Being a mecca for international arts and culture, Washington, D.C. contains a vibrant literary community. The city has housed prominent authors from all walks of life. Here are D.C.’s greatest literary landmarks.
Frederick Douglass spent the last 14 years of his life on an estate in Anacostia, which was then converted into a museum. Born into slavery in 1818, he escaped the slave system as a young man and headed northward, eventually becoming a prominent abolitionist leader known for his articulate antislavery publishings. He wrote many of his famed publications within this historic site’s walls.
The famed literary pair are buried together at St. Mary’s Church in Rockville, Maryland. While F. Scott is one of the most famed American writers of all time, the lesser-recognized Zelda was also a prominent novelist. She is often portrayed as prone to hysterical fits and responsible for ruining Scott’s career due to her struggle with schizophrenia — however, she was more of a casualty of mental health understanding and a patriarchal society. She was in and out of sanatoriums for over 15 years until perishing in a hospital fire. Words inscribed on the Fitzgeralds’ shared tombstone, taken from the final lines of the Great Gatsby, read ‘So we beat on, boats against the current. Borne back ceaselessly into the past.’
While Poe never resided in Richmond’s Old Stone House, he did spend a few fateful summers in Richmond, and the museum is a catalog of his time in the city. Established in 1922, the museum contains the largest collection of Poe memorabilia, manuscripts and letters. This house provides a glimpse into early 20th century society and Poe’s place within it; the library where Poe worked still operates a few blocks away.
With over 150 million texts, The Library of Congress remains largest and grandest library in the world. Here is where you can stroll through the Great Hall, peruse the ever-changing literary exhibits and peek into the exquisitely detailed reading rooms. You can also examine photographs of some of the most iconic moments in American history and read past presidents’ original, hand-written letters. The Library is open to the public, but you must present an easy to obtain library card to examine its texts close up.
The Folger Shakespeare Library houses the world’s largest collection of Shakespearean documents and artifacts, which are accompanied by beautiful architecture and vast gardens. The research library also hosts Shakespeare theatrical performances, where you can watch a rendition of Hamlet surrounded by the original texts of its ingenious creator. By Kate McMahon