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Where Writers Write: The Homes of Jack Kerouac

Categories: There Are No Rules Blog by the Editors of Writer's Digest, Uncategorized Tags: authors, Jack Kerouac, where writers write, Writing desks.
The author in 1956. Credit: Tom PalumboThe living quarters of authors have always held a weird fascination for me. There’s something strangely intimate about knowing where another writer works and lives, how they arrange the furniture, what artwork adorns the walls. So I was interested but a bit disheartened when the Tampa Bay Times posted a series of photos from the interior of Jack Kerouac’s final residence, a “nondescript bungalow” in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Kerouac was famously nomadic: His classic novel, On the Road, follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a thinly-veiled Kerouac stand-in named Sal Paradise (and a band of pseudonymous friends, including Dean Moriarty as Neal Cassady and Carlo Marx as Allen Ginsberg.) Over the course of 300-odd pages, Sal travels from New York to Denver; San Francisco, Selma, Bakersfield and Los Angeles, California; then back again through Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Indiana and Pennsylvania, finally arriving again in New York, where he narrowly missed a visit from Dean. You can follow the route exactly on this color-coded, annotated map.

Before he was a wandering, jazz-fueled free spirit, Kerouac was born to French-Canadian parents in the second-floor apartment of a house in Lowell, MA. That house, at 9 Lupine Road, is still standing.
Photo credit: Rus Bowden, 2010.

Kerouac’s birthplace in Lowell, MA. Photo credit: Rus Bowden, 2010.

His family moved around in Lowell through Kerouac’s youth. In one house, which the author later called “sad Beaulieu,” Jack’s older brother Gerard died of rheumatic fever when he was only nine years old. Jack, who was four, never forgot him, and later named his novel Visions of Gerard after the older brother he’d lost.

Photo credit: Rus Bowden, 2010.

“Sad Beaulieu,” Kerouac’s childhood home in Lowell, MA. Photo credit: Rus Bowden, 2010.

When he was a bit older, Kerouac and his parents lived in an apartment over a corner drugstore. Here, he wrote The Town and the City, published in 1950 under John Kerouac, which was well reviewed but sold poorly. (The drugstore was later replaced with a flower shop, as shown below.)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The tiny apartment where Kerouac lived while writing The Town and the City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

At the very cusp of fame—in 1957, just after On the Road was purchased by Viking Press—Jack moved to Orlando, Florida, where he lived in a tiny cottage with his mother. It was here, at 1418 1/2 Clouser St., that Kerouac typed the manuscript that would later become The Dharma Bums.

800px-Jack_Kerouac_House_-_Winter_Park_Florida

The home in which Kerouac completed The Dharma Bums, located in College Park, Orlando, Florida. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The College Park house is now the focus of The Kerouac Project, which, with the help of the state of Florida and a foundation of local fans and celebrities, has renovated and opened the house to the public writers who have applied and been selected for residence.

In his last years, Kerouac lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, with his third wife, Stella Sampas, and his mother.

Photo: LARA CERRI

Exterior: The home of Jack Kerouac and his third wife, Stella Sampas. Photo credit: Lara Cerri for Tampa Bay Times

It’s a sad story, the kind you don’t really want to hear: The King of the Beats was ill, lonesome and broke when he was last visited by press in 1969. He let the reporter in, but there were no shots of Kerouac taken that day: “You better not try to take my photo, or I’ll kick your a–,” he said. A few weeks later, he was dead at age 47.

Photo credit: Lara Cerri

Kerouac’s desk. Photo credit: Lara Cerri for Tampa Bay Times

Though the beloved Dharma Bum is gone, his house at 5169 10th Ave. N. remains, along with the author’s desk (above), which has been with the family since 1969. The desk is in great shape. The house is not. Family and volunteers are working to clear out the rats and repair broken windows, and considering opening the house to the public once the maintenance is complete.
Photo credit: Lara Cerri

The living room of 5169 10th Ave. N., the home of Jack Kerouac at his death in 1969. Photo credit: Lara Cerri for Tampa Bay Times

To help fund the repairs, volunteers are hosting fundraisers at local venues. For more information about the house, and for more photos, visit Tampa Bay Times.

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This post is the first in a series titled “Where Writers Write,” which explores the homes and hideouts of famous authors: living and dead, foreign and domestic. A new post will appear each week on There Are No Rules. Stay tuned!

If you have suggestions for authors to feature in this segment, please email them to us at wdsubmissions@fwmedia.com with “Where Writers Write” in the subject line. No attachments will be opened, so please include your suggestions or questions in the body of your email. ___________________________________________________________________________________________

Adrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. She lives and writes in Ohio. Her work has been featured on MentalFloss.com, The Atlantic, Business Insider, The Week and many other print and web publications. You can follow her on Twitter at @a_crezo.

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2 Responses to Where Writers Write: The Homes of Jack Kerouac

  1. laursieg says:

    Kerouac House in Orlando is not “open to the public.” It’s a place for writers who have applied and been selected for residence live and work. http://kerouacproject.org/

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