Trish Foxwell's A Visitor's Guide to the Literary South is an essential companion for anyone traveling through the South who also happens to love books. Foxwell picked some of the region's best literary spots for Tip Sheet.
Stretching from Virginia to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and to the tip of Louisiana are some of this country's most important literary landmarks. Not only does a visit to the South reveal this region's haunting beauty, it opens up a window into the lives of some of the nation's most gifted authors, poets, and playwrights. To visit the landscape that inspired William Faulkner, Margaret Mitchell, Thomas Wolfe, Edgar Allan Poe, and Tennessee Williams (just to name a few) is an unforgettable journey into the South's storied literary legacy and the annals of American literature. While every corner of this region offers a fascinating collection of writers’ landmarks, here are my choices for the "Top Ten."
1. Leading the list is Charleston, South Carolina, with its profusion of rainbow-colored architecture and memories of its Civil War past—after all, the first shots were fired from Fort Sumter—making this a must-see destination for literary fans. DuBose Heyward's enthralling story of "Porgy" that was later adapted into a musical collaboration with composer George Gershwin, remains Charleston's most memorable on its literary trail. Walking the cobblestoned streets around the Battery and Rainbow Row make this outing a must.
2. Farther south is Savannah, Georgia's architectural treasure, which embraces its antebellum past and where 21 meticulously restored squares laid out by Gen. James Oglethorpe showcase this seaports stunning beauty. Along these thoroughfares four major authors’ memories and landmarks can be discovered, beginning with Robert Louis Stevenson and the Pirates House that played a part in his book "Treasure Island." The childhood homes of Flannery O'Connor and Conrad Aiken are also in Savannah, as well as sites associated with John Berendt's bestselling book, "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil."
3. No literary tour through the South is complete without visiting Atlanta and peeking into Margaret Mitchell's tiny Peachtree Street apartment and where she penned "Gone with the Wind." Atlanta is “Mitchell Country” in the truest sense and is the location of several Mitchell sites including the Georgian Terrace Hotel, where Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh and many other notable guests stayed, just a few blocks from Mitchell’s apartment and where she delivered he manuscript to Harold Latham of Macmillan & Co. Oakland Cemetery is where Mitchell is interred.
4. Asheville, North Carolina is the hometown of Thomas Wolfe, North Carolina's most celebrated author, who is honored and remembered at several sites in this lovely mountain hamlet that sits on the fringes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Thomas Wolfe Memorial in downtown Asheville serves as a poignant reminder of his autobiographical works, "Look Homeward Angel," and "You Can't Go Home Again," among others. His name is joined by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who for two summers lived at the Grove Park Inn, a short driving distance from the Wolfe Memorial and the Biltmore Estate, the latter of which is North Carolina's most visited tourist attraction.
5 & 6. Florida holds the distinction of having two completely restored literary homesteads still intact: Ernest Hemingway's Key West Spanish Colonial home on Whitehead Street and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ home in Cross Creek near Gainesville. Hemingway's Key West home is where he completed the bulk of his most renowned works including; "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," and "A Farewell to Arms." Most of the contents in the house belonged to him, making a visit all the more meaningful. Pages from Rawlings’ Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "The Yearling," spring to life on a visit to her Cross Creek home. Nearby her former homestead is the Ocala National Forest, which provides a vivid snapshot of the landscape that so inspired her writing "The Yearling."
7. Louisville, Kentucky - In 1918, Jazz Age author F. Scott Fitzgerald arrived in Kentucky's most exciting city to begin his military duties at Camp Taylor. During his brief assignment he spent considerable time at the Seelbach Hotel and its Rathskeller Lounge, enjoying a toast or two with his fellow officers. But the Seelbach's Grand Ballroom will take your breath away. The gold and cobalt ballroom mesmerized the author and became the backdrop for Daisy Fay and Tom Buchanan's wedding in "The Great Gatsby." Several of the novel’s most important sections occurred in Louisville, making it a must for Fitzgerald fans.
8. New Orleans, Louisiana is the South's most magical and mysterious city, with several literary luminaries among its roster, including: Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Walker Percy and Lillian Hellman. Everywhere you turn in this captivating city you are met with the shadows of Tennessee Williams—clearly New Orleans literary kingpin. Williams’ former homes, the St. Louis Cathedral, and Galatoire's (his favorite restaurant) all account for his love affair with the Big Easy. Annually the city celebrates his legacy at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival that continues to attract legions of his fans. Both the French Quarter and the Garden District serve up slices of literary history and make New Orleans Louisiana's most endowed literary haunt. While in the area, head north to Baton Rouge and discover Robert Penn Warren landmarks and his novel "All the King's Men" at the state capitol.
9. Richmond, Virginia's capital city, is steeped in Civil War history and is also the hometown of Edgar Allan Poe. "I am a Virginian," he wrote, "at least I call myself one, for I have lived all my life in Richmond." Poe sites are scattered throughout the city, most importantly the Edgar Allan Poe Museum on East Main. Situated in Richmond's oldest building, the museum houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Poe artifacts in the world. Nearby is St. John's Church, where his mother is interred, and the home of Elmira Royster Shelton, Poe’s first love and his last stop before heading on his fateful journey to Baltimore.
10. Oxford, Mississippi is William Faulkner's hometown and where his beloved home Rowan Oak is found. Relive Faulkner's literary by visiting his "little postage stamp of native soil." Stepping inside Rowan Oak is the closest you will get to a Faulkner shrine. The graceful white-columned house is where he lived from 1930 until his death in 1962. On the walls in the study are penciled lines from "The Fable," his typewriter and pipe lying nearby. Oxford's Faulkner Trail also encompasses a bronze sculpture of him found outside City Hall, the Lafayette County Courthouse, College Hill Presbyterian Church and St. Peter's Cemetery, where William Cuthbert Faulkner, along with his kin folk, is laid to rest.