Ernest Hemingway and Kansas City: Famous Landmarks
A Writer's Haunts: Where He Worked and Where He Lived
By Brian Burnes, Star reporter
Ernest Hemingway lived and worked in Kansas City for more than a year, if all his trips here are added together. The longest, a six-month stay, was while a cub reporter on The Kansas City Star from October 18, 1917 to April 30, 1918. The rest was a series of six-week stopovers between visits to Arkansas, Wyoming and Florida. He used that time to complete two important works: A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon.
Many of Hemingway's experiences in Kansas City were recast and recounted in his writings (See: EH and KC: A Literary Tour). So it is that Hemingway's Kansas City survives today -- in his writings and, in some cases, on the streets themselves. Here are a few of the landmarks:
3629 Warwick Blvd.
The Hemingway family -- his uncle Alfred Tyler Hemingway and his aunt Arabell -- moved to 3629 Warwick in 1917 from 3705 Walnut St. Tyler had been a classmate of Henry Haskell, the chief editorial writer at The Star, and helped secure a job there for his nephew. Ernest moved into a boarding house down the street when he arrived in Kansas City on Oct. 15, 1917, but he visited here often, eating dinner with his aunt and uncle. Tyler died of pneumonia at age 44 in 1922. He is buried at Mount Washington Cemetery, as is Aunt Arabell, who died in 1963.
The Kansas City Star
As a reporter, Ernest covered the ``short-stop run'' at The Star, 1729 Grand Blvd. That meant he covered fires, crimes, the General Hospital and the goings and comings at Union Station. On Oct. 25, 1917, he might have lingered over that day's front page, which described the decisive defeat of Italian troops at Caporetto. About 10 years later, in the Mission Hills house on Indian Lane, he would bring forth his own version of that retreat in A Farewell to Arms. Inside The Star, a World War I service plaque near the main entrance bears Hemingway's name 16th from the top, in the first row. The Nobel Prize winner also is remembered in a vestibule display, as well as the paper's Hemingway Writing Awards, a national contest for high school journalists. For more history of Hemingway's newspaper life, see EH and The Kansas City Star.
3733 Warwick Blvd.
A 1917 city directory lists a Gertrude Haynes at this address. ``Probably I will stay with Miss Haines two weeks longer,'' Ernest wrote his family in a letter dated Nov. 19, 1917. The boarding house, he added, was ``very disciplined, very exclusive.''
This bustling station, at Pershing Road and Main Street, was where Ernest entered and left Kansas City. It was also part of his beat, where he would intercept the Cubs on their way to spring training, cover a tractor show, and once -- knowing what smallpox looked like and being vaccinated himself -- would break through a staring crowd and carry an unconscious smallpox victim out to a cab and up to the hospital. (See ``Throng at Smallpox Case.'')
The hospital was where, according to Hemingway letters held at the Kennedy Library, Ernest became friends with a municipal doctor. The physician's son found in the doctor a voice he admired so much that he dropped by often. He even accompanied the doctor to the city jail on those nights when the doctor administered morphine to the addicts behind bars. As a prelude to his days as an ambulance driver in Italy, the young reporter would often hop a ride in an ambulance without informing his exasperated editors he had left his post. The result was one of his best stories at The Star, ``At the end of the Ambulance Run'', and the inspiration for more than one short work of fiction, including ``God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.''
3516 Agnes Ave.
According to biographer Carlos Baker, Ernest moved in here with his friend Carl Edgar from Michigan ``after what he regarded as a decent interval'' of arriving in Kansas City. The two got on well; Carl's only complaint was that Ernest kept wanting to talk about ``the romance of newspaper work'' when it would have been better for them both to get some sleep. ``Carl and I have a nice big room...,'' Ernest wrote his parents on Dec. 6, 1917, ``...and a sleeping porch with two big double beds for $2.50 apiece per week.''
The Muehlebach Hotel
In mid-December 1917, Ernest wrote home from a press room in the Hotel Muehlebach, 12th Street and Baltimore Avenue. He expected a raise. ``All the fellows say there ought to be one coming to me,'' he said. Sometimes, working late on assignment and too tired to ride the long trolley car home to Agnes Ave., Hemingway would sleep in a bathtub in the Muehlebach's pressroom, using towels for a mattress. He later glorified the hotel's beds, not its bathtubs, in the novel Across the River and into the Trees.
6435 Indian Lane
In 1928, Hemingway and his second wife, Pauline, who was pregnant, stayed at this Mission Hills home. It was owned then by W. Malcolm Lowry and his wife, Ruth, another Kansas City relation. Hemingway had 311 foolscap pages completed by the middle of June Patrick Hemingway was born on June 28 after 18 hours of labor, ended by a Caesarean section. Later, his father would inscribe a presentation copy of A Farewell to Arms to Dr. Don Carlos Guffey, the Kansas City doctor who delivered Patrick and his second son, Gregory. It's now held at the UMKC library, ``...with much admiration and grateful remembrance of a Caesarean that was beautifully done and turned out splendidly,'' he wrote.
229 Ward Parkway
In a unit here at the then Riviera Apartments, Ernest and Pauline waited for the arrival of Gregory Hancock. He was delivered, also by Caesarean, by Dr. Guffey on Nov. 12, 1931. In appreciation, Hemingway presented a manuscript of Death in the Afternoon to Dr. Guffey. The doctor, who died in 1966, sold the manuscript for $13,000 in 1958.