A Short History of Touring Dead Writers’ Houses

Travel Blog  •  Eva Holland  •  10.18.10 | 4:44 PM ET

In the New York Times, Anne Trubek dissects the phenomenon, which has a longer history than you might expect—apparently, visitors were already making their way to Petrarch’s birthplace in the 1300s. But most writer’s-house visitors aren’t there for the sake of literature. Here’s Trubek on the motivations behind many visits:

According to curator and tour-guide estimates, only about half of the 2,000 people who visit the Walt Whitman House in Camden, N.J., each year come because they are interested in Whitman (as opposed to a nice historical stopover after touring the battleship down the road). Just 10 percent of the 9,000 annual visitors to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, N.C., come specifically for the author. Most people who visit the Mount, Edith Wharton’s lavish estate in tourist-friendly Lenox, Mass., are killing time before a concert at Tanglewood (and tend not to continue to Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s modest homestead in the nearby depressed industrial city of Pittsfield). Half of the 182,000 annual visitors to Hemingway’s house in Key West say they come for the cats.

(Via The Book Bench)

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

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