Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Poking about Hemingway's Attic



Every time I'm at my writer-in-residence studio at the Hemingway House, I poke about the attic. I feel like it's my foyer, my grand foyer, actually, as it is so much larger than my little studio, which used to be a maid's room. I've never had an attic before since I've always lived in apartment buildings, and so I love hanging out there even though it is rather dusty.



The attic features terrific cobwebs, like any attic should, right?



The attic space is not insulated and will become quite inhospitable when the temperatures drop. In fact, yesterday I discovered a hole in the wall of the turret room; it's going to get mighty cold in there for sure!



I love the turret room, though, for its roundness and the view over the rooftops of Oak Park. I wish it weren't just a storage space for stained glass windows that no one knows where to put otherwise.



Poking about the turret room yesterday, I spotted this stained trunk and opened it. There's a note inside that it used to belong to Marcelline, Hemingway's older sister. Sadly, the Hemingway Family burned much of what had been in the attic when they moved to their larger house a few blocks away, and so few things in the house are original. Hemingway wrote later:

"...after my grandfather died, we moved away from that house ... Many things that were not to be moved were burned in the back yard and I remember those jars from the attic being thrown in the fire, and how they popped in the heat and the fire flamed up from the alcohol."

Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway, A Life Story, Macmillan, New York, 1969



The thing is, each time I poke about, I find something new. That could be because I didn't look there before, or simply didn't notice it, or it could be because the good people of the Hemingway Foundation added something else to the attic storage as they continue to get various period items and Hemingway family memorabilia. 



I'm told Ernest and Marcelline used to play up in the attic, which makes sense since it's the kind of thing kids would do, rummaging in the mysteries of things stuffed under the roof, or simply enjoying some quiet time away from the adults. It's also the kind of thing a grown-up writer temporarily housed in the attic likes to do!



16 comments:

  1. That's so weird that they would just burn everything they weren't taking with them. Love this peek into your stay at the Hemingway house! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Morgan, I agree, I was surprised by that burning, too. Perhaps yard sales weren't a thing then? But I love Hemingway's description of the jars popping in the fire.

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  2. Fascinating Annette. I imagine your time there as both tranquil and inspiring. Love the pics and the commentary.

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    1. Virginia, it is indeed tranquil up there, and all that Hemingway stuff does put me in the mind of taking my work seriously.

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  3. What fun to poke around in an attic. The only one filled with treasures in my life is from way back in my childhood in the farmhouse my great-aunt and great-uncle lived in. A door in the bedroom hallway opened unto a set of several stairs into the attic room. My great-aunt never let me go there alone, she was always with me and it was only a short stay, but, oh, how I wanted to peek and peer into all those trunks and shelves and dusty old things.

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    1. Yes! Your great-aunt's attic sounds like just the right kind of attic to poke around in! I wish there were more treasures to find in the Hemingway attic.

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  4. Wow. I've always wanted an old attic to poke around in. I'm still trying to wrap my head around your writer in residence studio...dreamy.

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    1. Amy, I'm still wrapping my head around it, too!

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  5. Overwhelmed: just saw pic on Twitter and thought "I love that room. I want to write in that room. Who owns that room?" Then I discover that it was Hemingway's attic and that it does get used for writing...thank goodness. What an opportunity, Annette - congratulations and thank you for letting me have a virtual poke around. Agree that the stained glass windows just lying around are a bit of a shame!

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    1. Laura, I'm happy to hear the photo on Twitter intrigued you enough to stop by. It's really a stage-like Bohemian atmosphere up in that attic. I am for sure cherishing the opportunity of being able to hang out there!

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  6. What a great adventure! I don't know if I could handle writing in the cold, though. Even Hemingway always sought out warm places to write ;)

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    1. Indeed he did! I've got the fingerless gloves ready, so we shall see how long I can stand that once winter comes.

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  7. I do find that odd, burning the things you've decided to cast aside. It is a lovely space.

    For a few years in the twenties Hemingway worked for the Toronto Star as a stringer and correspondent.

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    1. Yes, he worked for the Toronto Star, also for a Kansas City newspaper. Too bad, indeed, that they burned all that stuff. These days we'd love to have it. Nevertheless the Hemingway Foundation people did find original stuff from the Hemingways in the attic even though there had been numerous other owners since they sold the house. That's even odder, don't you think?

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  8. Annette, I am thinking of you, your family and loved ones, and those who share your faith at the time of your Yom Kippur. You certainly are continuing to find treasures in Hemingway's house. He reported for the Kansas City Star from October 1917 to April 1918 until he went to Italy to join an ambulance corps during World War I.

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    1. Barbara, thank you. Yom Kippur is always daunting but we plan to make it through with grace.

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