Ernest Hemingway’s History in Northern Michigan
Ernest Hemingway, a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of America’s most important authors, spent the first 22 summers of his life in Northern Michigan. It was there among the Northern Michigan woods and waters Hemingway developed a love for the outdoors that inspired much of his writing.
Hemingway was born in Oakfield, IL in 1899 to Clarence and Grace Hemingway. Not long after his birth, his parents built Windemere Cottage on Walloon Lake as a summer home for the family. Hemingway relatives still maintain Windemere Cottage as a private residence. While the cottage is not open to the public, fans can eat dinner at Walloon Lake Inn, where Hemingway is rumored to have slept.
In 1921 Hemingway married Hadley Richardson. Originally from St. Louis, Richardson met Hemingway in Chicago through mutual friends. Hemingway wanted to have the wedding in the place he loved so well, Northern Michigan. The ceremony was held at the Methodist Church in Horton Bay. (The original church building where the Hemingways married no longer exists.) After the wedding dinner, the couple took a boat from the Walloon Lake boat launch across the lake to Windemere Cottage where they spent their honeymoon. The boat launch is mentioned in “Wedding Day,” one of Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories.
Many of Hemingway’s writings are semi-autobiographical and draw on the locations in Northern Michigan where he spent summers hiking and fishing as a young man. Readers may recognize the village of Horton Bay, on Lake Charlevoix. Hemingway’s story “Up in Michigan” mentions the Red Fox Inn in Horton Bay. Today, the inn is home to a bookstore dedicated to Hemingway’s works and memorabilia. Next door, the Horton Bay General Store is featured in the same story. There you can enjoy a coffee on the porch once graced by Hemingway himself. Nearby is Horton Creek, a place Hemingway fished as a young man and later wrote about.
There are many Hemingway landmarks in Petoskey, Michigan as well. In Petoskey, Hemingway stayed at Stafford’s Perry Hotel in 1916, the last stop on a hiking and camping trip from Chicago before going to Windemere Cottage. Hemingway often returned to Stafford’s Perry Hotel to dine and enjoy the veranda. Today, the annual conference of the Michigan Hemingway Society is held at Stafford’s.
A few years later instead of going back to Chicago, Hemingway decided to stay in Petoskey for the winter of 1919-20. He rented a room at Potter’s Rooming House on State Street, a more comfortable place better suited to winter weather than his family’s summer home. The building still stands but is now a private residence. That winter is considered pivotal in Hemingway’s writing career. It was at Potter’s where Hemingway began typing stories for magazine submission. Those first stories were all rejected, but they sparked a career that would later earn him the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954 for “The Old Man and the Sea,” for which he also won a Pulitzer Prize.
That same winter, Hemingway also spent time in the Bay View community at Evelyn Hall. A women’s dormitory that was unoccupied in the winter, he went there to avoid distractions from friends who frequently interrupted his writing efforts.
You can learn more about Hemingway and his life in Northern Michigan by visiting the Little Traverse Historical Museum in Petoskey, which has a permanent exhibit featuring the author.
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