The John Updike Childhood Home is a museum-in-progress that is owned by The John Updike Society, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation organized for educational purposes. The house is located at 117 Philadelphia Avenue in Shillington, Pa., where author John Updike lived from “age zero” to 13, after which John and his parents moved to a farmhouse in Plowville that had been in his mother’s family.
Updike treasured the house on Philadelphia Avenue because it was where his “artistic eggs were hatched.” He visited Shillington often during his career, and went through the house as an adult on more than a few occasions, remarking that while most of the house was different, the attic remained unchanged from when he was a boy and used to play up there. He wrote about his visit to the house in the short story “The Black Room.”
Purchase of The John Updike Childhood Home was made possible by a generous donation from the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, and the restoration is supported by the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, the PECO Foundation, the John and Gaye Patton Foundation, and individual donors.
Our mission: The John Updike Society is dedicated to awakening and sustaining reader interest in the literature and legacy of John Updike, promoting literature written by Updike, fostering and encouraging critical responses to Updike’s literary works, and, through The John Updike Childhood Home, preserving the history and telling the story of John Updike’s relationship with Shillington, Pa. and the influence that Berks County had on his literary works.
Learn more about The John Updike Society.
Pictured is the front of the house. The two-story portion is original, while the single-story addition was added post-Updike in 1950 by Dr. John S. Hunter, who built the annex for his practice. To help cover annual operational costs and provide an on-site presence, the society remodeled the annex so that the three former examination rooms are now office space rented to David W. Ruoff Financial Services, which is not affiliated with the society. The former doctor’s waiting room has been repurposed as the society’s education room, and what used to be the doctor’s office/study is now a museum gift shop.
Like other author houses in heavily residential areas, The John Updike Childhood Home will have limited hours of operation once the restoration is complete. Until then, tours are by request only, and dependent upon level of construction activity. Click here for information on touring the house.
The John Updike Childhood Home is a member of the Berks Heritage Council, the Shillington Business Association, and Pennsylvania’s Americana Region (Greater Reading Convention & Visitors Bureau), as well as an Affiliate of the American Writers Museum in Chicago.