7 Literary Attractions Across America
Plan a literature-inspired trip across the country to visit authors’ homes, famous libraries, and the sites of your favorite stories
There is nothing quite like the feeling of retracing the steps of your favorite authors. This might be Baker Street, home to Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, or the Upper West Side of The Catcher in the Rye. Even though the writers you love may be gone, their sources of inspiration live on through museums and the towns and cities they lived in. We polled Electric Lit’s Twitter and Facebook followers about their favorite literary attractions across the U.S to put together this list. Whether it’s the home of a well-known writer or just a place to kick back and indulge in an abundance of written word, these attractions are must-sees for any book lover.
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC
In 1889, Emily and Henry Folger — both huge fans of Shakespeare — began amassing what would later become the largest collection of Shakespearean books, manuscripts, and art in the world. It was their belief that Shakespeare as a poet was instrumental to the development of American spirit and thought, so in 1932 they donated the entirety of their massive library to the American people. Located in the nation’s capital, the Folger Shakespeare Library is open to the public, receiving over one million visitors a year. More than just a library, the Folger devotes itself to preservation, accessibility, and appreciation for early modern and Renaissance works through numerous events they hold year round. With theater performances, screenings, book launches, workshops, and talks, there is no better place in America to explore 17th-century literature.
Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, NY
Already a must-see destination for fans of spooky stories, the hometown of Irving’s infamous Headless Horseman eagerly welcomes visitors. Landmarks and plaques appear all over Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow itself. From the “marshy and thickly-wooded glen” to the Old Dutch Church where Schoolmaster Ichabod Crane flees the pursuing Horseman, myth trackers and history buffs alike can experience the grains of truth sprinkled within the much-loved legend. Of course there is something for writers too. In a joint project between the town and the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, winners of a poetry competition had the chance to embedding their poems in concrete, turning the sidewalks into works of poetry.
The Poe Museum, Richmond, VA
Calling all Edgar Allan Poe groupies, if you haven’t been to the Poe Museum yet, are you really true fans? Established in 1906, this museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Poe artifacts and memorabilia in the world from the author’s old clothes to a lock of his hair. With numerous programs for researchers, scholars, and students, a visit to this museum’s Enchanted Garden and Poe Shrine is a must for anyone who wants a deeper insight into the life of one of America’s most influential writer.
New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA
As the name implies, the New Bedford Whaling Museum is a tribute to whaling and maritime culture, which may not seem all that interesting from a literary perspective except for a certain 19th century writer and his interest in great white whales: Herman Melville. In conjunction with the Melville Society, the new Bedford Whaling Museum works with the Melville Society Cultural Project (MSCP), a group of scholars whose mission is to collect artistic and scholarly text to add to the Society’s Melville archives.
Hemingway’s Boyhood Home, Oak Park, IL
Located in Oak Park, Illinois, is the home where Ernest Hemingway was born and grew up. First constructed in the 1890s and restored back in 1992, this Victorian house transports its visitors into the childhood of the writer. Managed by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, this museum is part of their effort to preserve knowledge of Hemingway’s origin and impact on literature. With performances, cocktail evenings, and galas hosted regularly and open to visitors, Hemingway’s boyhood home is still very much a hotspot for the arts.
Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, MA
Nestled in the college town of Amherst, Massachusetts, the Emily Dickinson museum is comprised of two 19th- and early 20th-century residences: The Homestead, birthplace and home of Emily Dickinson, and The Evergreens where her brother and his family resided. Now owned by Amherst College, the museum conducts guided tours and outreach programs for the public. Aside from museums, visitors can visit Emily Dickinson’s grave, look at the Dickinson Collection in the Jones Library, and browse through Dickinson’s manuscripts in the archives of Amherst College.
The Rose Reading Room, New York City, NY
Though not the birthplace of any famous writers, the Rose Reading Room in the New York Public Library deserves a spot on this list for its iconic Beaux-Arts architecture. Closed back in 2014 when a portion of the upper wall decoration came crashing down (at night, so nobody was hurt!), the Rose Reading Room had been closed for two and a half years before a grand re-opening in 2016. With a fresh coat of paint and new display cases, this 12 million dollar renovation is worth every cent. The reading room has the same hours as the main library for those seeking a quiet place to read and offers daily tours for visitors more interested in the architecture and history of the library.