Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum


In April of 2021, the famous documentarian, Ken Burns, released a 6-hour documentary called Hemingway.  As its name implies, this documentary is about the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize-winning American writer, Ernest Hemingway.  I have not seen the film, but based on Ken Burns’ other works, I am sure that it does a fantastic job documenting Hemingway’s colorful life.

Ernest Hemingway lived in many cities and countries throughout his lifetime, so three of his homes have become museums.  One is his Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois; one is his home in Key West, Florida; and the other is the home he lived in while in Cuba.  I have only visited the first of these three homes, which is run by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation in Oak Park (a suburb of Chicago).  From 2001 to 2012, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation also owned Hemingway’s nearby boyhood home.  However, due to financial issues, it could not afford to keep it, so sold it to a private homeowner who promised to “restore it to its 1906 glory.”

I visited Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Home in 2014.  At that time, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation also ran the Ernest Hemingway Museum, located a block away from there.  Therefore, when I purchased a ticket to tour the Birthplace Home, my purchase also included a ticket to the Ernest Hemingway Museum.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to see both places on the same day, so had to go back to see the Ernest Hemingway Museum on a different day.  Thankfully, though, my ticket to the Museum remained effective for one year after my purchase.

The Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home is located at 339 N. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park, Illinois.

Although Ernest Hemingway is not one of my favorite authors, I enjoyed touring his home.  The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, and did a great job teaching us about Hemingway’s life.  Hemingway was born in 1899 on the second floor of the home and lived there until his family moved to another home in Oak Park when he was six-years-old.  After graduating from high school, Hemingway went off to explore the world.  He first served as a reporter, and then tried to enlist in the military during World War I.  Rejected from the military because of an eye problem, he served as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross instead.  During that time, he fell in love with a nurse, which undoubtedly inspired his book, A Farewell to Arms (1929).  Hemingway also lived in Paris for a while, hunted animals in Kenya often, and went to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War.  The latter experience influenced his book, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).  Additionally, Hemingway married and divorced three out of his four wives, with the final wife still being married to him when he committed suicide in 1961.  Frighteningly, suicide seems to have run in the family, because Hemingway’s father, sister, brother, and granddaughter all ultimately committed suicide as well.

As I already mentioned above, in addition to visiting Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Home, I also visited the Ernest Hemingway Museum on a different day.  However, in 2017, the Ernest Hemingway Museum permanently closed, because the Ernest Hemingway Foundation could no longer afford to own two pieces of property.  Instead, the Foundation hopes to eventually add a writing center wing to the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home.  Overall, I do not believe that losing the Museum was a huge loss.  Although it did a nice job displaying items and photos about Hemingway, many of which were donated to the Museum by Hemingway’s sister, it probably needed some updating. Additionally, most of the information that I learned at the Museum, I had already learned while touring Hemingway’s Birthplace Home.

Most of the archival objects, papers, and photographs that used to be on display at the Ernest Hemingway Museum are now stored at the nearby Oak Park Public Library instead.  This Library’s Special Collections is home to the Ernest Hemingway Foundation’s archives, so already had a significant Ernest Hemingway collection beforehand.  In addition to Ernest Hemingway, the Oak Park Public Library houses some other significant collections as well. These include the archival materials of the famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the writer who created the character Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, both of whom lived in Oak Park for a while. Although I did not visit the Oak Park Library’s Special Collections, I have taken a tour of the Oak Park Library before and must mention that it is a top-notch public library.

Unsurprisingly, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation has been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home has recently reopened for tours, both in person and virtually.  Additionally, the Foundation did come up with an interesting plan to make some money during the current pandemic.  It decided to offer any members of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation the option of privately using Hemingway’s Birthplace Home for a day.  This offer is targeted toward people who are tired of working at home all the time because of the pandemic and would therefore like to try a new workplace environment for a day.

Sources and Further Reading

Andriotis, Mary Elizabeth. “The Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum is at Risk of Closing – Here’s How to Help.” House Beautiful. October 8, 2020. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Andriotis, Mary Elizabeth. “Plan a Trip to the Ernest Hemingway Museum Before It’s Too Late.” Town & Country. July 19, 2017. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Blazeski, Goran. “After His Father Committed Suicide, Ernest Hemingway Wrote: ‘I’ll Probably Go the Same Way.’” The Vintage News. July 25, 2017. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Doyle, Bridget. “Foundation Sells Hemingway’s Boyhood Home.” Chicago Tribune. June 12, 2012. (accessed May 15, 2021).

“A Farewell to Arms.” Goodreads. (accessed May 15, 2021).

“For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Goodreads. (accessed May 15, 2021).

“Foundation Facts.” The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Golden, Audrey. “The Many Homes of Ernest Hemingway.” Books Tell You Why. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner, 1929.

Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. New York: Scribner, 1940.

“Hemingway.” Internet Movie Database. (accessed May 15, 2021).

“His Life.” Hemingway Home. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Mitgang, Herbert. “Leicester Hemingway, Writer and Ernest’s Brother, Is Suicide.” The New York Times. September 15, 1982. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Mullen, Caitlin. “Graduation Anniversary Serves as a Last Hurrah for Hemingway Museum.” Chicago Tribune. June 13, 2017. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Petlicki, Myrna. “Ernest Hemingway Museum Reopens in Oak Park for Tours, Virtual Events.” Chicago Tribune. March 2, 2021. (accessed May 15, 2021).

“Special Collections.” Oak Park Public Library. (accessed May 15, 2021).

“Where Hemingway’s Story Begins.” The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. (accessed May 15, 2021).

“Work from Hemingway’s (WFH).” The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park. (accessed May 15, 2021).

Young, Philip. Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. “Ernest Hemingway.” Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021. (accessed May 15, 2021).


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