Finding Hemingway in Northern Michigan

October 15, 2015

Hemingway in Northern Michigan The beautiful waters and woods of Northern Michigan inspire people on a daily basis, just as they did Ernest Hemingway who spent the first 22 summers of his life in the region.

Considered by many to be American literature’s most influential writer, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 for his novel The Old Man and the Sea as well as his influence on contemporary literature. His experience as a journalist contributed to his concise, direct style of writing, considered innovative at the time.

Hemingway’s time is Paris is well documented, but long before he rubbed shoulders with Gertrude Stein and James Joyce in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, Hemingway fished the rivers and streams around Petoskey. Exploring the wilderness of early 20th century Northern Michigan as a boy fueled Hemingway’s sense of adventure. Eventually, his thrill seeking sent him to Europe as a battlefield ambulance driver during World War I, an experience that heavily influenced the themes of his writing.

When Hemingway was born in Oakfield, IL in 1899 his parents built a cottage on Walloon Lake near Charlevoix. Windemere Cottage still stands on the shore of Walloon. Now owned by Hemingway’s nephew, it is not open to the public. You can, however, dine at the Walloon Lake Inn where Hemingway likely once slept. You can also visit the Walloon Lake public access and boat launch on Sumner Road and take in the beautiful panorama Hemingway loved.

Next, head five miles down the road to the village of Horton Bay, on Lake Charlevoix. The small settlement was the setting for many of Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories. There you can view the Hemingway’s other Northern Michigan property, Longfield Farm. It is also private property. While there, visit The Red Fox Inn, home to a bookstore specializing in Hemingway works and memorabilia. The Horton Bay General Store is next door, and both establishments are featured in Hemingway’s Up in Michigan. Have breakfast or lunch at the store’s cafe and sip a cup of coffee on the same porch where Hemingway once sat. You can also visit Horton Creek, a half-mile away, where Hemingway fished in real life and he wrote about in his fiction.

Next, head to Petoskey where you’ll find even more Hemingway landmarks. You can sleep at Stafford’s Perry Hotel where Hemingway slept in 1916. Later during the winter of 1919-20 he often came to the hotel to eat, drink and relax on the veranda. Today the Michigan Hemingway Society hosts its annual conference at Stafford’s.

The winter of 1919-20, Hemingway also rented a room at Potter’s Rooming House on state street. He thought the city was a more comfortable place to ride out the cold and snow than his summer home. The building still stands. The window above the front door is where Hemingway was often seen typing stories for magazine submission, though those early stories were all rejected.

While in Petoskey, also visit the Carnegie Building, once home to Petoskey’s library where Hemingway lectured the Ladies’ Literary Society about his experiences in WWI. You can almost see the women dressed in their finery, enraptured by the rugged Hemingway. Married four times, Hemingway had several romantic entanglements. The building now serves as a community center and houses special archive collections.

You can learn more about Hemingway and his life at the Little Traverse Historical Museum in Petoskey, which has a permanent exhibit featuring the author.

Other Petoskey locations Hemingway once frequented include Penn Plaza Station, The Flatiron Building, and The Harold Grant Building. You can eat where Hemingway once socialized with friends at both Jesperson’s Restaurant and The City Park Grill.

After seeing all the Hemingway sites in Petoskey, head next door to Bay View where he often went to Evelyn Hall to write during the winter of 1919-20. At the time, the building was a women’s dormitory that was unoccupied in the winter. He would go there to get away from friends who often interrupted his work.

Finally, stop by the Harbor Springs Train Station, now a private dining club, where the Hemingway family took a train each summer to Walloon Lake after arriving on a steamship from Chicago.

Head north and see how Hemingway’s Michigan will inspire you.

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