Tennessee Williams Tour
Road Trip USA & Study Literature in the South
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Arrive in Columbus, Mississippi, the birthplace of Tennessee Williams. You’ll visit the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center where you’ll take a tour of the 1875 Victorian home. The home, a National Literary Landmark, was the rectory of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Williams’ grandfather was the reverend of the church. The home is not on the original site, as it was moved in an effort to preserve it, but the structure is where Williams lived.
On day two, you’ll visit Mississippi University for Women. Now coeducational, it was the first state-funded college for women in America. Williams’ contemporary, and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Eudora Welty attended MUW between 1925 and 1927. The university holds an annual Eudora Welty Symposium where Southern writers can present their work. You’ll have the chance to check out the Women’s Studies, English and Theatre departments.
This afternoon, you’ll travel to the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, about a 4.5-hour drive, where Williams lived and wrote. You’ll arrive just in time for dinner at Galatoire’s, a favorite of Williams but not so much for Stanley Kowalski. Afterward, take a laid-back tour of some of the historic bars and watering holes frequented by, or believed to be frequented by, Williams and his contemporaries. Work your way to Pat O’Brien’s, the 1807 Old Absinthe House and the Williams-themed Hot Tin Rooftop Bar at the Pontchartrain Hotel, which has stunning views of the Mississippi River. Williams kept a room at the historic Hotel Monteleone at 214 Royal Street, which has a famous carousel bar that actually revolves. Other notable names at this hotel include Anne Rice, John Grisham, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
You’ll visit several of Williams’ homes and work spaces on day three. He lived in several spaces between 1939 and the 1980s, including 632 St. Peter Street where it’s believed that he wrote part of A Streetcar Named Desire. Other addresses include 727 Toulouse Street, 1014 Dumaine Street, The Hotel Maison De Ville and 1014 Dumaine Street, which he purchased in 1962 but sold in 1983. Spend some time browsing at Faulkner House Books, a bookstore dedicated to Southern literature. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because William Faulkner lived in the 1840s home for a time.
This afternoon, you’ll fly to Miami, Florida, which takes about 2.5 hours. Bring along your iPad packed with Williams’ short stories and plays to read on the way. Take advantage of that Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime account by checking out the movie versions of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” A Streetcar Named Desire” or “The Night of the Iguana.”
Once in Miami, check out a local restaurant and walk around Coconut Grove where Williams and his fellow writers and artistic types lived the bohemian lifestyle of South Florida in the ‘40s.
This morning, you’ll visit the Coconut Grove Playhouse where A Streetcar Named Desire was performed in 1956. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and the stage has seen the talents of Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing and more. Originally opened in 1927, it’s currently in the works to be re-opened, so you probably won’t be able to go inside.
You’ll then follow the scenic A1A to Key West where Williams spent much of his time. He lived and visited there from 1941 to 1983. This evening, you’ll take a walking ghost tour of Key West where you just might hear a tale or two relating to Williams.
On day five, you’ll walk by Williams’ home at 1431 Duncan Street, which he bought in 1950. It’s private and not open to the public. The La Concha Hotel, where he wrote the final draft of A Streetcar Named Desire is next on the list. The La Concha was a favorite among Hemingway and other artists and authors.
Next, you’ll visit the Key West Art and Historical Society at the Custom House. While he’s known for his literary work, not many know that Williams dabbled in painting. There are 15 of his paintings from the 1970s on permanent display at the Inner Vecchie Gallery at the Custom House). The exhibition is known as “Tennessee Williams: Playwright and Painter,” and the collection comes from Williams’ friend David Wokowsky.
You’ll take a tour on the famous Conch Tour Train to see the unique architecture of Key West and learn interesting facts from friendly and knowledgeable drivers.
The Tennessee Williams Museum in Key West has the largest permanent collection of Williams memorabilia on public display. Spend time browsing through the years of memorabilia and exhibits. The next stop is more of Key West’s literary past at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. You’ll also pay a visit to the Tennessee Williams Theatre at the Florida Keys Community College.
On your departure day, spend a leisurely morning enjoying the tropical laid-back vibe of Key West. Take a walk down Duval Street for some last minute souvenirs before heading to the airport.
Legendary author Tennessee Williams lived an incredible life in some of the South’s most storied locales. On this tour to study literature, you’ll get to ride the iconic “Streetcar Named Desire” in New Orleans, take in the art deco beauty of Miami, and visit Williams’ old haunts in decadent Key West, perhaps even finding inspiration to do some writing of your own. Pack your notebooks and your copy of “The Glass Menagerie” for this incredible journey!
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