Mark Weyermuller didn't drive a Red Cross ambulance in Italy during World War I, hang out in Paris during the 1920s, shoot big game in Africa, or write novels in Europe, Florida, and Cuba. But Weyermuller does have one thing in common with Ernest Hemingway: he lives in the brownstone at 1239 N. Dearborn, where the writer once lived on the fourth floor with Hadley Richardson, his first wife. The apartment was so cramped and shabby looking that Hadley supposedly avoided it as much as possible. The newlyweds only lived there for about four months.
Hemingway first moved to Chicago in 1920 when he was 21, after his mother kicked him out of the family's summer home in northern Michigan for loafing, pleasure seeking, freeloading, and being a bad influence on the area youths. Hemingway gladly moved to the near north side, where he lived mostly with friends who were willing to give him free room and board until he found a job.
Of the various places Hemingway stayed during his 15 months in Chicago, only the Dearborn building is still standing.
Weyermuller, who manages and develops apartment buildings, admits that when his family first bought the building, they didn't know Hemingway had been a tenant there.
"We were the third owners of the building," he says. "Someone by the name of Gorman was the second owner. Hemingway moved in when Gorman owned the place. And then there was the original owner, who built the place as a single-family dwelling around 1890. By the time Hemingway moved in, the building had been turned into small apartment units."
Weyermuller, who lives there with his wife and three children, is turning it back into a single-family home. The main hallway is now a Hemingway mini-museum. Photos, magazine covers, posters, and newspaper and magazine clippings paper the walls and tell the story of Hemingway's life. There's an Oak Park section, a 1239 N. Dearborn section, an Africa section, and a Spain section. In the Hollywood section, there's a list of all of Hemingway's works that were made into films and the years they were made, along with movie posters from that era. Along a wall stands a collection of books by and about Hemingway.
In a corner rests an old manual typewriter. "I really have fun with that thing," Weyermuller says. "I tell people that I found it in the upstairs apartment where Hemingway lived. It's not true, but people want to believe it. They want to have some kind of tangible link to Hemingway."
A psychic once asked to examine the building for ghosts, saying that there might be some residual activity in the house because Hemingway had shot himself to death, and people who have died violently would be more likely to appear as ghosts. But she wanted to charge too much, so Weyermuller didn't hire her. Instead he makes up his own ghost stories. "People ask us if we ever notice anything strange happening in the building, and we jokingly tell them that we sometimes hear typing in the middle of the night."
Weyermuller still has a high school term paper he wrote on Hemingway.
"Can you believe it? I only got a B-minus on this. I know I deserved a better grade than that.
"I can talk about Hemingway all day," he warns, pointing out that July holds special significance for Hemingway buffs. "Hemingway was born on July 21, wounded in World War I on July 8, and died on July 2."
It's only fitting, then, for Weyermuller to hold an outdoor Hemingway exhibit from noon to 5 PM Saturday and Sunday in front of 1239 N. Dearborn. Hemingway books, photographs, and memorabilia will be on display, along with audiocassettes of Hemingway accepting the Nobel Prize and Charlton Heston reading from The Old Man and the Sea. There will also be a tour of the building. Admission is free. The exhibit coincides with the Dearborn Garden Walk and Heritage Festival, which will take place Sunday from noon to 6 PM on Dearborn Parkway between Goethe and North. It's $5.
For more information on the Hemingway exhibit, call 312-944-7368. For information on the Garden Walk, call 312-472-6561.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Eugene Zakusilo.