Hemingway family kept a summer cottage on Walloon
Lake near Petoskey, Mich.
Mich. — "You can’t get away from yourself by
moving from one place to another," wrote Ernest
Hemingway in "The Sun Also Rises."
much of his early years, the novelist didn’t move much
beyond Oak Park, where he was born, and Northern Michigan,
where his family had a vacation cottage. Far from getting
away from himself, his experiences there figure into his
around the resort town of Petoskey, and you’ll see
markers on buildings with a Hem history: the barber shop
where he got a shave and a haircut (now a pet store) and
the former boarding house where he lived and wrote. You
can drink in the bar where he was a fixture (second stool
on the left). Out in the countryside he loved, you can buy
a souvenir or a sandwich at the general store he
frequented. The church where Hemingway married the first
of his four wives once stood on the vacant lot next door.
can take a walking and driving tour of Hemingway sites,
but a guide from Petoksey Yesterday will load you up on
this local celebrity’s lore. The Michigan Hemingway
Society keeps tabs on all things related to the novelist
and invites visitors to lectures and other events during
its conference in Petoskey every October. In July, a
documentary on his Michigan boyhood premieres and a statue
of young Hem will be dedicated in a Petoskey park.
made his first trip up north at age 3 months, traveling
with his family to their cottage on Walloon Lake. The
Hemingways were among many well-to-do urban dwellers who
trekked to the Petoskey area to escape the heat and
pollution of industrial metropolitan areas in the early
1900s. It ranked among the premier vacation spots of
Northern Michigan, with Victorian inns, a vaudeville
theater and four cigar manufacturers.
Little Traverse Bay a half-hour south of the Straits of
Mackinac, Petoskey and neighboring resort communities
continue to be go-to vacation spots. Some might compare it
to Lake Geneva, Wis., for its gracious old homes, golf
courses, waterfront resorts and an energized downtown
beckoning with boutiques and galleries.
it has something Lake Geneva doesn’t: Hemingway
July 21, 1899, Hemingway spent part of every year in the
Petoskey area. Windemere, the family’s Walloon Lake
cottage where he spent much of his boyhood, became a
national landmark in 1968. It remains in the Hemingway
family and off-limits to tourists.
you can drive through the hamlet of Walloon Lake — don’t
blink; it has fewer than 500 people — and go fly fishing
in Horton Creek, one of Hem’s favorite trout streams.
The Horton Bay General Store, where he loitered as a boy
and young man, still stands. Built in 1876, it’s now a
summers-only catchall: restaurant, liquor store, tapas
bar, beer garden, bed-and-breakfast and gift shop brimming
with Hemingway photos, memorabilia and antiques. Its old
crank telephone still works.
and other locations turn up in the author’s earliest
short stories featuring the Hemingway-like main character
Nick Adams. Though the places usually aren’t referred to
by name, the Michigan Hemingway Society finds connections.
Mr. Packard’s store in "The Last Good Country"
seems inspired by the general store, and a stream similar
to Horton Creek pops up several times in "Summer
President Chris Struble, who runs the Petoskey Yesterday
Hemingway tours, said young Hem changed after his service
as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy during World War
I. He returned to Northern Michigan with 237 shrapnel
wounds and a broken heart. The nurse he fell in love with
in Italy and planned to marry sent him a "Dear
Ernie" letter. Only 19, he would later write in
"A Farewell to Arms," "The world breaks
everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken
Hemingway was not yet the novelist who would claim a
Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature more than
three decades later. He struggled, without much success,
during the winter of 1919-1920 while a boarder at Eva
Potter’s Rooming House in Petoskey. As now it’s a
private residence, Hemingway fans must content themselves
with reading the plaque on the front lawn and staring up
at the second-floor window where he might have sat gazing
while waiting for his muse to strike.
productivity wasn’t helped by a steady stream of pals
who came around and distracted him. According to local
lore, he hid out in a small room in Evelyn Hall, a
shuttered women’s dormitory at Bay View, a Methodist
retreat on the Chautauqua circuit. Jane Addams spoke
there. Drive by to admire the steamboat Victorian
structure that served as a summer home for the Woman’s
Christian Temperance Union — amusing given that
Hemingway was no teetotaler.
Hemingway’s 21st birthday, his mother ordered him out of
the family cottage in what Struble called an
"overdraft letter." She reasoned he’d done
nothing with his life, certainly not pursued a career in
medicine like his father, and was drawing on the family’s
name but not giving back. Hem also had become quite a
drinker and attracted too much attention from the young
female visitors staying in the area’s summer cottages.
hung out in the Noggin Room Pub of what is now Stafford’s
Perry Hotel, built the year he was born and the last of
Petoskey’s original grand hotels still in business. A
short stagger away, Hemingway’s famous face hangs above
the 32-foot-long solid mahogany bar in the City Park
Grill, where he played billiards and watched bare-knuckle
boxing matches in the park across the street. Imagine the
stories he told from his favorite spot, second stool from
the front door.
Little Traverse Historical Museum, housed in a former
railroad station built in 1892, displays a permanent
collection of materials on Hemingway’s days in Northern
story will come to life July 21, his birthday, when
"Young Hemingway & His Enduring Eden"
premieres in Petoskey. The documentary will air on PBS in
two segments next year, according to the Michigan
Hemingway Society. The screening takes place after a
Hemingway-inspired four-course dinner at Stafford’s
Perry Hotel, which is hosting the third annual Ernest
Hemingway Birthday Celebration at 5:30 p.m. (tickets cost
$65; call 231-347-4000). Earlier that day, a bronze statue
of young Hem will be dedicated in Petoskey at Pennsylvania
the date for the Hemingway society’s fall conference
Oct. 6-8 featuring author Steve Paul, whose new book,
"Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year That
Launched an American Legend," is due out this fall.
Visitors are welcome to attend many of the
around Petoskey and the countryside where Hemingway spent
his youth, you imagine what he saw, how he lived and how
it might have shaped his view of the world. In an early
version of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," Hemingway
wrote: "Of the place where he had been a boy he had
written well enough. As well as he could then."