Great Homes of Great Authors
Yesterday, you may have seen that the NEA announced $1 million in Big Read grants for 77 organizations across the country. Since we had books on the brain, we thought we’d take a look at the many literary museums and homes participating in Blue Star Museums this year. If there are any bookworms out there, hopefully this list will help inspire a literary pilgrimage as you make your summer travel plans.
Edward Gorey House: No one mastered the art of the grotesque better than Edward Gorey. The creator of over 100 illustrated books, the eccentric author was famous for his intricate black and white artwork, which were equal parts dark and delightful. The Edward Gorey House, located in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, is where the author spent the last 14 years of his life. As Rick Jones, the home's director and curator said: "His house is like his work: a bit creepy and strange but also whimsical and captivating."
Margaret Mitchell House: The Antebellum South may have disappeared long ago, but Margaret Mitchell helped preserve the era in Gone With the Wind. Mitchell wrote the novel in a tiny apartment on Atlanta's Peachtree Street, where visitors can today see her desk, typewriter, and other memorabilia.
Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum: Although Ernest Hemingway is probably most closely associated with Key West, he spent time living in a number of different spots around the globe---including Arkansas. Located in the town of Piggott, the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum is set on what was once the 60,000-acre property of Hemingway's in-laws. The Pfeiffers converted their barn into a studio for their son-in-law, who wrote portions of A Farewell to Arms there.
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum: With over 9,000 pieces of "Stevensoniana," this museum is a tribute to the author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Located in St. Helena, California, where Stevenson spent his honeymoon, the museum features everything from the author's manuscript notes and childhood letters to his personal library, desk, and wedding ring.
The Beat Museum: While you're on the road this summer, why not pay homage to the literary movement that gave birth to On the Road? Located---where else?---in San Francisco, the museum is part bookstore, part history lesson, featuring memorabilia dealing with Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady. For an added Beatnik bonus, head across the street to the City Lights Bookstore, whose owner published Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems in 1956. Howl's publication later led to an obscenity lawsuit, which helped cement the work's place in history.
Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House: Historical recreation? Not here. The house where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her epic novel Little Women remains much as it did during the author's own lifetime. According to Jan Turnquist, the museum's executive director, "Almost everything you see in the house when you walk through was owned by the Alcotts and is in the position they had it." Noteworthy for its age in addition to its place in literature (the house dates back to the 1690s), the museum is located in Concord, Massachusetts.
Mark Twain House and Museum: Although far from Huckleberry Finn's beloved Mighty Mississippi, Hartford, Connecticut, was home to Mark Twain for some 20 years. He and his wife designed and built what is now the Mark Twain House, where they lived from 1874 to 1891. Wonderfully ornate both in its architecture and interior design, the house---designated a National Historic Landmark---is considered part of the museum's collection, which includes 16,000 other items and artifacts.