Welcome to what is known by many as the most famous boarding house in American fiction. The Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site, located in downtown Asheville, N.C., is a building out of the pages of American literature and American history.
In his seminal work, “Look Homeward Angel,” Thomas Wolfe set his largely autobiographical story in the fictional town of Altamont, based on his hometown of Asheville. The story’s central structure, the Dixieland boarding house, was based on what is known in real life as The Old Kentucky Home.
Thomas Wolfe was born in the year 1900 to father William Oliver Wolfe and mother Julia Elizabeth Westall. The youngest of eight children, the baby boy would grow up in Asheville to become one of the giants of American literature.
Wolfe attended the Orange Street School through eighth grade and then went to private school before eventually moving on to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Harvard. He moved to New York to teach at New York University and pursue playwriting. When his plays didn’t sell, he turned to writing his first novel.
“Look Homeward Angel” was published in 1929. It tells the story of Eugene Gant, based on Wolfe himself, from his birth up until he leaves home as a young man. Many in town very much recognized themselves in the pages of Wolfe’s novel.
The novel was a hit. The stream of consciousness narrative was praised for its emotional power and would eventually be adapted into a Broadway play, which later became a musical and a TV movie. If you’re looking for a bit of light reading, this isn’t the book for you. It is dark, beautiful, poetic, and heavy and worth it.
Though he died young, Wolfe’s work and legacy have lived to this day. The Thomas Wolfe Memorial became a National Historic Landmark in 1971, and the home has welcomed fans of the author since the 1950s. Today, they’re ready to welcome you. You can plan your visit at WolfeMemorial.com. Your weekend is waiting on the Ingles Open Road.
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