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Sinclair Lewis' Boyhood Home Tells a Story

When you walk into the two-story, wood-frame house on Sinclair Lewis Avenue, you leave behind the modern world of microwave ovens, wall to wall carpeting and double-car garages. Instead you experience the turn-of-the-century lifestyle of a man who later became one of America's greatest story tellers and social critic. The boyhood home of Sinclair Lewis is filled with historic memorabilia and stories of a creative young man, who's life was filled with books, mischief and adventure.

boyhood homeAmong the fine parlor furniture, the rustic cook stove and Lewis' roll top desk, you learn of an awkward young boy's life.

"Much of what you read in Sinclair Lewis' books occurred in this house," says tour guide Joyce Lyng.

The ladies literature readings Lewis wrote about in Main Street were held by his step-mother in the Lewis parlor. The graphic descriptions of medical emergencies in Arrowsmith were played out on the front porch as patients rushed to see Lewis' father. Local stories have it, young Red Lewis had to bury amputated limbs in the back yard.

The Lewis home was the center of social life in Sauk Centre which was a frontier town in the 1890s made up of New England Yankees and Northern Europeans. Lewis listened closely to the voices he heard and often mimic his parent's guests with his friends. Lewis' father came to town with a wagon filled with books and later helped get a library built in Sauk Centre. Surrounded by so many books, it was only natural Lewis would grow up an avid reader. He couldn't put a good book down.

When he had to cut wood in the backyard he would prop a book in a tree to catch a quick paragraph between chops. His stern father would often scold him for reading when he should be working. A small carriage house served as a hide away for young Lewis. Here he kept a diary and a small collection of short stories. Lewis' step-grandfather, a Civil War veteran would tell him stories of war and far off places. From his bedroom window, overlooking the carriage house, Lewis would gaze at Sauk Lake and recreate great armies forming on the shoreline, navel battles at sea and imagine distant lands he would one day visit.

From these boyhood imaginings came America's first Nobel Prize winner for literature and one of the best selling authors of the Jazz Age of the Roaring 20's.

 

 

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