It’s hot, y’all, HOT. What else do we expect from summer in The ATL? We have already seen temps in the 100s! To cope with the heat for the rest of this season, we need things to do indoors, in the AC, where it’s reasonable…
Let’s see, a Staycation in Atlanta . . . GA Aquarium . . . Coca Cola Museum . . . Fernbank . . . Little 5 Points . . . Six Flags . . . There’s nothing wrong with these places, but maybe we’ve done that already?
On a whim, I recently visited The Wren’s Nest House Museum in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. This place is off the beaten path of typical Atlanta vacation destinations. If you want to be inspired, if you want your mind enriched, if you want some joy in your life, then please consider adding this stop to your STAYCATION itinerary in The ATL this summer!
According to their website, “The Wren’s Nest, the historic home of author and journalist Joel Chandler Harris, is a cultural center, house museum, and National Historic Landmark in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood. Our mission is to preserve storytelling traditions, cultivate the next generation of readers and writers, and celebrate self-expression through educational and cultural programming.”
A National Historic Landmark, The Wren’s Nest House Museum was the home of celebrated author and storyteller Joel Chandler Harris. The writer responsible for recording an astonishing number of tales of African-American enslaved people, Harris published the hilarious stories of Br’er Rabbit and his friends, along with many other stirring folk tales from the people of West Africa.
Harris lived in The Wren’s Nest home from 1881 until 1908. Meticulously restored in the 1980s, (it has air conditioning!!) The Wren’s Nest was originally built by George Muse, founder of Muse’s Clothing, a well-known and established Atlanta clothing store. Later, after Harris bought the home, he conducted an extensive renovation, so that it became a stunning example of the Queen Anne style, so popular in Atlanta in the late 19th century. The home received its nickname because of the wrens nesting in the mailbox. A naturalist at heart, Harris built a new mailbox and placed it beside the birds’ nest mailbox, so as not to disturb the birds!
Joel Chandler Harris spent ages 14-18 living on the edge of a plantation in rural Georgia, with his single mother. While there, he became close to an enslaved man, George Terrell, who was a father figure to him. On many occasions, Harris would listen to Terrell and others as they told stories in the evenings, about Br’er Rabbit and other critters, handed down from African folklore. Harris was usually right beside them, engrossed in every single tale.
At the museum, you will learn about Harris’ life and his literary works, and how created the beloved fictitious character “Uncle Remus” — a raconteur of slave and older African Folk Tales. It was here — on the wraparound porch — that Harris recorded to paper the celebrated and hilarious and irresistible Br’er Rabbit tales in their authentic dialect and form. You will see period antiques, original furnishings and possessions of the Harris family, and lots of memorabilia related to Uncle Remus, Br’er Rabbit, and friends.
After our guided tour with Carla Ramcharam, Director of Operations, we were lucky to sit down in the parlor to hear Akbar Imhotep tell lively and intriguing — and downright funny — Tales from the Briar Patch — stories of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and friends. I am always exhilarated by live performances and this storytelling event was just SO much FUN!! Mr. Imhotep, who has been telling stories at the Wren’s Nest since 1986, engaged with the audience and truly brought us into the stories. In my mind, I could see every scene, vividly, as he described them, and I never stopped smiling throughout! (Here is a link to virtual storytellers at the Wren’s Nest, to entice you to visit the museum and hear them live!!)
The beautiful wraparound porch is where Harris recorded to paper the celebrated, hilarious, and irresistible Br’er Rabbit tales in their authentic dialect and form, which he originally heard on a plantation in his teen years, out of the very mouths of enslaved African people. He spent many, many hours over the years, sitting on this porch, inspired by the natural world and was dedicated to preserving this oral history for all.
Weekly storytelling sessions will occur every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. House tours are available on the hour and half hour from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and again at 2:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., following live storytelling. Self-guided tours are also available. Museum hours are 11-3 on Saturdays, and Sunday-Friday By Appointment.
Aside from providing an amazing museum experience, The Wren’s Nest is also making a positive impact on the Atlanta Community through its programs and special events, such as jazz concerts, a Gatsby Lawn party, and an Edgar Allen Poe Experience. They have also established free early-childhood book programs for the West End neighborhood and hosted a Juneteenth celebration this year. And they do much, much more.
Hearing the storytellers at the Wren’s Nest will be an unforgettable experience! And walking through the Wren’s Nest Home Museum, for me, was such an enjoyable and enlightening experience. I loved taking a peek back in history and learning about Harris’ creative process . Do not miss this opportunity if you are visiting. If you live in The ATL, make a plan to visit The Wren’s Nest Home Museum right away. You will LOVE it! You will stay cool and you will BE cool!
Have you visited The Wren’s Nest Home Museum? I’d love to hear about your experience! Please leave a comment below!