Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Alexander Stephens' Liberty Hall, A Prototype For Tara

From Confederate Digest:

Liberty House, also know as Liberty Hall, is the home of Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States of America. The house was built built following the WAr, in 1872-73 and replaced an earlier structure, which was also Stephens home. Liberty Hall, In Crawfordville, Georgia, is preserved as part of the Alexander H. Stephens State Historic Park.

On the first floor is Stephens own bedroom, complete with his wheelchair. Stephens was chronically ill for most of his adult life, rarely weighing more than 95 pounds. A side table near the bed held bottles containing patent medicines common in the day. In the front of the house is a men's sitting room, while the ladies sitting room occupied the rear of the first floor. During his lifetime many famous people visited Stephens at the home including Robert Toombs, and Howell and Thomas Cobb. Toombs, from nearby Washington, Georgia, had a bedroom on the second floor. Stephens had a similar room in Toombs' house.

A kitchen stands behind the house in a seperate building. This was a common practice in those days to keep the stove from warming the home in summer and also to lessen the possibility of fire.

Rear View of Liberty Hall - The Kitchen is on the Right

Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Margaret Mitchell was familiar with Liberty Hall and had the house in mind when she penned the immortal American classic novel, Gone with the Wind. When discussing the origins of the plantation house "Tara" she mentioned this house, along with the Fitzgerald house in Clayton County, Georgia, was the prototype for the fictional O'Hara plantation. Liberty Hall is somwhat different from the one in the 1939 movie. Mitchell said she loved the rambling and "no particular architectural plan" quality of it.

This small but excellent Confederate Museum stands next to Liberty Hall and is operated by the State of Georgia. It is a real gem, containing one of the finest collections of memorbilia from the War Between the States to be found in Georgia and operated by Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Exhibits in the museum take the visitor down the "Road to War," from home life to battlefield. Artifacts which may be seen include firearms, uniforms, historic documents and much more. When I was pastor of a church in Augusta, about an hour east of Crawfordville, I brought youth groups from our church to visit this museum on 3 or 4 occasions and I have also been here on family outings.

I have one special memory of visiting this Confederate Museum one hot summer afternoon and talking at length with two ladies who work as docents at Liberty Hall and also the museum. They spoke fondly -even intimately - of Alexander H. Stephens whom they called "Little Alex." One would have thought they had known him their entire lives.

Photos by J. Stephen Conn

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