Some say that the houses you have lived in determine your worldview. Maybe you moved around the globe. Maybe you stayed in one spot. Either way, the walls that surround you might have something to do with how you understand what lies outside of them.
A new exhibit at the Thurber House examines this theory. James Thurber, Columbus’ most noted son, lived in a number of houses and he wrote about all of them. “He lived in 14 different residences,” says Pat Shannon, Assistant Curator for the exhibit. “When the family lived on Champion Avenue they thought they were on the edges of Columbus.” Champion Ave is of course now deep within downtown but as Thurber recalled, their live-in cook slept with a .38 revolver and had a penchant for firing it out her bedroom window.
James Thurber’s houses, the most noted on 77 Jefferson Ave, all have different personalities. He was born on Parsons Ave and graduated from East High School while living on 17th Street. Oak Street was the backdrop for a popular New Yorker story called “File and Forget.” And the famous ghost on Jefferson Ave might have finally been identified as a jeweler named Thomas Tracy Tress who died accidentally.
During Thurber’s senior year in high school he lived on 17th Street. He wrote then about Columbus’ Centennial in 1912 when four thousand suffragettes marched down high street. “President William H. Taft, a former Columbus resident, spoke at the fair grounds,” Thurber wrote, “but nobody remembered what he said.”
Got to one of the picnics with the authors this summer – they’re every Wednesday night out on the lawn of 77 Jefferson Ave – then wander into the exhibit next door at the Thurber Center. Go soon because the exhibit is only up until the end of August. Then look at the houses that influenced one of the greatest American authors of all time. It just might remind you of the houses that made you who you are.
The exhibit was supported by the Rare Book and Manuscript Department at The Ohio State University with additional help from The Columbus Dispatch and the Ohio Historical Society.