Copyright 2005 Gannett Company, Inc.
10 great places to bask in the glory of their stories
November 4, 2005, Friday, FINAL EDITION
Tuesday was National Author's Day, and "if you love an author,
then anything you can see about that author is terrific, even if the
setting is so-so," says B. J. Welborn, author of Traveling Literary
America: A Complete Guide to Literary Landmarks (Jefferson Press,
"On the other hand, some literary landmarks are amazing,
regardless of the writer's status." Welborn shares with USA
TODAY's Shawn Sell some enlightening literary experiences.
Mark Twain Study
"Fans of Mark Twain, possibly America's greatest writer,
can tour the octagonal study his father-in-law built for him (and
Twain dubbed 'The Cozy Nest') here on the campus of Elmira College,"
Welborn says. "Twain's grave also is located in Elmira, hometown
of his wife, Olivia." 607-735-1941; elmira.edu/academics/ar_marktwain.shtml
Edgar Allan Poe Museum
"Experience the mystery and madness of Edgar Allan Poe, master
of the horror story," Welborn says. "The museum, housed
in the city's oldest surviving building (The Old Stone House, circa
1754), documents the dark genius's life" with letters, manuscripts
and personal memorabilia. 888-213-2763; poemuseum.org
Jack London Ranch
Glen Ellen, Calif.
"John Griffith (Jack) London, the most popular and highest-paid
American writer in the first decade of the 20th century (Call of
the Wild), bought this ranch in 1905, where he lived until his death
in 1916 at age 40," Welborn says. "Visitors to the 1,413-acre
Jack London Park can view exhibits, artifacts and early manuscripts,
the charred ruins of London's dream house (Wolf House) and his grave."
Alex Haley House Museum
"As a boy, Alex Haley sat on his front porch listening to
stories about his ancestors," Welborn says. "He left the
bungalow in 1929, but the oral histories stayed with him, and, in
1976, he finished his Pulitzer Prize-winning Roots. Haley died in
1992 and is buried in the front yard. Inside, there is a display
of family artifacts, including the writer's eyeglasses." 731-738-2240;
"Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote six of her nine Little House
books about her young life in DeSmet, a prairie town that features
The Surveyors' House (the family home for the winter of 1879), the
Ingalls House ('The House that Pa Built') and a memorial on the
family's original homesteading property," Welborn says. 800-776-3594;
The National Steinbeck Center
"The interactive, 37,000-square-foot center features seven
galleries centered on themes from John Steinbeck's greatest novels,"
Welborn says. "Walk into an East of Eden lettuce boxcar, smell
sardines on Cannery Row and tour the literary lion's boyhood bedroom
and writing studio. The center offers walking tours in summer of
other local Steinbeck literary locations." 831-775-4720; www.steinbeck.org
"William Faulkner's longtime home contains a heady mix of
personal memorabilia, including the outline of A Fable he wrote
(in his compact, vertical handwriting) on the walls of his office,"
Welborn says. "Outside, see the stable that the Nobel-winning
novelist, a horse lover, designed and built near the Greek Revival-style
house, sited on 32 acres." 662-234-3284; www.olemiss.edu/depts/u_museum/rowan_oak/interactive.html
Erskine Caldwell Birthplace and Museum
"Visit the humble one-story house, called The Little Manse,
where novelist Erskine Caldwell (God's Little Acre, Tobacco Road)
was born, located just off the central town square here," Welborn
says. "Caldwell's typewriter, watch, childhood books and other
personal belongings are on display." 770-251-4438; newnan.com/ec
"In season, visitors can swim in the 103-foot-deep glacial
pond or hike around it to view the flora and fauna about which Henry
David Thoreau wrote during his two-year stay here (1845-47),"
Welborn says. "See where he built his one-room cabin, then
fish, canoe, picnic, ski or snowshoe at the state-run 333-acre park."
Booker T. Washington
Franklin County, Va.
"Booker T. Washington, author, statesman and founder of Tuskegee
Institute in 1881, was born a slave on this Virginia tobacco farm
in 1856," says Welborn. "On this plantation, once owned
by the James Burroughs family, visitors can see stone slabs outlining
the original site of Washington's boyhood cabin." 540-721-2094;