After a year of postponement due to COVID-19, the Pennsylvania Historic Marker Dedication Ceremony and Grand Opening of The John Updike Childhood Home, 117 Philadelphia Ave., in Shillington, Pa., will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 2, 2021. The event is free and open to the public on a space-available, first-come-first-served basis. Masks will be required for both the outdoor ceremony and in-house tours, in accordance with current CDC recommendations.
The John Updike Childhood Home is owned by The John Updike Society, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to awakening and sustaining reader interest in the literature and life of John Updike—and, through The John Updike Childhood Home, preserving the history and telling the story of John Updike’s relationship with Shillington, as well as the influence that Berks County had on his literary works.
The dedication and opening have been scheduled to coincide with the 6th Biennial John Updike Society Conference, hosted by Alvernia University. Conference registrants and honored guests will have reserved seating, but there will also be seating available to the public, as well as standing room.
Following the marker dedication and unveiling, the National Registry of Historic Places plaque will be uncovered and the house will be opened for free tours between 1:30-3:00 p.m.
The opening has been a long time coming. The society purchased the house in August 2012 with plans to turn it into a museum and literary site that would appeal to Updike fans and also local residents who wish to know more about one of Berks County’s most famous people. The purchase was made possible by a generous donation from The Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation.
In 2015, the society hired R.J. Doerr Co. of Easton, Pa. to restore the home back to the way it looked during Updike’s years in the house—1932-45—and the meticulous restoration, based on architectural “footprints,” Updike’s writings, interviews with family and friends, and comparisons to similar houses in the area, was completed in 2019.
The John Updike Childhood Home features exhibits that tell the story of Updike’s early years in Berks County, as well as the important influence that Pennsylvania had on his fiction and poetry.
Membership in The John Updike Society is open to anyone with an interest in Updike. Members come from 17 different countries and more than 30 states. Although many are university professors or high school teachers, just as many are people who appreciate Updike’s writings. See The John Updike Society for more details.