When most people think Hemingway, they think Paris. Don’t forget he was born right here in Chicago! Hemingway was a once-in-a-generation luminary. He left his mark on American literature and changed the course of writing forever. The house at 339 Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois is now a small museum that commemorates one of history’s greatest authors. Learn about Hemingway’s early life in Chicago and see firsthand the room that he was born in. If you have reread The Old Man and the Sea a dozen times, take the short trip to Oak Park and see where Hemingway’s illustrious life began.
The Poetry Foundation
The subtle art of poetry may be lost on some, but if you are a scholar and self described poetry geek, then the Poetry Foundation should be your first stop in town. This stunning headquarters houses Poetry magazine and a 30,000 volume poetry library. You can easily arrange a tour or visit the exhibition level. The Poetry Foundation is dedicated to showcasing the best poetry, so do not be shy, it’s here for you! There is also a performance space, so keep an eye out for events that periodically pop up throughout the year.
Carl Sandburg House
This one is for the local crowd. Illinois native and poet Carl Sandburg spent just three years living at his residence on North Hermitage Avenue, but it is the place where he wrote his famous poem Chicago in which he nicknamed the eponymous city “the city of big shoulders.” Sandburg was a pulitzer prize winning poet and journalist. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, or are a dedicated Sandburg academic, definitely stop and take a look.
The Newberry Library is like the Wonka factory for literature buffs. This independent and totally free library is stocked with 1.5 million books, 5 million manuscripts, and 500,000 historical maps. They specialize in rare, out of circulation books, so head to Newberry if you just can’t track down that obscure primary source document you need for your research paper or family tree project. The library was founded in 1887 and has grown in popularity ever since. Today, the library hosts a number of events like a genealogy and local history orientation, author meet-and-greets, book fairs, and children’s events.
American Writers Museum
This brand new state-of-the-art museum is the first of its kind. Nowhere else is there a museum that celebrates the work and legacies of America’s greatest writers. Opened in 2017, the museum is already garnering huge critical acclaim and accolades left and right. It was named the best attraction in the entire state of Illinois and Fodor’s ranked it one of the top 10 museums in the world. The list of permanent and temporary exhibits is exhaustive and fascinating. Check it out for yourself. The museum covers everything from the mind of a writer to writing in American historical context. Frederick Douglass is currently a featured writer, and Bob Dylan will soon have his own exhibit. This museum is the perfect way to spend an afternoon reading and learning solo or with your family.
If you are traveling to Chicago with a serious literary scholar or history buff, don’t be surprised if they disappear for a few days, because this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Chicago is a fantastic city to visit any time of the year. There is an almost infinite list of attractions, activities, restaurants, and events to experience. The city loves hosting visitors, as a stay in any fabulous Chicago hotel will prove. The energy and love of life here is simply infectious. As Sandburg wrote in Chicago, “Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.”
Article written by Alex Coverdale
(Photo by romanboed via Flickr)