What if walls could talk? Stalwart for 130 years and packed with Old South soul, scandals and success, just imagine the tales they could tell! While the walls of The Wren’s Nest walls aren’t quite so clever as their owner, Joel Chandler Harris - famed Atlanta journalist and storybook author - brought all of that and more to the leafy lot on the Westend.
Now a house museum, The Wren’s Nest was once the creative headquarters of the Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus stories. Perched on his magnolia-shaded front porch, Harris penned the majority of the 190 narratives which, enchanting the world, became the first serialized storyline of walking, talking animals. Preserved sine 1913 with the original 1880s furniture, tile, structure and fixtures, the house offers a unique glimpse of life in the Old South. Three must-see focal points are the Disney dummies, Joel Chandler Harris’ bedroom which has remained untouched since the day he died and, a personal favorite of the curator’s, an 1880s Bavarian wood carving where Harris stored his tobacco and cigars.
Standing not only as an homage to one of Atlanta’s most lauded writers, tours of the home delve into the sordid and shady facets of Harris’ success. Born illegitimately and suffering from a stutter, Joel Chandler Harris seemingly was destined for a life of strife. Finding himself a slave at age 15, he immersed himself in the African custom of storytelling. Throughout his life, he collected tales and, through his fictitious counterpart Uncle Remus, produced his most famous works - the Brer Rabbit stories.
Perhaps best described as the bawdy, blasé cousin of Aesop’s Fables, Uncle Remus and the Brer Rabbit stories have long been burdened with knee-jerk assumptions. Deemed racist and rude for ages, Uncle Remus, and indeed Harris himself, were covertly educating the white, upper class South; subversively filling their bedtime stories with lessons of empathy, equality and racial reconciliation.
... but I can’t spoil the ending, so you’ll just have to take the tour! Storytime begins at 1p.m. sharp each Saturday. Tours of The Wren's Nest are available Tuesday - Saturday from 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. In true Southern fashion, just walk up and ring the bell!