Updike house establishes regular hours

Maria Lester, Director of Education for The John Updike Childhood Home, said that the museum will be open to the public with regular hours on Saturdays from 12-2 p.m., beginning Dec. 4, 2021. The only exceptions will be major holiday weekends, when the museum will be closed. Admission is $5 for age 16 and older.

The Hemingway Birthplace in Oak Park, Ill. has successfully operated with an all-volunteer staff for many years, and Lester said that so far 13 Berks County residents have volunteered to serve as docents. Among them are college professors, artists, high school teachers, and historians. What they have in common is an interest in Updike and local history.

“They’re all excited about the museum and really impressed by the exhibits,” Lester said. “They’re a good group.”

The John Updike Childhood Home is owned and operated by The John Updike Society, a 501c3 nonprofit organization with members in 17 countries and 35 states. The house has been meticulously restored to look as it did during 1932-45, when Pulitzer Prizewinning writer John Updike lived here with his parents and maternal grandparents. The museum features 10 rooms of exhibits that tell the story of Updike’s life and literary legacy and the influence that Berks County had on his writing. Many of the objects on display are one-of-a-kind and have personal connections to Updike.

Updike and first-wife Mary played recorders in a church group, and his are on display here. So is the chair he used for writing until the age of 70, and a maple four-poster rope bed that was painted by a very young Updike and his mother, as well as original notes and drawings in Updike’s hand.

There are also items that will be of interest to lovers of art and folk art, including a coverlet made in Berks County that has been in the Updike family for more than 170 years, a coffee table made from shutters salvaged from the Berks County almshouse before it was demolished, and an original watercolor painting of Shillington High School as it looked when Updike attended junior high and high school there. The frame of that painting was made from the door frame from the home room of Wesley Updike, the author’s father and a beloved junior high school math teacher. Updike’s first art teacher, Clint Shilling, lived across the street, and items from his studio are on display—including a micro-detailed painting of a Civil War battle.

The John Updike Childhood Home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and has a Pennsylvania Historic Marker.

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