When the 1890 Hemingway Birthplace Home was acquired by The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park in December 1992, funding for the purchase was provided by First Bank of Oak Park and some revenue was derived from the sale of furnishings that were included in the acquisition.
Since there was no money budgeted for restoration or period furnishings, a capital campaign was embarked upon and ultimately produced $600,000 toward administration and construction costs. John Thorpe, preservation architect, provided pro bono services and recommended skilled artisans for various portions of the restoration in addition to Kaufman and Wicklow, preservation contractors, for overall construction.
Plans were drawn, research was undertaken, Hemingway family resources and memory items from the home were sought out. An interiors consultation team of Virginia Cassin, Chair of the Restoration; Linda Hutchinson, interior designer; and Elaine Harrington, historic furnishings consultant began a seven year project to decorate and furnish the house.
The first floor was opened to visitors in June and the second floor in November 1993. Construction was ongoing with mostly volunteer efforts and furnishings were sparse. With infusion of funds from the campaign, professional services for carpentry, heating, plumbing, roofing, etc. were employed. The major goal was to have a presentable house by the Centennial Birthday celebration in 1999. Unfortunately, money was depleted by the beginning of that year.
The Foundation earlier had embarked on efforts to get a grant from the Illinois Government in Springfield to commemorate the Centennial Hemingway Birthday. In May of 1999 there was notification that an $800,000 grant had been approved! Based on this official information, it was possible to secure bridge loads to cover the costs of construction. The house was substantially unfinished when the Hemingway sons and their families entered the front door on July 21, 1999.
At the Centennial dinner, the Governor upped the grant to $1 million dollars and the completion work began again, and ended with a joyous celebration on November 10, 2001.
The house is authentically returned to its 1890's roots when Ernest's grandparents, Ernest and Carolyne Hall, built the home as their retirement home. Ernest, his father and mother and three siblings lived in the house with widowed grandfather Hall until his death in 1905. Six owners and many architectural changes later, The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park purchased the home to beautifully restore it with over $1 million dollars and hundreds of hours of volunteer time; dedicated professional expertise and the faithful support of sister Marcelline's children - John and Jim Sanford, their sister Carol Coolidge and other Hemingway family; and the loyal community of Oak Park.
The literary world is the richer for these remarkable contributions and visitors from everywhere will enjoy the ambiance and the story of young Ernest's significant years in this fine old home.