339 N Oak Park Ave Oak Park, Illinois USA

Ansel T. Hemingway House

Construction date: documented 1890*

Current name:

Ernest Hemingway Birthplace and Museum


Wesley Arnold


Cross gable, Queen Anne

Open to the public:

Yes.   The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, P.O. Box 2222, Oak Park, IL 60303, telephone (708) 848-2222

Historical Summary:

Listed in Hasbrouck-Sprague Survey.

Ernest Hemingway was born in a second floor bedroom on July 21, 1899. This Queen Anne house, built by his maternal grandparents and restored in 1999, is as it was when Ernest lived there. Young Ernest spent his first six years in these grand rooms rich with Victorian decor.

On the first floor, Hemingway joined his family in Grandfather Abba's Bible readings and prayers. His mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, gave music lessons in the parlor. The top floor of the tower was a mini-museum, where Ernest's father, Dr. Clarence Hemingway, kept his wildlife specimens. Grace's uncle, Tyley Hancock, who roomed on the second floor, had traveled widely. Ernest listened avidly to his colorful tales, and acted out poems and stories from the family's well-stocked library.

When Ernest was five, he watched Abba die, and with him a strong link to the Victorian Age. The family then left this house of ancestral echoes for a Prairie-style house, more streamlined like the new century-and Ernest's writing to come.
- See more at: http://ehfop.typepad.com/the_ernest_hemingway_foun/2008/10/about-the-ern-1.html#sthash.y3SUQx8F.dpuf

When the 1890 Hemingway Birthplace Home was acquired by The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park in December 1992, funding for the purchase was provided by First Bank of Oak Park and some revenue was derived from the sale of furnishings that were included in the acquisition.

Since there was no money budgeted for restoration or period furnishings, a capital campaign was embarked upon and ultimately produced $600,000 toward administration and construction costs. John Thorpe, preservation architect, provided pro bono services and recommended skilled artisans for various portions of the restoration in addition to Kaufman and Wicklow, preservation contractors, for overall construction.

Plans were drawn, research was undertaken, Hemingway family resources and memory items from the home were sought out. An interiors consultation team of Virginia Cassin, Chair of the Restoration; Linda Hutchinson, interior designer; and Elaine Harrington, historic furnishings consultant began a seven year project to decorate and furnish the house.

The first floor was opened to visitors in June and the second floor in November 1993. Construction was ongoing with mostly volunteer efforts and furnishings were sparse. With infusion of funds from the campaign, professional services for carpentry, heating, plumbing, roofing, etc. were employed. The major goal was to have a presentable house by the Centennial Birthday celebration in 1999. Unfortunately, money was depleted by the beginning of that year.

The Foundation earlier had embarked on efforts to get a grant from the Illinois Government in Springfield to commemorate the Centennial Hemingway Birthday. In May of 1999 there was notification that an $800,000 grant had been approved! Based on this official information, it was possible to secure bridge loads to cover the costs of construction. The house was substantially unfinished when the Hemingway sons and their families entered the front door on July 21, 1999.

At the Centennial dinner, the Governor upped the grant to $1 million dollars and the completion work began again, and ended with a joyous celebration on November 10, 2001.

The house is authentically returned to its 1890's roots when Ernest's grandparents, Ernest and Carolyne Hall, built the home as their retirement home. Ernest, his father and mother and three siblings lived in the house with widowed grandfather Hall until his death in 1905. Six owners and many architectural changes later, The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park purchased the home to beautifully restore it with over $1 million dollars and hundreds of hours of volunteer time; dedicated professional expertise and the faithful support of sister Marcelline's children - John and Jim Sanford, their sister Carol Coolidge and other Hemingway family; and the loyal community of Oak Park. (http://www.ehfop.org/ accessed November 28, 2014)


Status of Historic Designation:

Designated at National level : Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture
Designated at Local level : Oak Park Historic Landmark, 1996

Rating or Rank:


Evaluation of Potential Eligibility:

Potentially eligible as a contributing resource

Architectural Description:

This is a 2.5-story museum in the Queen Anne style built in 1890. The building is rectangular in plan. The structural system is frame. The foundation is stone. Exterior walls are original wood siding. The building has a hip and gable roof clad in replacement wood shingles with wide eaves. Conical turret at corner; ornamental wood brackets and wood fretwork spandrels at porch eaves. There is one rear, brick chimney. Windows are original wood, 1/1 double-hung sashes. There is a single-story, wrap-around open porch characterized by a hip roof clad in asphalt shingles with turned wood posts.

* Date source: Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District Architectural Survey, Diane Laffin, 2005

Description generated by RuskinARC.