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A Southern, Literary Landscape

Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Asheville, North Carolina

Novelist Thomas Wolfe immortalized the Asheville boardinghouse where he grew up in his autobiographical novel “Look Homeward, Angel.” As the youngest of eight siblings, he was the only child to live with their mother as she ran the Old Kentucky Home in the early 20th century. The tourists and other boarders who moved in and out of the home became the characters for his 1929 novel.

Wolfe’s brothers and sisters turned the home into the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in 1949, a decade after his death, and made sure things were left to look much like they did when he lived there.

“It was an inexpensive Victorian boarding house, so it’s a little different than visiting a family home,” said site manager Tom Muir. “But visitors really like to see the communal dining room and kitchen where his mother worked around the clock to make sure boarders had two meals a day.”

Guides run tours at the top of every hour that include a walk through 29 of the rooms and several stories directly from Wolfe’s siblings. An adjacent visitors center and museum contains a self-guided exhibit hall and a 22-minute film on Wolfe’s life and writings.

Harper Lee’s Monroe County Courthouse

Monroeville, Alabama

Harper Lee’s childhood home is now an empty lot, but the Monroeville courthouse where she often sat to watch her father practice law in the 1930s is less than a half-mile away. The courthouse is one of the most memorable settings in her book “To Kill a Mockingbird” and was later re-created on a Hollywood sound stage for the film version of the book.

Now a museum, the old Monroe County Courthouse draws thousands of visitors who want to see the town made famous by her book. The main attraction is the courtroom itself, but the museum also houses two permanent exhibits: one on Lee and another on her childhood friend and fellow author Truman Capote.

“After her first interviews, Harper Lee chose to live a private life with no spotlight on her,” said museum director Nathan Carter. “The citizens of Monroeville have respected that, so we haven’t acquired anything that belonged to her. That is all very tightly controlled by her lawyer.”

Since Lee’s death in 2016, her gravesite near the town square has become another important stop, and her lawyer has suggested that he might open a museum that displays several of her belongings, Carter said.

Flannery O’Connor’s Andalusia

Milledgeville, Georgia

In late 1950 just as she was beginning her first novel, Flannery O’Connor began to exhibit symptoms of lupus, the disease that had killed her father. After spending time in the hospital, O’Connor and her mother moved to the family farm, Andalusia in Milledgeville, where O’Connor lived until her death in 1964. The dairy farm became the setting where she would complete her novels and short stories and offered her a landscape in which to set her fiction.

Groups can now explore Andalusia, which is an estate of more than 500 acres and 12 historic structures, including the home where O’Connor wrote daily from morning until noon. When the author was alive, her famous peafowl roamed the property; today they are kept in an aviary.

Andalusia director Elizabeth Wylie said she hopes the sound of the birds and peaceful farm encourage visitors to slow down to O’Connor’s pace.

“Flannery was a deep thinker, well-read, very erudite, and we want visitors to think about the milieu in which she created some of the best literature of the 20th century,” Wylie said.

Several copies of O’Connor’s short stories are scattered throughout the home, and organizers hope visitors will carve out the 30 minutes it takes to read one of the stories in the spot that it was written. .