The UI Museum of Natural History invited the public to retrace the steps of
Iowa City's most prominent writers on a fall walking tour that celebrated
the UNESCO City of Literature. Here are some of the noted landmarks:
PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
While in Iowa City,
author Kurt Vonnegut
lived in the Vogt
House (pictured above) and taught
students such as
John Irving (67MFA),
Gail Godwin (68MA,
71PhD), John Casey
(68MFA), and Nicholas
Meyer (68BA) at
the Iowa Writers'
Old Capitol, 21 N. Clinton St.
In 1861, one of the UI's first literary societies,
the Zetagathian Society, met here by the light
of oil lamps. The group critiqued original essays
and debated hot topics of the day, creating a
burgeoning literary movement on campus that
eventually led to the 1936 founding of the Iowa
- Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St.
One of the top independent bookstores in the
nation, Prairie Lights features the Times Club
Café, which is named after one of two literary
clubs in 1930s Iowa City that hosted prominent
speakers such as Robert Frost and Langston
Hughes. The Times Club called for intellectual
discussion of contemporary issues, while
members of the Grant Wood-led Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Speakers dressed
in goofy Victorian garb and refused to take
themselves too seriously.
- General Hospital, 220 Hawkins Drive
Tom "Tennessee" Williams (38BA), who
received his famous nickname while a student
at Iowa, lived on eggs for a month before
landing a job as a waiter in the doctor's cafeteria
at University Hospitals. The playwright, who
studied under UI theatre department head E.C.
Mabie, wrote that he hoped never to lose the
hospital job because it provided him with
- Vogt House, 800 N. Van Buren St.
Kurt Vonnegut penned the modern classic
Slaughterhouse-Five here while teaching at
the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the late 1960s.
Legend says the deed to his former home, which
is listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, required occupants to host a May Day
party every year as Vonnegut did.
- St. Mary's Church, 228 E. Jefferson St.
Missing her native Georgia, Iowa Writers'
Workshop alumna Flannery O'Connor
(47MFA) made her home away from home at
St. Mary's, where she prayed twice a day.
- Former site of Grace and Rubies Café,
209 N. Linn St.
In 1977, novelist T.C. Boyle (74MFA, 77PhD)
wrote a short story, "The Women's Restaurant,"
from the perspective of a male narrator
determined to infiltrate this real-life, female-only
café (located where Brix Cheese Shop & Wine
Bar stands today).
- George's Buffet, 312 E. Market St.
Though known as the poets' hangout among
Iowa Writers' Workshop students, wordsmiths
of all stripes have joined townies in praise of
George's cheeseburgers, prepared in a 1950s
electric broiler and served on a soft sesame-seed
- Dave's Fox Head Tavern,
402 E. Market St.
Inside this dimly lit, red-paneled shack, picture
Vonnegut in the corner sipping scotch and water,
Frank Conroy shooting pool through a smoky
haze, and Hunter S. Thompson kicked to the
curb for unruly behavior (as the story goes).
Visit litcity.lib.uiowa.edu for a virtual tour of Iowa City's literary landmarks and mnh.uiowa.edu for a list of upcoming events from the UI Museum of Natural History.