Ernest Hemingway: Chapter One

Editor’s note: Please see the updated post — Ernest Hemingway’s First Chapter in Oak Park, Illinois

Ernest Hemingway has been a favorite author of mine since I read The Sun Also Rises many years ago.

"Display at Ernest Hemingway Museum in Oak Park, Illinois"

I think I’ve read all of his published works since then. Like many who are interested in the man and his life, I’ve strongly associated him with places like Havana, Key West, Paris, Spain and other places he lived or wrote about. I also think of Ketchum, Idaho where he took his own life on July 2, 1961.

But a few months ago, I spent some time in the town where it all began for Hemingway at his birthplace in Oak Park, Illinois.

"Exterior of Ernest Hemingway's birthplace in Oak Park, Illinois"

He was born on July 21, 1899 on the second floor of this home in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago about 10 miles west of downtown. He lived there with his parents, siblings, grandparents and Uncle Tyley until he was six years old.

There are guided tours that take you through the entire home, including living areas, kitchen, bedrooms and the nursery where Ernest slept. Our tour guide provided quite a bit of information about the history of the Hemingway family, Ernest’s upbringing and the impact it had on his writing. Uncle Tyley was a very colorful character who shared his travel tales with young Hemingway. I like to imagine Ernest looking out of the living room windows and dreaming about the far away places that his uncle told him about.

After his grandfather died, the family moved to another home in Oak Park where Ernest lived until graduating from high school. That home is not currently open to the public.

A block away on Oak Park Avenue is the Ernest Hemingway Museum. The exhibits include photos, letters and other artifacts from Ernest’s life, including his childhood diary. It is recommended that visitors tour the museum first. I still found it worked well to do the tour in the reverse order. It really depends on the timing of the house tours.

For lunch, try Hemmingway’s Bistro across the street from the museum. A waiter speculated that the extra “m” was added to the bistro’s name for copyright reasons.

For more information: Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park

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35 thoughts on “Ernest Hemingway: Chapter One

  1. jamie - cloud people adventures

    i find it interesting visiting places of famous authors, artists, whatever, to try and see where they got their inspirations from and how their home environment influenced their work (or even vice-versa). one particular one i can think of is sigmund freuds house in vienna. crazy stuff.
    big fan of the sun also rises as well!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Yeah – that was the one that got me started. It was part of a 3 book set I got from a book club. The other two were For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms — loved them, too!

    1. Cathy Post author

      When you get a chance, check it out and let us know what you think! I’ll bet you could find a few quirky places to write about.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I think you’d like taking a tour of this house. Very well kept up and there are a lot of artifacts from that time (including some that belonged to the Hemingway family).

  2. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    I’m becoming more of an architecture buff these days, so I may have to pay a visit to Oak Park. The house tour sounds really cool. Scott and I did a tour of Washington’s Headquarters while we were in New Jersey and I found it fascinating. Everything seemed so old and a bit eerie.

    1. Cathy Post author

      There can be an eerie (in a good way) feeling when visiting some of these places. I’d like to tour Washington’s HQ in NJ, too.

  3. Angela

    Fascinating, I absolutely love exploring writers’ life, from their beginnings to what they did and what inspired them to produce their masterpieces. Also when I go to famous castles where kings lived, I always try to find the human element, instead of only the common history you can study in textbooks.

  4. Laurel

    I always find it interesting to see where famous people lived and how they got their start. As I was reading this I realized that I knew very little about Hemingway’s personal life.

  5. Corinne @ Gourmantic

    Great post, Cathy! I find writers’ lives and their inspirations to be fascinating. We have a new bar/cafe in Sydney named after him, and pays homage to his life with photographs, books etc. You may have seen my review on it. Very cool place!

  6. Vera Marie Badertscher

    I’m so glad to learn about the Hemingway house and museum in Oak Park. Next time I’m in Chicago, I’ll have to check it out. Saw his house in Key West and would LOVE to go to his Cuba haunts. Last year was in Paris and tried to see (from the outside) some of his places there. (A Moveable Feast makes a pretty good guide to Paris.)
    You could spend a year tracking him around the globe.
    But if you have not been to Key West–do see Hemingway’s place there. Very evocative.

  7. Pingback: From Shoes to Sex: 14 Intriguing Museums in North America » Traveling with Sweeney

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