Thomas Wolfe Memorial

Thomas Wolfe Memorial, Asheville

Thomas Wolfe Memorial
4.5
Historic Sites • Points of Interest & Landmarks • Monuments & Statues
About
Thomas Wolfe's childhood home, immortalized in his 1929 novel, "Look Homeward Angel," is preserved intact as a lasting monument to one of the 20th century's most prominent writers. The house, originally operated as a boardinghouse by his mother, retains most of its original furnishings and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Tours of the 29 room house are offered hourly. The adjacent visitor center and museum highlight Wolfe's life and major literary accomplishments.
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4.5
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jo ann l
2 contributions
May 2021
Although I knew he was a great writer, I had never read any of his books. His life story was remarkable and extremely interesting. This tour of the house where he grew up was full of details about his life and his parents. What an amazing life Thomas lived ! I highly recommend watching the short film in the building near the home first, especially if you are unfamiliar with this great writer
Written May 25, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

bmcneill
Frederick, MD19 contributions
Oct 2021
We visited on an uncharacteristically cold day in October. The docent gave an excellent interpretive tour of the house. My wife, who is unfamiliar with Wolfe's work, appreciated the context that the docent provided about the Asheville of Wolfe's youth and his mother's ambitions to create a better life for herself.

The drafty old house on a cold day was definitely evocative of Wolfe's reflections on growing up in a rooming-house without a room or a settled place.

The short film in the adjacent book store is also worthwhile.
Written November 21, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

John F
Rogers, AR97 contributions
Dec 2019
The museum sits next to the boarding house which is the setting for much of Wolfe’s book "Look Homeward, Angel". The guides were very knowledgeable and friendly. The exhibits are interesting and chronicle his short life in Asheville, Europe and New York. It is sad that we lost Wolfe at such a young age, 38, he was truly a literary groundbreaking genius. He was a peer of Hemingway and Fitzgerald but his short life did not allow his fame to grow as much as these other famous authors.

The boarding house is interesting in itself as a historical building, but knowing the occupants like we do from the book makes it even more interesting and come alive. The city of Asheville has grown up around it so it now sits as its own urban island among modern buildings. But it doesn't take much imagination to see the views of the Blue Ridge mountains from the rocking chairs on the porch.

The site offers free parking to visitors off an alley so don't waste your money on the street parking meters. Also, if you are a local, the Memorial offers Thomas Wolfe monthly book club discussions. Too bad I live 950 miles away, it would be fun to participate.
Written January 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

bklyndelight
Brooklyn, NY103 contributions
Dec 2021
The film when you enter is very informative. The museum basically repeats the film. The real treat is the mothers boarding house where Wolfe grew up. You can understand so much of Wolfe from that tour. It is definitely worth the extra 5 dollars for a docent lead tour.
Written December 19, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

MonroeLouisiana
Monroe146 contributions
Sep 2020
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial is actually a house where he lived as a boy and which his mother ran as a boarding house. There was nothing online to indicate that the house wasn't open for tours during Covid. However, upon arrival we found that both the next door visitor center and house were closed. But I have to say that the trip was still worthwhile because signs were posted about the free cell phone audio tour. The tour described locations both outside and inside of the house and gave basic information about Wolfe's early life and connection to Asheville in his writing. Although we would have loved to have seen the inside, we enjoyed listening to the tour and roaming on the grounds and porch of the house. There were even a few downstairs windows that we could peer into and take photos.
Written September 18, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

usnamom2001
Bellport, NY172 contributions
May 2021
Great historical home! Nicely preserved and full of history. The pre-tour exhibit was very well done and interesting. Our guide was very knowledgeable and informative. History can be very enjoyable....this place was a great stop in Asheville.
Written August 1, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Marty Bielicki
Jensen Beach, FL13,167 contributions
Dec 2018 • Solo
Highly recommend taking the tour of the home when visiting this “Memorial.” A modern Visitor’s Center is next to the home on North Market Street. Viewing the displays in the Visitors center is free, but the tour will cost $5 for an adult. The home is open 9:00 to 5:00 and closed on Sundays and Mondays.

I had not read any of Thomas Wolfe’s work, but have visited Asheville many times. It was about time to see this wonderful piece of history. By the end of the tour, I felt “Thomas” was a dear friend of the family. Maybe this feeling was due to the interesting young docent, Sara Kaglic. Her passion for the home and the life of Thomas Wolfe is quite evident.

Tours go on the half hour. Our “Historical Interpreter” took us into many of the 29 rooms into the “Old Kentucky Home” that were once used as a “Boarding House.” Boarders would pay a dollar a night. Thomas’s mom, Julie Wolfe, purchased the home in 1906. It is quite interesting learning about the entire family and the history of the house.

The home became a nexus in Thomas Wolfe’s famous novel, “Look Homeward, Angel.” Eighty-five percent of the artifacts still exist in the home. There would have been more, but an arsonist started a fire in the dining room ruining 200 artifacts. A $2.4 million dollar restoration made it possible for the home to reopen in 2003.

Thomas Wolfe was highly regarded as one of the main writers of the 20th century, as famous as Ernest Hemingway. His short life is fascinating, dying short of 38 years of age from Tuberculous. He was a tall man at 6’6” and there is a life-size poster of him in the Visitors Center.

I give high kudos to Asheville, the volunteer workers and the State of North Carolina of keeping Thomas Wolfe and his family legacy alive.

If you found this review “helpful” in any way, please press “LIKE” to let me know.
Written January 27, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Maurene_K
Dover, NH9,359 contributions
Nov 2013 • Solo
As a person with an A.B. in English Literature, I'm always interested in seeing how authors lived. So, when in Asheville, I was drawn to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

Tom, the guide, was very knowledgeable. His hour-long tour was very informative, beginning with Thomas Wolfe's life story. I'll recount a condensed version with only the highlights.

Born in October 3, 1900, Thomas Wolfe was the youngest of eight children. He was one of six to live into adulthood.

His father William "W.O." Wolfe ran a successful headstone business. His mother Julia was a very successful businesswoman who ran boarding houses and speculated in real estate. Julia Wolfe bought the boarding house named Old Kentucky Home in 1906. Thomas lived there with his mother until 1916 when he left for college at University of North Carolina (UNC) at age 15. The rest of the family lived with W.O. at his house nearby. The family living arrangements raised some eyebrows.

After UNC, he studied playwriting at Harvard. He was unsuccessful as a playwright because his plays were too long. He became an English instructor at New York University in 1924. Returning from a trip to Europe, he met Aline Bernstein. They had a five-year affair and lived together. She was married but refused to divorce her husband. She was a positive influence on Thomas Wolfe's writing career. During this period, he wrote what would become his autobiographical novel “Look Homeward, Angel” which chronicled his life at his mother’s boarding house as well as characterized Asheville locals and boarders. The book’s 1929 publication caused an uproar in Asheville. Wolfe stayed away from Asheville for 8 years.

In 1938, he toured 11 U.S. national parks in the west with a friend. Wolfe crossed over into Canada. He took ill. Back in Seattle, he was hospitalized. He was treated for pneumonia; however, when complications developed, he was transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. His family accompanied him on the train journey which took three days. Wolfe was eventually diagnosed with what Tom, the guide, said was tubercular meningitis of the brain. The disease was too far developed for the neurosurgeon to operate. On September 15th, he died several days before his 38th birthday.

“The Web and the Rock” was published in 1939, followed by “You Can’t Go Home Again” in 1940 and “The Hills Beyond” in 1941.

The Wolfe family was subject to young deaths.
1) Leslie, the first-born, died at age 9 months of infant cholera.
2) Grover, one of older twin boys, died of typhoid fever at age 12 while the family was in St. Louis for the World's Fair in 1904.
3) While home for a visit in 1918 during the Influenza Pandemic (1918-1920), Ben, the other twin boy, contracted pneumonia and died at age 25. He died in an upstairs bedroom. It was very sad to stand near that bed while Tom, the guide, recounted Ben's days of illness in that very bed. Thomas Wolfe wrote of Ben's death in "Look Homeward, Angel."
4) Then, Thomas died at age 37 in 1938 of a rare, bizarre disease.

The boarding house had most of the original furnishings, except for the boarding house dining room and the bedroom above it. In July 1998, someone had started a fire, but someone across the street witnessed it and called police and fire. The house was saved. Staff from Biltmore Estate and Carl Sandburg Home NHS helped with salvage and storage of what was left while the damaged areas were rebuilt.

Mrs. Wolfe bought a lot of sturdy oak furniture which has withstood time and the summer heat and humidity of this area for over 100 years. She had some magnificent chests of drawers and a very nice secretary desk with intricate carvings on the desk's writing panel that I really liked.

Mrs. Wolfe and boarders lived well here. There was a lot of silver service and crystal pieces.

At the Visitor Center, there is video and a small museum that had a lot artifacts, including furnishings from Thomas Wolfe's apartment in New York.

The $5.00 fee for the house tour was well worth it.

I enjoyed my look into Thomas Wolfe's boyhood life in the home/boarding house that became the setting for "Look Homeward, Angel."

I highly recommend this historic site to anyone interested in American Literature.
Written December 2, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

preeta
san francisco, CA86 contributions
Jul 2015 • Solo
Really enjoyed this tour. Our guide, Paul Spivey, was exceedingly knowledgable and gave us a lot of information about Thomas Wolfe, his family, and the house where he and his mom lived in Asheville. The home is restored in the period w many of the artifacts from the Wolfe family. I liked the fact that you get a guided tour of most of the rooms in the home. It helped to envision life in Asheville back in the early 20th century.

The memorial also features a short movie and a small exhibit. All worth visiting. The movie compliments the information provided during the tour it does not duplicate it.

I was amazed at how few people were at the memorial considering the price is just $5.00 to visit and it is in the midst of the downtown area. Treat yourself to a visit. You will not be disappointed.
Written July 17, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

hockeymom56
Martins Ferry, OH21 contributions
Jun 2015 • Couples
We toured this after finding good reviews on Trip Advisor. Neither my husband or I had read any works by Thomas Wolfe, but it still an interesting place to visit. Touring his mother's boarding house it a very interesting historical place. You can see how revolutionary his mother was in the early 20th century in choosing a career to support her family. You also learn about the life of an American author (both the bad and the good!) You can park for free in the small parking lot and the tour cost is minimal ($5)
Written June 27, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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