Saturday, December 5, 2015

Atlanta History Center: 14 Reasons I Renewed

One can learn more about the history of Atlanta—and the rich experiences it has offered, and currently offers the world—in a few hours at the Atlanta History Center, than most ever learn in a lifetime living here.

I don't say that lightly. I say it from experience. I moved to Atlanta in 1987, lived here for 15 years, moved to DC for nine, and I've now been back for more than five years. After starting wanderlust ATLANTA—a blog about being a tourist in Atlanta—an exercise to re-familiarize myself with the city, I learned more about Atlanta in one year than I had in the 15 years I lived here before. It was a shocking and amazing revelation!

Exploring the Atlanta History Center has played a significant role in my learning more about the city that I consider "home", more than any other place I've lived. In particular, I'm grateful to the staff who have made me feel so welcome as a person enthusiastic about sharing fascinating experiences throughout our wonderful city. I'm talking about you Hillary, Martha, Brandi and Sheffield

So, why exactly did I renew my membership? The following are 14 reasons, in no particular order, I recently and excitedly renewed my membership to the Atlanta History Center:


Swan House | Atlanta History Center
Swan House | Atlanta History Center

I adore the Swan House not only because my middle name is Swann (note the difference in spelling), but also because it's one of the most magnificent historic homes in the whole of Atlanta! It's also one of the most photographed attractions in the city. 

Swan House, designed by famed Philip Trammell Shutze, built in 1928 for the Edward H. Inman family, is magnificent! I highly recommend that you tour the home when you visit. Be sure to request a timed entry ticket when you arrive at admissions.

Mandarin Shutze: A Chinese Export Life | Atlanta History Center
Mandarin Shutze: A Chinese Export Life | Atlanta History Center

I love it when an exhibit sneaks up on me...that I don't miss, of course. Fortunately, I "discovered" Mandarin Shutze: A Chinese Export Life after overhearing another visitor mention it. I had in fact heard about it, but it fell off my radar for a few months. 

This exhibition is magnificent! And a lot larger than you might think when you first go in. I should say "go down"'s in the basement of the Swan House. To see this exhibition, be sure you've secured your timed Swan House tour voucher at admissions or ask if the house is open—for certain programs the Swan House is open outside of timed tours.


Candlelight Nights | Atlanta History Center
Candlelight Nights | Atlanta History Center

This year's Cendlelight Nights has been on my calendar since it was first announced, which I was eagerly awaiting having had such an incredible time at last year's event! 

This year's events are on Friday, December 11 (I'll be at Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker), and Friday, December 18, for which I've already purchased my tickets! I'm excitedly looking forward to a repeat performance of all the magnificent holiday cheer this event brings. 

Get a program when you arrive to make sure you don't miss anything you want to see while you're there. And there's a LOT to choose from, and the programming is throughout their 33-acre campus!


Olympic Torches |  1996 Summer Olympic Games | Atlanta History Center
Olympic Torches |  1996 Summer Olympic Games | Atlanta History Center

Having lived in Atlanta during the bidding process for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, including the heart-pounding morning of the winning bid announcement, through the Centennial Olympic Games themselves, this museum has a very special place in my heart. It is home to a world-class collection and a part of Atlanta history that stands unique.

I also lived in Greece for more than two years, where I toured the Olympic Stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held 100 years prior to their being conducted in Atlanta. That's another reason this museum means so much to me.

The museum is expansive, but my favorite collection in this particular museum is the torches (and medallions prior to torches) for each of the modern Olympic Games! It's impressive!


Party With the Past | Atlanta History Center
Party With the Past | Atlanta History Center

From its inception, the Atlanta History Center's Party With the Past events have been incredibly successful. The program is designed specifically for local young professionals and that's the majority of the upwards of 300 attendees at the events. 

I've had the pleasure of attending many of these events (I may not be "young", but I am young at heart) and I've written about a few, too. Have a look:

Party With the Past at Zoo Atlanta
Party With the Past at Dekalb History Center
Party With the Past Gatsby Style at Swan House

The events are held approximately every two months and they're consistently as much fun as they are informative. Many may not think of history as "fun", but it totally can be! 


Travis with John Berendt | Margaret Mitchell House
Travis with John Berendt | Margaret Mitchell House

I've attended a number of author events at the Atlanta History Center and the Margaret Mitchell House (part of the Atlanta History Center).

Celebrity chef Curtis Stoneheartthrob Aussie (now living in Los Angeles), was awesome. But, perhaps my favorite author event was getting to see, hear and meet John Berendt (pictured above), author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the evening he introduced his novel as a METABOOK.

You MUST check out gives novels a life you never knew a book could's a wholly new way to experience the written word.


Margaret Mitchell House | Scarlett O'Hara | Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell House | Scarlett O'Hara | Gone With the Wind

I've seen the Margaret Mitchell House restored, burned, restored and grow since I first moved to Atlanta in 1987. I am incredibly impressed with what's been done with this historic home and grateful that it has been rebuilt and is used for public tours and events on a consistent basis. If you haven't been, go!

Their guided tours are timed, so plan ahead. And be sure to visit the ancillary buildings that house additional Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind exhibits, displays and artifacts. 


herry Sims Asian American Garden | Atlanta History Center
Cherry Sims Asian American Garden | Atlanta History Center

For your wanderlusting pleasure, you may "explore 22 acres of tranquil gardens and trails, featuring six distinct gardens that showcase the horticultural history of the Atlanta region." 

I knew there were multiple gardens, but I didn't know there were six! And I didn't know that they focus on the "horticultural history of the Atlanta region"! I have indeed explored and delighted in the over the years and highly recommend doing so when you visit. I'm quite fond of the Quarry Garden and I love the Cherry Sims Asian American Garden!


Smith Family Farm | Atlanta History Center
Smith Family Farm | Atlanta History Center

Smith Family Farm is another of their historic homes, that was once located approximately four miles from where it now stands, in high contrast to Buckhead's modern skyscrapers.

Visiting this historic home when there are costumed docents is great fun. And there are animals living on the farm, including a goat named Little Richard.

A home that represents life around the time of the Civil War, "The house and separate open-hearth kitchen are now surrounded by a dairy, blacksmith shop, smokehouse, double corncrib, slave cabin, and barn, as well as traditional vegetable, herb, field, flower, and slave gardens."


If you're a golfer, you're going to love the Bobby Jones museum at the Atlanta History Center! I wrote a story a couple of years ago that outlines a full day of Bobby Jones tours throughout Atlanta, including the museum at Atlanta History Center!

"Down the Fairway With Bobby Jones" is a fantastic museum dedicated to the local golf legend Bobby Jones. I have visited this particular museum countless times and I'm not even a golfer! I've been golfing twice and the second time I didn't lose a single ball to the woods!


Swan House Capitol Tour | Travis at President Snow's Desk | Atlanta History Center
Swan House Capitol Tour | President Snow's Desk | Atlanta History Center

The Swan House Capitol Tour is so incredibly awesome, for cinema enthusiasts and history buffs alike! If you're a fan of The Hunger Games movies, you'll want to go on this tour! If you've been before, I recommend going again...there have been a few changes since Mockingjay Part 2 was released.

If you're not familiar with The Hunger Games, the Atlanta History Center was a filming site for last three films in the series, in particular, the Swan House, the Swan House Gardens and the Swan House Lawn.


Veterans Park | Atlanta History Center | U.S. Navy
Veterans Park | Atlanta History Center | U.S. Navy

As a former sailor in the United States Navy, although I never had shore-duty throughout my enlistment (I was a land-based Radioman), I'm ever grateful to the Atlanta History Center for its Veterans Park

I recently attended their third annual Veterans Day program, conducted in Veterans Park, and was incredibly touched by the entire program and those who were in attendance, including many war veterans.

Veterans Park is exactly that...a park. But it's a park with lots to offer. And you can visit it outside of regular museum hours. I recommend bringing your smart phone and downloading a QR Code reader, if you haven't already, prior to visiting.


Atlanta History Center | Turning Point | US Civil War
Atlanta History Center | Turning Point | US Civil War

The Gone With the Wind Trail includes two Atlanta History Center destinations. 

In the primary tours, they list the Margaret Mitchell House, the Atlanta history Center's historic home located in the Atlanta neighborhood of Midtown. The other listing—under "Rhett's Recommendations" is their main campus in Buckhead—specifically, "Turning Point: The American Civil War" museum, which houses one of the more comprehensive Civil War collections in the nation!

Before I moved back to Atlanta and started blogging about being a tourist here, I'd never considered myself a "Windie"—a super fan of Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone With the Wind

But as I explored more and more, it eventually dawned on me...I keep visiting Margaret Mitchell/Gone With the Wind/Civil War sites and going on tours relative to the book and subsequent movie, in addition to being a history buff, that perhaps, just maybe, I am a Windie. I've met some very nice Windies over the years, so I wouldn't be devastated with the attribution.


Texas | Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center
Texas | Cyclorama | Atlanta History Center

When rumors began to surface about the closing of the Cyclorama, I was devastated. It was a mostly-ignored, under-visited attraction—a most wonderful attraction, but in my opinion, it didn't have the marketing backing as many other equally magnificent exhibitions. 

I was overjoyed when I learned that the Atlanta Cyclorama and the Texas locomotive were going to the Atlanta History Center!

The Atlanta Cyclorama is also on Rhett's Recommedations on the Gone With the Wind Trail. 

The move was announced in 2014. The attraction closed in June of this year (2015) and it's slated to reopen at the Atlanta History Center in early 2017. Here's a wonderful fly-through rendition of what we all can expect: The Cyclorama's Future Home (VIDEO) 

There you go...14 amazing reasons to become a member of the Atlanta History Center! And please know that this is a short's the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Go explore!

For the record, while the Atlanta History Center has been wonderful to me as a blogger, I also consider them friends. I purchased my own membership and all the opinions expressed in all my writings are my own opinions. 

If you're a local or visit Atlanta frequently, I encourage you to become a member of this magnificent Atlanta destination. I say "destination" because it's so much more than a museum or an attraction...the Atlanta History Center is Atlanta...past, present and future!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a 15th reason and that's the Cherokee Garden Library which is a part of the Atlanta History Center and is located on the Center's grounds in the Kenan Research Center - to the right of the "main" History Center building. You will not believe all the wonderfully fascinating materials there and Director Staci Catron is just super!