If you have a hankering to be a part of theatrical history and have a few million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, you might consider making an offer on a home in the Druid Hills neighborhood. The 6,000-square-foot French provincial structure, which lists for $2.7 million, helped to inspire the Broadway play and motion picture, “Driving Miss Daisy.”
The house which, which has six bedrooms and five bathrooms, was built for Alfred and Clementine Montag in 1915 at 850 Oakdale Road. The Montags, well-to-do members of The Temple in Atlanta were the uncle and aunt of Alfred Uhry, who wrote “Driving Miss Daisy” about his grandmother, Lena Fox. He set the play in the imaginary setting of the Montags impressive home.
Uhry wrote in an article for the New York Times in 1988 about the Atlanta premiere of the play that mentions the house. He describes it during a tour of the city he took with a number of visitors from New York.
“The New York people pile into the van for a sightseeing trip,” he wrote in The New York Times. “Most of them have never been to Atlanta, so I try to hit everything. The highlight is Aunt Clemmie’s house. This is where I set the play in my mind.”
The play, which won Uhry a Pulitzer Prize and ran initially on Broadway for three years, tells the story of a 25 year friendship from the late 1940s to the early 1970s between an aging Southern Jewish matron, Daisy Werthan, and her chauffeur, who is African American.
It recalls a difficult era of racial tension and desegregation that has long resonated with Atlanta Jewish audiences, beginning with the first production here over 40 years ago. Uhry described the reception of one of the first Atlanta performances, which benefitted The Temple. He recalled for The New York Times in 1988 that the rabbi of The Temple at the time. Alvin Sugarman, who grew up in Atlanta, was particularly emotional.
“The rabbi comes up on the stage, embraces me and is moved to tears when he speaks about the play,” Uhry commented in 1988. “I credit this not to my writing, but to the fact that the whole audience had lived through what I wrote about. They all know how it feels to be Southern and Jewish.”
The playwright, who has lived in New York City most of his adult life, grew up in a home across from the Druid Hills Golf Club. As close as the family was to the club, it was off limits to Jews during a time when there were restrictions on membership.
“Driving Miss Daisy” is the best-known work in a trilogy about Jewish Atlanta during the 20th century that Uhry has written. He also wrote “Parade,” a play with music that was created about the trial and lynching of Leo Frank in the three years from 1913 to 1915.
“Parade” was last performed in Atlanta in 2017 at the Alliance Theatre in celebration of the 150th anniversary of The Temple, where Uhry’s family and his grandmother and grandfather’s families were members.
The third of the plays in the trilogy is “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” which enjoyed a sold-out run at the Stage Door Players theater in Dunwoody last year.
“Driving Miss Daisy” was made into a critically acclaimed motion picture in 1989 starring Jessica Tandy as Daisy and Morgan Freeman, who had starred in the original production, as her chauffeur. The film won four Academy Awards, including best actress for Tandy and best adapted screenplay for Uhry.
For the motion picture of “Driving Miss Daisy,” the producers passed on the Oakdale Road home that is now for sale, and chose three different locations for filming, including one at 822 Lullwater Road.