Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hemingway's Birth Home

Hemingway's birth home sits a few blocks up from the museum's location, on Oak Park Ave, in Oak Park, IL.  The home has been refinished and refurbished over the years.  Some things in it are replicas of what would have been in the home at the turn of the 20th century, when the Hemingway family lived there.

You can find a pretty decent oral review of the home at

After my tour at the museum,  I purchased a coffee mug, a tee shirt, and a Nick Adams book that I didn't have.  It was a bit worn, but I liked the idea of buying a used book that someone else had, makes it feel more authentic.  Strange, I know.  A crowd was picking up in the museum, so I didn't mill around too long.  

It was almost eleven and I wanted to make the next tour of Hemingway's childhood home, so I boogied back to my parking meter, put in more quarters, and hoofed it up the street several blocks.  Rain was threatening, but it was cool, the air fresh and clean.  I felt like a real writer, a true researcher.  I felt free.  I know that might sound strange to you, but with what personal things going in my life at the time, this trip, however brief it was, was the exact thing I needed to reground myself, rejuvenate myself. 

I could have spent all day there, but I was meeting friends later, in a neighboring town, and because of my goof up on the time the museum opened, I was already running a bit behind. I made it just before eleven.  John and Julie were my tour guides.  Julie was a guide in training, and if I thought Conni knew her stuff about Hemingway, well, John... whew.  He knew his stuff and more!

The tour begins in the foyer where the tour guides will meet you and give you a brief run down of what you will expect throughout the home.

The man on the bottom is Mr. Hall, Ernest's maternal grandfather.  He lived in the house with his wife, Caroline.  The paternal Hemingway family lived across the street.  When Caroline passed away, Mr. Hall asked his daughter, Grace, Ernest's mother, to move in with him, and when she married Dr. Hemingway, Ernest's father, they all lived in the home together.  Ernest and his older sister were both born in this home.

Grace, to me, seemed to be an interesting person, to say the least, almost eccentric, if that is appropriate.  Hemingway had a love - hate relationship with his mother, which came through more so as he grew older.  She was meticulous, smart, and very inclined to absorb the arts, mainly music.  Hemingway's relationship with his father was equally interesting.  You can see how he viewed his father and their relationship through the years through many of Hemingway's stories, especially the Nick Adams stories.

There's a story that Hemingway wrote, "Indian Camp," about a boy and his father, who is a doctor, who go into a neighboring Indian camp one day to help a woman give birth.  John, the tour guide pointed out to me that that story was based on one of Hemingway's own experiences with his father, and the Indian camp they went to wasn't far from the home.

As a side note, the great thing I always appreciated about Hemingway's writing, and why I wanted to study it in depth, is the fact that he was not afraid to take his real life experiences and work them into fiction.  There comes a great debate with fiction writers and readers of Hemingway's work: if you write from real life experiences, how do you know, or how do you draw the line, between what is real and what is not?

You've heard the phrase write what you know?  You've heard the phrase that the best fiction can come from real life?  Even if you write mystery, horror, or sci-fi, there's a chance that there is something, however small or large, in your story, in a character, that is based on something or someone you know.  Hemingway readers know the difference between his non-fiction and his fiction work.

The parlor.  Note the photo of Grace.  It is placed just as her father had it placed originally.
I believe this is a chair John the tour guide noted as being an actual chair Caroline used.
From the parlor, looking into the dining room
Dining room table
This is a chest of draws in the servants' room, upstairs.  The sheets of paper propped up are lists that Grace, Grandpa Hall, and Dr. Hemingway all wrote out declaring their personal possessions.  Grace appeared to be meticulous at keeping track of what belonged specifically to her; the the pages alone on the left is her list.
Hemingway as a child
Hemingway's birth certificate
Master bedroom, where Caroline and Grace both slept.
Fireplace in Grandpa Hall's room.
Family photo; Ernest is on the far right.
Dr. Hemingway's room
Grace and Dr. Hemingway's marriage certificate
The library, where Grandpa Hall would entertain, smoke cigars.
This is the war sketch that Grandpa Hall wrote on his experience serving during the Civil War, which hangs in the library.
This is the war sketch for the other grandfather, on the Hemingway side.  He had far more to say about his experience in the Civil War than Grandpa Hall did.  Grandpa Hall did not like, nor did he often at all, speak about his time in the Civil War.
John and Julie, the tour guides.  Note the owls on the bookshelf between them.  Grace and Dr. Hemingway were away one time, staying in a cabin, and two owls were hooting in the middle of the night, much to the dismay of Grace.  Dr. Hemingway, if I recall the story correctly, killed the owls and then had them stuffed, and presented them as a gift to Grace.  She was very proper, so stuffed owls might not seem like such a romantic gift, but she never got rid of them.
I'd like to do more research and blog further on the family dynamic of the Hemingway household.  I'm intrigued by Hemingway's relationship with his parents.  I am also intrigued by the depression Hemingway fought.  Like his father, Hemingway killed himself, and there are so many aspects of that alone, psychologically, that intrigue me.

I made note of this in my personal blog, and debated mentioning it here, but I figured, why not?  Makes my experience a bit more unique.

When I arrived at the museum, my feet hurt due to my "these sandals are cute but aren't made for walking fast on an uneven sidewalk" shoes.  As I entered the house, I had made a comment about my feet hurting and how I'd love to take my shoes off.  One of the guides said go ahead!  Take them off.  I was like, oh sure, okay.  And she was like, no, really.  Go ahead.  We don't mind.  And she was serious!  I looked at her and smiled.  She said, you can keep them right here (pointing to a folding chair), and your purse too, if you want.  No one will bother them.

I slid my shoes off and wiggled my toes.  So yes, I got to tour Hemingway's childhood home barefoot!  I think I actually did a goofy glee dance in the foyer too.  I'm pretty sure not too many people can say they have done that (go barefoot in the home OR do a goofy dance)!

This concludes the tour!  Hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Ernest Hemingway Foundation Museum

Hello!  Following this blog post will be one for Hemingway's childhood home, so be sure to check it out!

I learned of the Hemingway Museum via  There are so many websites, so much information about Ernest Hemingway, so when I happened upon this site and saw the museum, I knew I had to go.  Getting the chance to do that was amazing.

The museum is located on Oak Park Ave.  The link above gives some great information about the foundation, the museum, and Hemingway's birthplace.  I encourage you to check it out.

On to our photo tour!
The front of the entry of the museum, facing Oak Park Ave.
Banners close up.  That's me, always pointing out the obvious!
Sign outside the museum

Hotel across the street, The Write Inn

I didn't stay at the hotel; I didn't even know it was there.  Had I known, I would have.  I was in Chicago the day before, and stayed at a hotel by the airport because I knew I'd be coming here the next morning.  Maybe next time, if I ever make it back.

There's a bistro attached to it, and at 10 a.m., it was crowded.  The hotel was charming, by the looks of the foyer anyhow.  It had an old-school, elegant feel to it.

Depending on what books and biographies you read about Hemingway, you might come across various bits of info that seem... contradictory.  A few things we know to be true: he was born in Oak Park, was a journalist for the Kansas City Star, and served during WWI as an ambulance driver for the Italian Army.  He was injured and while recuperating, fell in love with a nurse.  There are other fun facts we will explore as this blog grows, but the following are artifacts from his time during WWI, and other wars he covered beyond that, both in journalism and in fiction writing.

I arrived at the museum early.  I was actually in town by about eight that morning.  I thought the museum opened at eight, and well, I was wrong.  After looking so many times at the museum website, I really didn't see it was ten!  I grabbed a coffee and milled around town for a bit then right at ten, I headed over to the museum.

They let me in, but because they had just opened, I had to wait a few minutes in the lobby.  A young man behind the greeting desk indicated he was an aspiring writer.  How lucky for him to volunteer (I assume) at the museum!  What a great place to gather your muse, fuel your fire; that is, if you are a Hemingway fan.

I purchased my ticket from Conni, in the gift shop.  It was small and cramped with books and Hemingway fare galore, but it was cozy.  She was very friendly and seemed to be one person if I ever meet anyone else, who seemed to know just about everything about Hemingway.  You could tell she loved her job, loved the museum, loved what they are trying to preserve about Hemingway and his time spent in Oak Park.

High School report card
Letterman jacket
Replica of childhood home
Quote from what is my favorite book
Artifacts from his life
More goodies
The end!


In May of 2011, I went to Oak Park, IL and saw the Hemingway Museum and Hemingway's birth home.  It was someplace I've wanted to see for a while now, and it was a rewarding experience.  I knew that I lived fairly close, yet I never managed to convince myself I had to see his home, until of course, I knew I was leaving the state and the notion of returning was slim to none.

Also, I studied Hemingway extensively in grad school, and not only am I intrigued by his writing, but by him as a person and his life.  I only had one morning to make the trip, so I tried to use my time wisely and make the most of it.  I enjoyed my trip tremendously and thought this would be a great outlet to share my experience with you.

While I wrote a bit about my trip at ,  this blog is an extension of that post so that I could include most of the photos I took. I'll also post occasionally about Hemingway's books and his writing, so I welcome you to post your own thoughts, experiences, and join in on the conversations as you see fit!


This will be a work in progress for a while, as I decide how to place the photos and try to utilize the blog to the best of its abilities, so keep checking back!