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Hemingway’s story in this clapboard hamlet has many chapters. There were flirtations and romances with local and summer girls. He married Hadley Richardson here—the church is gone, but the Dilworth’s resort where he and Hadley celebrated their wedding breakfast is still here. Horton Creek, the site of fishing trips fact and fiction, runs sweet and clear just west of town, and Ten Mile Point, where the fictional Nick disses Marjorie, is a paddle away from the Lake Street public access. The potion of fiction come-to-life, spectacular scenery and aura of a young man’s coming of age is so powerful around here, don’t be surprised if you, too, are inspired to take up your pen—if only to send a postcard.
Hemingway did sleep at Petoskey’s Perry Hotel, in 1916 after he and a friend camped, fished and hiked their way up the coast from Onekama. He never stayed there again (so far as anyone knows), but he came often enough in the winter of 1919 and 1920 to drink, dine and relax on the veranda with its view of the Pennsylvania Depot. Not yet 21, Hemingway had already worked as a reporter on the Kansas City Star, served in Italy during World War I, and been engaged. After a summer in Horton Bay, Hemingway moved into Petoskey and took a room at Potter’s Rooming House on State Street. The stately Perry Hotel, wedged between Little Traverse Bay and the downtown, was a good place to find society.
It’s no coincidence that the Michigan Hemingway Society hosts its annual Hemingway Weekend at the Perry (October 24 through 26, 2008). The hotel's gracious décor and amenities are in keeping with the hotel’s Victorian roots—and though it’s roughly twice the size it was in Hemingway’s day, he’d still recognize the grand old hotel. The veranda with its wicker furniture is as fine a place as ever to pass the time, and the dining room, though now with expansive views to the bay, serves up an oak planked whitefish that Hemingway would have appreciated. You have to think he would have liked the leek and morel omelet on the breakfast menu, as well, though he was long gone to another adventure in Toronto by the time those treats popped up in the Northern Michigan forest.
The third-floor library with its comfy furniture and gas fireplace is the spot to curl up with Hemingway. Among the must-reads for your Petoskey stay are the short stories “The Indians Moved Away,” and “The Killers” and also the novella The Torrents of Spring—Hemingway’s parody on Sherwood Anderson and the Chicago school of literature is set in Petoskey. If you don’t have the books already, McLean & Eakin Booksellers in the downtown gaslight district does. Or stop by the Petoskey Public Library, where Hemingway, clad in Italian cape and boots, regaled the local Ladies Aid Society with his war experiences.
When your bookwork is finished, hit the Petoskey streets—they’re awash in Hemingway’s ghost. Make your first stop The Little Traverse Historical Museum. The wonderful old building was once the Pere Marquette railroad depot of “The Indians Moved Away” fame. Take the time at the museum to watch a documentary narrated by Hemingway’s nephew Ernest Hemingway Mainland and to ask to watch the video of Irene Gordon reading a letter to her from Hemingway. Gordon, who lived past 100, was a friend of Hemingway’s when he was here. He was drawn to her beauty and her ability on the tennis courts. After Hemingway left Petoskey he wrote to Gordon a number of times over the years, and made it a point to stop by on her 50th birthday and give her a kiss. The year was 1949, and it was the only time he’d been back to Northern Michigan since he left after his wedding and honeymoon in September of 1921. After Gordon’s birthday he never returned here.