By preserving the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris and the heritage of African American folklore through storytelling – ramblers, tours and student publishing, the Wren’s Nest serves as an educational resource for the community, the greater Atlanta area and visitors from around the globe.
Joel Chandler Harris recreated the oral tradition of the Brer Rabbit tales in print between 1876 and 1908, and Harris was one of the most popular American writers in the 19th and 20th centuries. His work has never gone out of print. The Wren’s Nest was the author’s home from 1881 until 1908. The structure is one of only a few remaining Queen Anne Victorian homes in Atlanta. It’s a unique example of upper middle class living around the turn of the 20th century. Today the home features most of the Harris family’s original furniture and belongings. The museum officially opened as a house museum in 1913, with financial support from Andrew Carnegie, President Theodore Roosevelt, and the fundraising efforts of kids from Atlanta Public Schools. The National Park service designated the Wren’s Nest a National Historic Landmark in 1962. Between 1985 and 1992 the Joel Chandler Harris Association restored the interior and exterior. In 2009, the administration completed a $200,000 conservation project. The Wren’s Nest will celebrate 100 years of operation in 2013.
Q. Who do you serve?
As the oldest house museum in Atlanta (100 this year) we serve children of all ages from our neighborhood in the Historic West End, from the city, the region, the nation and the world. People come from all over to tour our historic house and hear the stories of Brer Rabbit. In addition, we serve local middle and high school students with our writing and publishing programs as well as their families, friends and especially their writing mentors.
Q. What is your organization’s biggest accomplishment?
The Wren’s Nest carries on the tradition of storytelling. The Brer Rabbit stories have transcended centuries and continents. The Wren’s Nest considers themselves lucky enough to preserve them and watch our storytellers perform over 250 times annually. The organization also encourages others to share their own stories. The Wren’s Nest sponsors an annual journal publication for high school students. For the last several years, The Wren’s Nest has partnered with KIPP Strive Academy (located nearby in the former Joel Chandler Harris Elementary School building) and volunteers to help students write stories. The collection is published each year in conjunction with the Decatur Book Festival.
Q. What is Wren’s Nest’s biggest need?
The facility is more than just bricks and mortar. The Wren’s Nest is a living, breathing National Historic Landmark that requires constant attention, maintenance and restoration. They are always looking for volunteers and have a goal of increasing the operating budget by at least $50,000 in 2013.
Q. What are the organization’s plan for the future?
The long-term goal is to become a complete resource for storytelling. By offering a place for people to gather to strengthen their relationship with storytelling, both written and oral, we plan to become a beacon for young people (and old) in our neighborhood and beyond to learn to write, tell and publish their own stories.