Updated: April 2019
Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) is considered one of the major American novelists of the early 20th century and North Carolina’s most famous writer. He was “one of the first masters of autobiographical fiction.” The house offers guided tours daily. They start at half past each hour.
His Book Got Him Banned from the Local Library
In his book Look Homeward, Angel (1929), Thomas Wolfe traces his own early life in the character of Eugene Grant, who leaves his small town Altamont, Catawba (believed to be Asheville, North Carolina), and his dysfunctional family in search for a better life trying to quench his intellectual thirst and wanderlust. In his book, Thomas Wolfe described real characters from Asheville, which caused him some difficulties, when he and his family were banned from the local library.
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial was the former boarding house, which his mother operated, and where Thomas Wolfe grew up. In his book, he called the boarding house “Dixieland”.
About the History of the House
The house was built in 1883 by Erwin Sluder, a local private banker, as a wedding present for his daughter and son-in-law.
In 1889, Alice Reynolds purchased the home. She expanded and updated the house and opened a boarding house with the name Old Kentucky Home.
Julia Wolfe, Thomas Wolfe’s mother, bought the house in 1906, kept its name and continued operating the home as a boarding house. Although it was only two blocks away from the Wolfes’ family home, the boarding house posed a challenge to run from a distance, which compelled her to move into the boarding house, taking Thomas with her. Thomas Wolfe lived there until 1916 when he went to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In 1917, Julia Wolfe expanded the boarding house to accommodate more boarders by adding five more rooms. She died in 1945.
In 1971, The Thomas Wolfe House was designated a National Historic Landmark.
Brings the Events in the Book to Life
Reading the book and going through the house will undoubtedly bring events of the book to life. However, even without having read the book, The Thomas Wolfe Memorial house will give visitors a good idea of what early 20th-century living looked like.
Tue. to Sat.: 9am to 5pm.
Guided Tours start half past the hour.
Students (7-17): $2.
Children (6 and younger): free.
Public bus stop: Broadway at Walnut St.
Stop Gray Line Historic Trolley: Thomas Wolfe District.
Unless you have read the book “Look Homeward, Angel”, guided tours might be a convenient way to get better access to the historical context.