The Robert & Adele Schiff Family Foundation, which gave The John Updike Society the money to initially purchase the house at 117 Philadelphia Ave. in Shillington where the writer said his “artistic eggs were hatched,” has extended its support. The foundation’s donation of $170,000 will enable the society to purchase additional land for parking and to finish the task of turning the house into a museum.
“We appreciate the fine work you do, and we are proud to support your organization,” the donation letter said.
The grape arbor that was attached to the side of the house when Updike lived there has already been restored, and a privet hedge that once fenced the property will be recreated in the spring once the ground thaws. During the spring and summer, exhibits will be constructed so that people who visit the house not only get an accurate impression of where and how young John Updike and his family lived, but through those exhibits begin to understand how much Berks County meant to his work and why Updike remains one of America’s most important 20th-century writers.
Besides supporting work at The John Updike Childhood Home, the Robert & Adele Schiff Family Foundation donation provides funding for travel grants to attend the 6th Biennial John Updike Society Conference hosted by Alvernia University from Sept. 30-Oct. 4. A Call for Papers is still open, and all those interested in Updike are encouraged to attend, whether you’re presenting or not. The John Updike Childhood Home, which was approved last year for a Pennsylvania Historical Marker and inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, will be dedicated on Saturday, Oct. 3, as part of the conference activities. Writer Lorrie Moore will deliver the keynote address that evening.