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Details about  John Updike House—American Novelist, Historic Boyhood Property. United States

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John Updike House—American Novelist, Historic Boyhood Property. United States
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--not specified
Jan 10, 2012 16:00:04 PST
Starting bid:
US $249,000.00
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Item location:
Reading, Pennsylvania, United States


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Last updated on  Dec 27, 2011 22:22:57 PST  View all revisions

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Property Address:

117 Philadelphia Avenue

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Existing Homes







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The Historic Boyhood Home of 2 time
Pulitzer Prize Winning American Novelist John Updike
(March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009)

This is a unique opportunity to own a very special historic property that represents one of the most prolific writers of our time. 

To arrange a visit or to request more information please call 610-685-0914
or email us at:

We are offering the childhood home of two time Pulitzer Prize winning author John Updike.  The home is set in Shillington, Pennsylvania, United States, a small town 50 miles west of Philadelphia, 2 hours from New York City, and 3 hours from Washington, DC.  Shillington and nearby Reading, Pennsylvania are thought to be the backdrop for his novel Rabbit Run and the
sequels Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990) for which he received 2 Pulitzer Prizes. Until John Updike was 13 years old he lived in this 3 story brick home with his mother and father, Wesley Russell Updike and Linda Grace Hoyer and his grandparents, John and Katherine Hoyer.  During those formative years Updike's creativity was nurtured in the rooms with, high ceilings, wide woodwork, and large windows.  The original features and characteristics of the home remain as Updike recalled in a 1999 visit while being filmed for a German documentary on the childhoods of renowned authors around the world.  He recalled spending many hours huddled beneath a large table in the dining room where he would love to draw.  His bedroom over the kitchen is the quietest room in the house.  It is this bedroom where he wrote about...(cars etc.).....  A Dogwood Tree that was planted in the front yard on John Updike's first birthday still blossoms every spring.

With ample off street parking, this historic property would make a wonderful bed and breakfast inn, a home, creative retreat, or an office as it is now.  Two miles from the house is
Alvernia College where the John Updike Society Archive is being housed. 

Below are descriptions of the rooms of the house as described by John Updike.  This text was prepared for the John Updike Society tour in 2010

The Living Room
This bright, sunny room served as a craft room, where John would paint and draw, or simply look out onto the street below. His mother used the room as a writing room. The two of them would often spend time together here.
    In a 2004 interview Updike gave upon being inducted into the Academy of Achievement, he recalled . . . My mother had dreams of being a writer, and I used to see her type in the front room. The front room is also where I would go when I was sick, so I would sit there and watch her . . .

The Dining Room
John Updike told us during a visit here in 1999 that he often would curl up under the old table in this room and read while family members passed by on their way in and out of the kitchen.
    In a 1989 memoir he wrote . . . As I remember in the Shillington house, I was usually down on the floor, drawing or reading, or even under the dining room table, trying to stay out of harm’s way.

The Kitchen
Updike wrote of this kitchen numerous times in various works, and he recalled that coins were kept in a Recipes box on top of the icebox. One of his works contained this recollection . . .The little tin recipe box became quite empty; I never had to go without a noontime Tastycake. I moved a kitchen chair next to the icebox to stand on while I fished the nickel and the penny from the box.

John and Katherine Hoyer’s Bedroom
This small room is where John’s grandparents, who owned the house, slept.
    In a 2004 interview Updike gave upon being inducted into the Academy of Achievement, he spoke of his grandparents . . . My grandparents were old country folk and would speak Pennsylvania Dutch between themselves, although my grandfather spoke a rather elegant English. . .

Wesley and Linda Updike’s Bedroom
John Updike described himself as a sickly child, and said he often would join his parents in their bed in this room when he wasn’t feeling well.
He also recalled that, when rain was coming, he would turn the wicker chairs that were on the porch outside of this room toward the wall so the seats would not get wet.

John Updike’s Bedroom
This room was where John Updike slept during his years in this house. Updike described the room in one of his writings . . . My bedroom was a narrow back room, with a bookshelf and some framed illustrations, by Vernon Grant, of nursery rhymes; it overlooked the back yard and adjoined my parents’ bedroom.

The Attic
On a visit here in 1999,  John Updike told us that the attic had the same odor he remembered from his childhood.
   The attic was another place that young John Updike liked to retire to for reading or drawing.

The Dogwood Tree
The dogwood tree in the side yard was planted shortly after John Updike’s birth by his parents and grandparents. It still flowers faithfully every year, despite its advanced age.
   Updike wrote of the tree in “The Dogwood Tree,” which was included in Assorted Prose. . . When I was born, my parents and my mother’s parents planted a dogwood tree in the side yard of the large white house in which we lived throughout my boyhood. This tree I learned quite early, was exactly my age, was, in a sense, me. ( the Dogwood Tree still blossoms every year, despite it's age)

About the property:

Construction: Brick.  Original siding covers the rear rooms of the house, the kitchen and John Updike's childhood bedroom on the second floor

Roof: Asphalt Shingles, replaced 2005
Porch Awning: Canvas (removable)
Square Feet:  2912
Land:  .25 acres
Zoned: Commercial / Residential

Rooms: 14 total (8 in original house, 6 in addition)

Baths: 2
Bedrooms: 7 (4 in original house, 3 in addition, all currently used as offices)
Dining Room (currently conference room)
Living Room (currently studio)
Library/Study: 1
Kitchen: 1
Full basement (unfinished)
Attics: over original house and addition. 2 total
Parking: off-street, up to 10 vehicles
Heat: Oil radiant hot water. Heated floors in addition

To arrange a visit or to request more information please call 610-685-0914
or email us at:


•  John Updike lived at 117 Philadelphia Avenue in Shillington, Pennsylvania until he was 13 years old (1945).
•  His early years in Shillington were formative years in his creative development
Rabbit is Rich (1981) and Rabbit at Rest (1990) sequels to his novel Rabbit, Run (1960), won Pulitzer Prizes  
•  Most of the original architectural features of the home still exist
•  A Dogwood tree planted by his grandparents in the front yard celebrating John Updike's first birthday is still here
•  In 1946 an addition was added by, Dr. Hunter, the owner at that time
•  In 1998 we purchased the building for the operation of our advertising firm, Niemczyk Hoffmann Group, Inc
•  January 27, 2009, John Updike passes away
•  In 2010 a John Updike Society Archive was established at the Franco Library, Alvernia University, in nearby Reading, PA
•  2010 Niemczyk Hoffmann Group hosted an open house tour for the John Updike Societ

For more on John Updike please visit:
•  http://topics.time.com/john-updike/
•  http://blogs.iwu.edu/johnupdikesociety
•  http://www.alvernia.edu/johnupdike/johnupdike.html
•  http://www.alvernia.edu/news/2010/09/updike-archives-article.html
•  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Updike
•  http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/upd0bio-1

John Updike Bibliography:

Rabbit novels
    •    (1960) Rabbit, Run
    •    (1971) Rabbit Redux
    •    (1981) Rabbit Is Rich
    •    (1990) Rabbit At Rest
    •    (1995) Rabbit Angstrom: The Four Novels
    •    (2001) Rabbit Remembered (a novella in the collection Licks of Love)
Bech books
    •    (1970) Bech, a Book
    •    (1982) Bech Is Back
    •    (1998) Bech at Bay
    •    (2001) The Complete Henry Bech
Buchanan books
    •    (1974) Buchanan Dying (a play)
    •    (1992) Memories of the Ford Administration (a novel)
Eastwick books
    •    (1984) The Witches of Eastwick
    •    (2008) The Widows of Eastwick
The Scarlet Letter Trilogy
    •    (1975) A Month of Sundays
    •    (1986) Roger's Version
    •    (1988) S.
Other novels
    •    (1959) The Poorhouse Fair
    •    (1963) The Centaur
    •    (1965) Of the Farm
    •    (1968) Couples
    •    (1977) Marry Me
    •    (1978) The Coup
    •    (1994) Brazil
    •    (1996) In the Beauty of the Lilies
    •    (1997) Toward the End of Time
    •    (2000) Gertrude and Claudius
    •    (2002) Seek My Face
    •    (2004) Villages
    •    (2006) Terrorist
Short Story Collections
    •    (1959) The Same Door
    •    (1962) Pigeon Feathers
    •    (1964) Olinger Stories (a selection)
    •    (1966) The Music School
    •    (1972) Museums And Women
    •    (1979) Problems
    •    (1979) Too Far To Go (the Maples stories)
    •    (1987) Trust Me
    •    (1994) The Afterlife
    •    (2000) The Best American Short Stories of the Century (editor)
    •    (2001) Licks of Love
    •    (2003) The Early Stories: 1953–1975
    •    (2003) Three Stories
    •    (2009) My Father's Tears and Other Stories
    •    (2009) The Maples Stories
    •    (1958) The Carpentered Hen
    •    (1963) Telephone Poles
    •    (1969) Midpoint
    •    (1969) Dance of the Solids
    •    (1974) Cunts: Upon Receiving The Swingers Life Club Membership Solicitation (limited edition)
    •    (1977) Tossing and Turning
    •    (1985) Facing Nature
    •    (1993) Collected Poems 1953–1993
    •    (2001) Americana and Other Poems
    •    (2009) Endpoint and Other Poems
Non-fiction, essays and criticism
    •    (1965) Assorted Prose
    •    (1975) Picked-Up Pieces
    •    (1983) Hugging The Shore
    •    (1989) Self-Consciousness: Memoirs
    •    (1989) Just Looking
    •    (1991) Odd Jobs
    •    (1996) Golf Dreams: Writings on Golf
    •    (1999) More Matter
    •    (2005) Still Looking: Essays on American Art
    •    (2005) In Love with a Wanton: Essays on Golf
    •    (2007) Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism
    •    (2010) Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu: John Updike on Ted Williams (Library of America)
    •    (2011) Higher Gossip
Books Edited by John Updike
    •    (2009) The Binghamton Poems

To arrange a visit or to request more information please call 610-685-0914
or email us at:

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.216316145111855.51063.216315941778542&type=1

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