This Day in North Carolina History: Thomas Wolfe

Jeff Miles and Ansley Wegner produce and send out 200-word blogs from N.C. Department of Cultural Resources each day. Each is titled, “This Day in North Carolina History.” The project is in its second year. The following blog on author Thomas Wolfe is reprinted with permission.

The blogs were written for radio and  address “Informational Text” and “Speaking and Listening” standards of the Common Core State Standards. Young readers may listen to radio shows and/or podcasts and then read (and reread) the blogs as if they were on radio or delivering a podcast.

All content focuses on North Carolina, and each blog provides links for learning more about each topic under “Other related resources.”

Credit: This Day in North Carolina History is a production of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online at www.ncdcr.gov.

 

Thomas Wolfe and “The Old Kentucky Home”

The Old Kentucky Home in Asheville in 1946. Photo from the State Archives
The Old Kentucky Home in Asheville in 1946. Photo from the State Archives

On October 18, 1929, Charles Scribner’s Sons published Look Homeward, Angel, the best-known novel by Asheville author Thomas Wolfe. Inspired by a marble angel outside his father’s monument shop on Pack Square, Wolfe wrote his first and largely autobiographical novel about the fictional Gant family wherein the father is a volatile stonecutter and the mother a business-minded boardinghouse operator.Wolfe was only 6 when his own mother, Julia Westall Wolfe, left her husband and older children and bought the “Old  Kentucky Home,” a rambling Victorian boardinghouse in downtown Asheville, to which she brought young Tom. With his family divided, Tom felt lost amongst his mother’s tenants and resentful of the changes the tourists were wreaking on hishometown.

Always aware of the life and people around him, Wolfe later turned his observations into a novel in which his mother’s boardinghouse became “Dixieland” and Asheville, the fictional town of “Altamont.”  Although names were changed, Asheville residents still recognized Wolfe’s characters as themselves and were scandalized. Only in 1937, a year before he died, did Wolfe return home to visit. He was, however, buried in Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery. His mother’s boardinghouse is now the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, one of 27 state historic sites.

Other related resources:

Thomas Wolfe 2
Courtesy of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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