Tell Us about "Writers' Homes I've Visited"

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Tell Us about "Writers' Homes I've Visited"

des. 6, 2015, 2:14pm

Because today I woke up with itchy feet and the feeling I wanted to take a road trip, it occurred to me I'd like to know the homes, cabins, and retreats, and even hotels you've been to that also housed (permanently or temporarily) an author.

Haven't ever kept a formal list but I can recall visiting Mark Twain's boyhood home and some years before going to Hartford with a cousin to see the Clemens and Stowe homes. They were neighbors there. And on a month-long Far West trip, Lime Spouse and I passed by the (reconstructed) cabin in Tuolumne County where Twain wrote "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

Living in SoFla, I enjoyed going to the Keys and sometimes took visiting friends to visit Hemingway's cool house where multitudes of 6-toed cats reside, supposedly descendants of the 6-toed cat(s) from his time. Just as charming but far smaller is Marjorie Kinan Rawlings pioneer home in central Florida, which sits in a prairie near a lake. When I used to go there, we often stopped for dinner at a road-kill restaurant that served alligator tail, rattlesnake, frogs' legs, and gopher turtle in a home-style setting.

I've hiked around Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O'Keefee's New Mexico desert cabin, Rancho de los Burros is. O'Keefe, who is famous as an artist, not as a memoirist, lived there for 20 years, surrounded by the subjects of her landscape and desert paintings.

In spite of the title of his most famous novel, I defiantly walked past Thomas Wolfe's childhood home in Asheville. It's one of those huge American Victorian's with peaky roof lines and an expansive veranda. I think there's a museum inside, but I didn't see it. I was more interested in hiking the Blue Ridge AT at the time.

Those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Oddly enough, I never went into a home of any of my favorite international writers on any of my European vacations. About the only cool contact I had with a writer from the European past was sleeping in the same room that Schliemann inhabited when he was digging around Agamemnon's Palace in Mycenea. The pension is La Belle Hélène and the proprietor and his son are characters. Enjoyed some shots of raki with them one chilly early spring night after scrambling over the ruins and peering into the tholoi tombs, one of which purportedly "belonged" to Clytemnestra. I've never read Scliemann's archaeological discovery books, but I heartily recommend Schliemann of Troy: Treasure and Deceit by David A. Traill, a biography, if the story of his discoveries of Ancient Greece interests you.

des. 6, 2015, 2:28pm

I was going to say I don't think I've been to any, only a couple artists', but I suppose Anne Frank was a writer and the place they were shut up in was their home, even if she wasn't intending to write for others to read and they wouldn't have lived in that space if they'd had a choice. I've gone to the Anne Frank House twice, once with my husband on my first visit to NL, and then again when we took my mom on her first visit to A'dam. Aside of that, though, I don't believe I've been to any.

des. 6, 2015, 4:20pm

I've been to Jane Austen's home in Chawton, and, at the other extreme, Knole, where Vita Sackville-West grew up.

Here in the States, I've been to Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott's childhood home, and Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home in Oak Park and the home he shared with all the cats in Key West.

Although he's best known as an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright also wrote a lot on the subject, and I've been to Taliesin in Wisconsin, as well as his home & studio in Oak Park. I've been to Ragdale, the childhood home of the poet Alice Ryerson Hayes.

des. 6, 2015, 5:01pm

Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott in Concord, Mass., and her father's failed commune called Fruitlands, in Harvard, Mass.
The Ralph Waldo Emerson House, in Concord, Mass.
- I saw the Alcott and Emerson homes when I was a youngster and was mostly impressed by how big and old-looking they were. I couldn't get a sense of the occupants from them, not as a kid.
- I visited Fruitlands as an adult; it was not too difficult to picture how optimism might have turned to despair in that setting.
The Steinbeck House, John Steinbeck's birthplace and home, in Salinas, California, now a restaurant as well as a historic site.
- I went there with a group that was in Salinas for a writers' conference and very much enjoyed the luncheon, as well as the brief tour.

I think there must be more, but that's all I can think of at present.

I've also been to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I list that with the same qualifiers as >2 .Monkey.:. Anything I might says about it seems banal to me, so I'll just say that I found it moving and memorable.

des. 6, 2015, 5:04pm

I've been to the Poe house in Philadelphia, the Mark Twain house in CT, and Anne Frank's in Amsterdam. I believe that's it. A couple of friends and I like going on literary crawls, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but I've done a few in New Orleans and Boston. Those are fun--sometimes we do places mentioned in books, sometimes we do famous writer haunts like the Algonquin or Mcsorley's.

des. 6, 2015, 9:30pm

I grew up in Rachel Carson's home town, but I had no idea till I was an adult with children. We moved back there for a year to deal with a family crisis. The Rachel Carson Homestead is now flourishing and my children attended a summer camp there. The house is a simple old country house and nestled into some woods.

des. 6, 2015, 10:23pm

Oooh, forgot that I went to a party at Ben Hecht's house a few years ago! A big old Victorian that began life as a single family home, and is again, but was a rooming house at the time Hecht lived there.

And André Breton's house in St. Cirq-la-Popie, France, though we couldn't go inside.

des. 7, 2015, 7:50am

I was going to say I haven't visited a single one, but I did check out the home that inspired Anne of Green Gables, visited the home where the author was born, and saw the home from the outside where she lived when she was writing the novel. Anything tied to Lucy Maude Montgomery in Prince Edward Island gets heavy tourist traction, so I wasn't alone.

Editat: des. 7, 2015, 10:24am

I used to work about a block from the rubble, referred to as The Dump, which had been the house in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind. The inside was outside and the outside was inside so there was nothing much to see. Walked past it many, many times. I understand it has since been restored.

When I was living in Rye, Sussex, I walked past Lamb House in which Henry James lived and worked in England. It was (is?) Still a private residence, so I did not go in.

des. 7, 2015, 2:44pm

The best I can manage is walking past Anne Rice's house in New Orleans. Oh, and I've been to Beckford's Tower in Bath, commissioned by William Beckford of Vathek fame.

Hardy's cottage isn't a million miles from where I am, but I'm not particularly motivated to take the trip.

des. 7, 2015, 4:02pm

I've been to "Faulkner House" in New Orleans' Pirate Alley many times because it's a bookshop, and I've been in Anne Rice's house for a Halloween party with about a thousand other people (and no didn't meet her), and I must have passed by and through a zillion locations connected with/haunted by various authors... but I'm not particularly given to literary pilgrimages. Well, actually, that's not correct, but I go on a different kind of pilgrimage--I like entering and trying to seize a bigger picture of physical places rendered in literature (as opposed to getting to the exact desk and chair where some writer laboured).

I would definitely go to the Dostoevsky museum in St. Petersburg but "grasping" the city he put in his novels would be the first order of the day.

des. 7, 2015, 6:22pm

>11 LolaWalser:

I admire your ambition to
seize a bigger picture of physical places rendered in literature
but I'm not sure how anyone could do that these days if the writer who described those places lived and wrote in the first half of the 20th C., much less in the 19th.

There are probably exceptions in places like Bath, which to me still seems a quiet and cloistered small town that is suitable for genteel folk who need to rest and take the waters. ;^)

des. 7, 2015, 7:30pm

Well, of course it's futile to chase after exact versions of a bygone time and space. But what remains, however faint, can nevertheless be significant and enchanting.

And LOTS of places last longer than others. My hometown is nearly 2000 years old and you can still touch the bricks laid down by Diocletian's masons with your own hand.

des. 7, 2015, 9:31pm

Certainly also true of Greece, since so many amphitheaters still exist at least in part. And non-literary remains of two thousand year-old structures pepper the countryside.

I had no trouble at all imagining myself to be a Greek contemporary when I visited Ancient Epidaurus where performances of classical Greek plays are still given.

There is a timeless "atmosphere" that engulfs Paris, but the streets are not the narrow twisting ways made famous by Victor Hugo. And Dickens' dreary slums have shifted locales and aren't anywhere so miserable as he described them because there is no more fog the likes of which were common in his coal-fired time. London doesn't make me think of literary scenes further in the past than post-WWII. I can imagine George Smiley wandering the streets, but not Becky Sharp.

I guess the easiest place to imagine as the same now as it was "then" is the wide open spaces of the American West that features in historical fiction but was never actually witnessed in its "wild West" phase by many writers other than Twain, (the child Jack) London, and Harte.

des. 7, 2015, 9:48pm

>14 Limelite:

Paris is great for "hunting literature"!

It all depends on what draws us in a piece. I've told this story here before, but in Buenos Aires, where I traced all kinds of connections and scenes from many books and writers' lives, I made a point of going to the huge, uninspiring, traffic-dense quarter called Once, because there's a prose poem by Borges, which I can't even be 100% sure describes the event as it happened (but there is no reason to suppose it did not), about his last meeting with a friend, Delia Elena San Marco (also the title of the piece).

There's no clue about where exactly they met and parted, where Borges turned around to see her cut off from his view by a stream of vehicles, not knowing that they'd never meet again (unless, as he meditates in the poem, Plato was right about the immortality of the soul), and it's really not important--as I was wandering around that utterly ordinary, busy, congested part of town I felt that moment of unknown final goodbyes around me everywhere. Everywhere there were rivers of cars and people appearing and disappearing forever. It could have been any corner. It WAS any corner. But in Once. I was swimming in the space of the poem.

Well--not to go on and on...!

Editat: des. 8, 2015, 7:18am

THOMAS HARDY LIVED HERE, it proclaimed on the blue plaque on the wall of my friend, Peter Hedges', house on the corner of Brodrick Road and Trinity Road in South West London (S.W.17) soon after WW2.

Us kids often wondered who the hell he was....

des. 8, 2015, 10:49am

Limelight's mention of Greece reminds me that I also have visited the home of Nikos Kazantzakis on Crete.

Editat: des. 8, 2015, 7:00pm

I've been to Eugene O'Neill's family summer home (when he was a boy) in New London, CT twice. It's called the Monte Cristo cottage. I was amazed at how low the ceilings were on the second floor and imagine it must have gotten very hot up there.

I've been to Yeat's grave in Drumcliff cemetery in Sligo, Ireland.

Editat: des. 9, 2015, 8:16am

>12 Limelite: I admire your ambition to
seize a bigger picture of physical places rendered in literature
but I'm not sure how anyone could do that these days if the writer who described those places lived and wrote in the first half of the 20th C., much less in the 19th.

One of my favorite books is Poets in a Landscape, where the classicist Gilbert Highet and his wife (who he never names, but it's Helen MacInnes) travel around Italy visiting the scenes and significant places of his favorite classical poets: Catullus, Horace, Virgil. It's a beautiful little love affair of both poetry and place. Intimate and imaginative, it rates in my mind with Lawrence's Twilight in Italy in terms of travel accounts.

A couple years ago my mother and I went on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting the houses (and more to the point, the gardens) of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. It was a trip inspired by Andrea Wulf's book Founding Gardeners but also a revisit and a touchstone because the last time we had been to Monticello was forty years earlier, when I was a little girl.

It was a wonderful trip -- we kept stealing seed pods from the plants when we could and now she and I both have irises from Montpelier growing in our gardens -- mom, in New York, me in North Carolina.

des. 9, 2015, 11:20am

The Highet sounds great, exactly something I'd love to read/do.

I've always wanted to do what some British--author, journalist, can't remember--did and go around Greece with Pausanias in hand--2nd to 20th c. (Was it Peter Levy, The Hill of Kronos? Hmm...)

I suppose it might turn out rather depressing, though...

Editat: des. 10, 2015, 1:59am

I've been to the house in Prince Edward Island where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived. It was a pretty little place, with gabled windows all of its own.

Many years ago I went to the Yorkshire home of the Bronte sisters, took a tour, admired the graveyard, looked about on the moor. Later that same week I saw the house where "James Herriot" (Alf Wight) worked as a vet in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, and visited the house just inside the Scottish border where Sir Walter Scott lived.

des. 10, 2015, 10:23am

Would love to visit Scott's home. He is one of my favorite authors.

Editat: des. 18, 2015, 12:29pm

Lucy Herndon Crockett made a pass at my grandfather and for the rest of her life my grandmother referred to her as 'that woman.' Although they lived within a country mile of each other, the Seven Mile Ford Tri-blip metro area, I never visited that woman's house.

Editat: des. 18, 2015, 3:23am

At first I was thinking none. But upon reflection...
- the Frederick Douglass house in Washington DC
- Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia
- 'Keats house' in Hampstead in north London (I have a small flint from the driveway lol).
- Gabriel Harvey's house in Saffron Walden
- and I've been one of a jillion turistas to visit the Shakespeare Birthplace, although he probably did most of his writing in London

Oh, and I visited a friend of mine when she was house-sitting for Reed Whittemore.

des. 18, 2015, 11:18am

>24 Crypto-Willobie:

Good for you reminding me that Jefferson was also a writer. I, too, visited the lovely Monticello; also, George Washington's home on the banks of the Potomac. He's a writer of an etiquette book (I guess you could say) for young gentlemen.

des. 19, 2015, 6:18am

The ones I can remember visiting:
Shakespeare's bithplace in Stratford-upon-Avon
Keats' house in Hampstead
Dove Cottage in Grasmere (William Wordsworth)
Robert Burns' house in Dumfries
Monticello (Thomas Jefferson)
Rugby, TN (Thomas Hughes)
Gene Stratton Porter's house in Geneva, IN
Ramsey House (J.G.M. Ramsey) here in Knoxville
Laura Ingalls Wilder's home in Mansfield, MO
Carl Sandburg's home "Connemara" in North Carolina
Hemingway's home in Key West
Harry Truman's home in Independence, MO
Dwight D. Eisenhower's birthplace in Denison, TX
Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill

des. 20, 2015, 3:22pm

Article in today's NYT's travel section about Pablo Neruda's 3 homes in Chile.

des. 20, 2015, 5:00pm

>27 dianeham:
Thank you for the link. The photos are beautiful. Like Neruda, my favorite house is also Isla Negra.

des. 21, 2015, 6:00pm

>12 Limelite: I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of Bath having the feel of 'a quiet and cloistered town.' I think it's around 70-80,000 residents, it's often a nightmare to get through by car and the Summer months sees it choked with foreign exchange students. I'm not knocking the place - I've fond memories of my time there, live close by and still visit often. But personally, I find it hard to conjure the spirits of Jane Austen and Ann Radcliffe there. Except maybe on a quiet Autumn morning on one of the crescents.

>21 ahef1963: Ah, I went to Haworth just after reading Shirley, which was cool. On the same trip, I came across Sylvia Plaith's grave at Hebdon Bridge or Hebdonshaugh (?). I wasn't looking for it, had no idea she was buried in the vicinity, so it was quite a surprise.

des. 21, 2015, 8:24pm

Long, long ago a college friend and I visited Ogden Nash (a lovely poet ~~~ do look him up if you have yet to encounter his work) and I bragged afterwards that he'd held my coat for me as we said goodbye.

oct. 7, 2020, 6:25pm

I’ve seen Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West complete with cats. I touredThomas Wolfe’s house in Asheville in 1988. The tour guide kept mentioning how flammable the house was. It was very odd that he mentioned numerous times during the tour. Sure enough somebody set it on fire a few years later. I’ve not been back since it’s been restored. I’ve also been to the museum near the Spanish Steps in Rome where John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley lived for a time.