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Where Famous Writers Have Lived in DC

by Prince Of Petworth November 2, 2011 at 11:00 am 15 Comments

As someone admittedly a bit obsessed with DC’s homes I think this site is freaking awesome!

From a press release:

“A new online resource for lovers of literature and history has been launched in the nation’s capital. DC Writers’ Homes, at www.dcwriters.org, celebrates the rich literary heritage of Washington by mapping former homes of novelists, poets, playwrights and memoirists. Some authors remain famous, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Sinclair Lewis, and Katherine Anne Porter. Others are rediscoveries.

The over 120 homes included on the website represent every major period of Washington’s history and span the range of urban architectural styles. The earliest documented writers’ homes include those once occupied by: Francis Scott Key, the lawyer-poet who wrote the lyrics to the US National Anthem; Horatio King, who served as Postmaster General during the Civil War and hosted a popular literary salon in his home; and Frederick Douglass, whose remarkable autobiographies remain deservedly beloved. The most recent include authors who passed away in the last few years.

The project was conceived, researched, and created by DC writers Kim Roberts and Dan Vera, who spent more than five years tracking down and photo-documenting house locations. Only authors who have passed away, and whose houses are still standing, are included. Most houses are privately owned and not marked by historic plaques. “We wanted to claim our literary forebears,” Roberts states. “We don’t want our history to be lost or forgotten.”

The project is a collaboration among five groups that support or present the literary arts in the city. Split This Rock, whose festivals of “poets of provocation and witness” bring nationally-acclaimed authors to the city, is the sponsor. The Humanities Council of Washington, DC, provided funding. And three other organizations signed on as partners: The American Poetry Museum, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Poetry Mutual. Sarah Browning, Director of Split This Rock, calls DC Writers’ Homes “an extraordinary gift to DC.”

Authors are sorted by the geographical location of their houses, as well as by affiliations. Users can easily find authors, for example, who taught at or attended Howard University, served as US Poets Laureate at the Library of Congress, wrote on environmental themes, or were Latino. Every author is cross-referenced into at least two categories.

Kim Roberts and Dan Vera will present a slide/lecture on the making of DC Writers’ Homes on Friday, December 8 at 6:30 pm. This event, at the Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the presentation.”

  • textdoc

    This sounds really interesting!

    Thanks for sharing the info on the website, and on the December 8 presentation.

    • NOTE that the presentation is Friday, December 9, not 8. All the other info is correct.

  • pluscachange

    That is awesome. Philip K. Dick was a Petworth resident!

  • Soozles

    The list should include, but does not, Florence King, who grew up near 14th and Park and wrote the laugh-out-loud funny book “Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady.” I highly recommend it and hope she gets added to the list.

    She also wrote a column for the National Review called a “Misanthrope’s Corner.” Very funny woman, a la Molly Ivins.

  • textdoc

    She’s still alive. I believe the website says that only dead writers are eligible.

    • Timmy

      That’s correct. I realized this after I looked to see where Edward P Jones lives (and has lived). I am guessing the creators of this awesome site don’t want me stalking living writers.

  • Hi there. I’m one of the site creators.
    Yes, we limited ourselves to writers who are no longer living and dwellings that still stand.
    Thanks so much for the link to the site. It was five plus years of work but we’re glad people are responding to the site.
    -Dan Vera

  • Soozles

    Thanks for clarifying. Ya’ll should still read those books. They’re funny!

  • Lola

    It’s sad because the home on Sherman that Zora Neale Hurston once lived in is a dilapidated shithole.

    • saf

      As it probably was when she lived there – it was a student rooming house.

      • Michael

        That street was actually pretty classy back then. It was definitely not a flophouse.

        • saf

          True, it has gone back and forth, and I can easily see at as nicer than it is.

  • Veronika

    they should tell you these things when you’re house hunting. that crappy, scary, slighly smelly home I viewed while i was looking might have looked slighly better if I were told Langston used to unwind in the living room… great site!

  • Lester

    Now if somebody could do the same with DC musicians.

  • Hi All,

    Great site! NOTE that the reception and launch event date is FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9 (not 8), 6:30 pm. Should be fun!

    Sarah Browning
    Split This Rock


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