James Thurber was born and raised in Columbus. He attended the Ohio State University and later worked for the main local newspaper. All in all, except for a brief stint with the American Embassy in Paris, he called Ohio’s capital home until his 31st year. Even then, he never really left. Thurber lived with his parents and brothers at 77 Jefferson Avenue during his college years, from 1913-1917. This is the building that houses the museum.
The first two floors are open for tours; the top floor is reserved for the current Writer-in-Residence.
The house is furnished and decorated in appropriate period style. Unlike typically uptight museums, at the Thurber House you are encouraged to make yourself right at home. You can touch (most) things, play the piano, even sit on chairs. Such intimate interaction makes the experience personal and human, even humorous. I think that James would approve. Thurber memorabilia is spread throughout, with the largest concentration displayed in an upstairs room.
Come on, I know that you want to give No, No, Nanette a try.
James Thurber’s dog illustrations are iconic, in all their forms. There are several of these yellow fellows around the museum. I think they are cookie jars, but I do not really know.
To this day, James Thurber remains one of the most famous people to have worked for the highly esteemed The New Yorker.
How very serious and studious looking thou art, James.
Period houses are great reminders that it is possible to be happy and comfortable without living amongst dozens of gadgets and distractions.
The Thurber House’s Writers-in-Residence, as well as visiting writers, have the honor of scribbling on the closet walls in James Thurber’s bedroom.
The Thurber House isn’t just a museum dedicated to the life of one of America’s greatest humorists; it is also a major literary center, offering many programs and events year-round. In addition to its Writers-in-Residence positions, it awards the annual Thurber Prize for American Humor. The Thurber Center, a conference and learning facility, is in the building next door. What more could one wish to experience from one little museum? How about two lovely bite-size parks?
The Centennial Reading Garden is squeezed in a narrow stretch of space between the Thurber House Museum and the Thurber Center.
It is a peaceful and quiet patch of whimsy. There are Central Park benches to sit on, plenty of greenery, and a total of five Thurber dog statues to engage one’s attention.
The Unicorn in the Garden, the center of Thurber’s famous modern fable, comes to life as a statue in the elliptical garden across the street. This park, with its old gazebo, is wreathed in by a dozen stately old houses. It’s an unexpectedly breathtaking corner of the busy city.
The Thurber House Museum is one of the best such experiences I’ve ever had. It is a welcoming, homey place bustling with activity. The staff and volunteers are friendly and helpful. They actually work out of offices in some of the second-floor museum rooms, a potent reminder that this is a functioning and thriving organization and not a distant, little-attended-to entity. There is passion behind the museum and all that it does for both James Thurber’s memory and the modern literary world, not to mention the local community.
With a new big-budget, star-heavy version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty scheduled for a Christmas release, it is likely that James Thurber will soon be receiving a lot of extra press. This is the perfect excuse to learn more about the man, his timeless work, and the inextinguishable love he held for his beloved home city. He died on 2 November 1961, a month short of his 67th birthday. He is buried locally, at Greenlawn Cemetery.
THURBER HOUSE MUSEUM INFORMATION:
ADDRESS: 77 Jefferson Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43215
PHONE NUMBER: 614.464.1032
HOURS: Daily, 1:00-4:00 pm
ADMISSION: Free (guided tours will cost you $4.00, and are offered on Sundays or by appointment)
BEWARE: James Thurber, various guests, and even some writers-in-residence all believe(d) the house is haunted. Go here to find out why. The Thurber House was even featured on a 2010 episode of Ghost Hunters. I didn’t experience any paranormal activity during my September visit, but you never know!
GIFT SHOP: Yes! The Thurber Country Bookstore is full of unique goodies.