. Items that weren’t on display were stored at the Stockbridge facility. Many are believed to be irreplaceable. Bridges, reached at his home at midday Friday, said he did not know the fate or condition of the stored collection.

“I hope they didn’t get destroyed. I hope it’s not an awesome loss,” said Bridges. “I’m hoping for the best.” Rebekah Cline, a spokeswoman for the Clayton visitors bureau, estimated the stored items’ value at around $200,000. Many of the most valuable pieces of the collection — wardrobe, some paintings, the original script and the original copy of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel signed by author Margaret Mitchell — are in the museum, Cline said. Housed in an old train depot in downtown Jonesboro, the museum draws about 20,000 visitors a year who clamor to see costumes worn by Vivien Leigh, who played the heroine Scarlett, buy trinkets and tour local sites that inspired the book.

So many visitors are from overseas that the museum’s self-guided tour is in eight languages. The items at the self-storage facility were “not a major portion of the collection,” Cline said. They were there because of the size of some items and the facility’s proximity to the museum, which couldn’t house all of the items.

The fire started around 10 p.m. Thursday at the complex on Hudson Bridge Road near I-75. Firefighters were still extinguishing hot spots Friday afternoon. The cause was under investigation. Beyond the GWTW items, the fire destroyed belongings of dozens of people and families. The managers of the facility, Michelle Strickland and Thomas Williams, who lived on-site with their children, were left homeless by the fire. Jamie Archer sat in her car Friday watching the smoldering complex. She and her husband had recently lost their home to foreclosure and rented unit 157 two weeks ago to store their belongings, which were uninsured and now are gone.

Among the items: photos of her late father. “It’s the only pictures I had of my dad. I’m afraid I’ll forget what he looks like,” Archer said as tears streamed down her face. “I begged my husband not to put our stuff in there.” Pat Duncan, former president of the Clayton Convention & Visitors Bureau and a renter at the storage facility, was returning home from a trip to Jacksonville Friday when he learned of the fire. He showed up Friday afternoon. “One thing I know is it’s only stuff,” Duncan said as he surveyed the damage. “Life and relationships are what’s important.” He moaned upon seeing the area where he’d just stored the contents of his house two weeks earlier. It was damaged heavily. “ I guess I have a chance to practice what I just preached.”