MAPPING WASHINGTON’S LIVELY LITERARY LEGACY
New online resource reveals writers’ homes and history in the nation’s capital
A new online resource for lovers of literature and history has been launched in the nation’s capital. DC Writers’ Homes, at http://www.dcwriters.org, celebrates the rich literary heritage of Washington by mapping former homes of novelists, poets, playwrights and memoirists. Some authors remain famous, such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, Sinclair Lewis, and Katherine Anne Porter. Others are rediscoveries.
The over 120 homes included on the website represent every major period of Washington’s history and span the range of urban architectural styles. The earliest documented writers’ homes include those once occupied by: Francis Scott Key, the lawyer-poet who wrote the lyrics to the US National Anthem;Horatio King, who served as Postmaster General during the Civil War and hosted a popular literary salon in his home; and Frederick Douglass, whose remarkable autobiographies remain deservedly beloved. The most recent include authors who passed away in the last few years.
The project was conceived, researched, and created by DC writers Kim Roberts and Dan Vera, who spent more than five years tracking down and photo-documenting house locations. Only authors who have passed away, and whose houses are still standing, are included. Most houses are privately owned and not marked by historic plaques. “We wanted to claim our literary forebears,” Roberts states. “We don’t want our history to be lost or forgotten.”
The project is a collaboration among five groups that support or present the literary arts in the city. Split This Rock, whose festivals of “poets of provocation and witness” bring nationally-acclaimed authors to the city, is the sponsor. The Humanities Council of Washington, DC, provided funding. And three other organizations signed on as partners: The American Poetry Museum, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Poetry Mutual. Sarah Browning, Director of Split This Rock, calls DC Writers’ Homes “an extraordinary gift to DC.”
Authors are sorted by the geographical location of their houses, as well as by affiliations. Users can easily find authors, for example, who taught at or attended Howard University, served as US Poets Laureate at the Library of Congress, wrote on environmental themes, or were Latino. Every author is cross-referenced into at least two categories.
Kim Roberts and Dan Vera will present a slide/lecture on the making of DC Writers’ Homes on Friday, December 8 at 6:30 pm. This event, at the Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 16th St. NW, Suite 600, is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the presentation.