If you go
The annual meeting of the Michigan Hemingway Society takes place Oct. 5-7 in Petoskey featuring speakers, readings, exhibits and tours of northern Michigan sites where the Nobel Prize-winning author spent his boyhood summers. The theme for this year’s conference is influenced by 2018 being the centennial of Hemingway’s return from World War I. For more information, visit www.michiganhemingwaysociety.org.
Where to stay
› Stafford’s Perry Hotel, 100 Lewis St., Petoskey. Built in 1899 as one of about 20 original resort hotels in the area, the Perry Hotel is the only one still in operation. Hemingway stayed here in 1916 for 75 cents a night. Rates now start at $259 per night.
› The Terrace Inn, 1549 Glendale Ave., Petoskey. Located on the grounds of historic Bay View, built as a Methodist retreat/meeting place in the late 1800s, the inn opened in 1911 and has comfortable, traditional rooms. A free breakfast is offered to guests each morning. And it’s said to be haunted.
› The Colonial Inn, 210 Artesian Ave., Harbor Springs. Opened in 1894, the inn is within walking distance of this charming community’s quaint restaurants and shops. It’s open May through late October.
Ernest Hemingway’s summers in Michigan opened a rich vein of story fodder. “Light of the World,” in which he references Kalkaska, Michigan, was one of his favorites. Here are several additional books that make mention of the state.
› “Up in Michigan”: When it was published in the 1930s, the short story about rape and drunkenness was considered scandalous for its time. Hemingway sets the scene in Horton’s Bay.
› “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”: In the early pages of the book, made into a movie released in 1952 starring Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward and Gregory Peck, Hemingway gives a solid description of life exploring around Horton Bay.
› “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife”: The opening scene takes place on the beach outside Windemere Cottage.
› “The Torrents of Spring”: Takes place in downtown Petoskey.
› “Summer People”: Published posthumously, this is part of the author’s Nick Adams series set in Horton Bay. Struble says this is his personal favorite of all of Hemingway’s Michigan-related stories.
Among the Hemingway- related sites you’ll want to see in Petoskey, Michigan:
› Horton Bay General Store. Hemingway was married to his first wife, Hadley Richardson, in a church — no longer standing — next door to the store. Hemingway made reference to the store in many of his writings. The upstairs in now a bed-and-breakfast. Downstairs is a gourmet restaurant, Morgan’s Tavern, serving smoked whitefish cakes, a local specialty, and salt-and-pepper shrimp with homemade jalapeno jelly, among other offerings.
› Lake Street in Horton Bay. Shangri-La and Pinehurst are two homes that belonged to friends of the Hemingway family. As a boy and young man, Hemingway would stay in the homes when he visited Horton Bay. “Several stories take place on that quarter-mile-long road, including ‘The Last Good Country,’ very likely the last story he was working on leading up to his death,” Struble says. Shangri-La was also the home where Hemingway dressed before his wedding to Richardson.
› Red Fox Inn. Hemingway made reference to the inn in “Up in Michigan.” The Horton Bay inn is now a “shrine” to everything Hemingway, including a wonderful bookstore, and, outside, a glass case with Hemingway memorabilia.
› The Little Traverse History Museum. A former railroad station, the museum at 100 Depot St. in Petoskey, features many Hemingway artifacts and other items of interest, including a signed, first edition of another of the author’s favorite books, “A Farewell to Arms.” The museum also offers two Hemingway tours by appointment: a two-hour tour of Nick Adams’ country and a 90-minute walking tour of Hemingway’s Petoskey.
When people think of Ernest Hemingway, Key West, Florida, comes to mind, as do Cuba and, of course, Paris. But Petoskey, Michigan?
"I get calls from people all the time who had no idea he lived here," says Christopher Struble, president of the Michigan Hemingway Society. "Everybody says they know he had a place in Key West. But when you're in Key West and you ask them about Michigan, they say they know nothing about it. They say things like, 'We didn't know he visited there.' And I tell them, he didn't just come here to visit. He lived here every summer."
And those summers, from the time he was born until he was married in Michigan in 1920, were the years that meant the most to him. Struble backs up this claim with a missive known as "The Damn Letter," which Hemingway wrote to his lifelong friend Bill Smith, a.k.a. Bird — "Hemingway had a nickname for everybody," Struble says.
"I'm paraphrasing, but the letter went something like, 'Bert, I know how good all of our old stuff was. Whenever I think about it — the bay, the farm, the fishing — it all comes back to the fact that everything I have written that's been worth a damn has been about our time spent in that part of the country.'"
Further proof of the importance of Michigan in Hemingway's books lies in the fact that though he lived in Oak Park, Illinois, full-time, he wrote only one book about the city where he was born. The childhood summers he spent fishing, hunting, hiking and swimming in Michigan laid the groundwork for 20 or more stories.
Clarence and Grace Hemingway — he a doctor, she an artist and musician — came to Michigan from Oak Park looking for a summer cabin where the couple could get away from the city and relax. They found the perfect spot on Walloon Lake, a beautiful, large body of water formed when glaciers receded from the area millions of years ago. They purchased a 20- by 40-foot cabin with 375 feet of lake frontage. Today, such land goes for more than $1 million, but back in 1898, they paid $250 and named the cabin "Windemere."
There were two small bedrooms and a kitchen off to one side. Mrs. Hemingway was not a cook, so the kitchen was an afterthought. In future years, a somewhat larger kitchen, separated from the main house by a breezeway, was added.
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park in 1899 and was brought to Windemere for the first time when he was just a couple months old. There wasn't a whole lot around the area at the time. Petoskey lay about 10 miles north of the cabin; Horton's Bay — ground zero for Hemingway's haunts, Struble says — was a stone's throw east. But there was plenty of good fishing on the lake, as well as in nearby Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan beyond.
"He said his time spent at places around here were the most important in his formative years," Struble relates.
Ensuing years saw the Hemingway clan expand to six children and their Michigan land holdings increase. A short while after purchasing Windemere, the Hemingways bought more property bordering Walloon Lake and established Longfield Farm, where Grace Hemingway built another cabin/art studio. The farm and Windemere are now in private hands, the latter owned by Hemingway's nephew, Ernest Hemingway Mainland. Tours of these properties are rare, Struble notes.
Many of Hemingway's books make mention of his years in Michigan. Some books are directly about Michigan, while other bits about the state are references or hidden in the depths of his pages and his brilliant, though sometimes troubled, mind. Sometimes you have to read between the lines.
"Hemingway was a great storyteller and an even better liar," Struble says. "He always said some of the best things he ever wrote were things he made up, but many of the things he wrote were true. He liked to mix things around."
The man, a seminal author of the 20th century, had his favorite stories, but, according to Struble, one at the top of the list was "Light of the World." Hemingway makes reference to Kalkaska, Michigan, in the story. The city lies about 50 miles south of Petoskey.
Take a tour
The primitive lands and lakes of Hemingway's beloved Horton's Bay and Petoskey have changed, but not a lot. Colorful sails and power boats now dot the waters; multimillion-dollar homes have been built on their shores. Other than that, however, Struble says much remains the same, save towns that have gotten a little bigger and trees that have grown taller.
In addition to the Michigan references in his books, many landmarks Hemingway frequented remain standing and are a part of the various self-guided tours throughout the area.
Petoskey Yesterday is a tour company that specializes in Hemingway tours. Struble runs the tours and hosts tours by motor coach and by foot. Hemingway pilgrims from as far away as China and Germany come to pay homage to the places that inspired so much of Hemingway's sketches.
The Michigan Hemingway Society provides an online, pamphlet-led Hemingway Trail, complete with markers. It can be found at www.michiganhemingwaysociety.org.
Email Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org