The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission announced yesterday afternoon that The John Updike Childhood Home was one of 18 new historical markers approved out of 55 nominees. The other high-profile approval was musician Jim Croce’s home.
John Updike, who lived in the house at 117 Philadelphia Avenue until he was 13 (1932-45), received the 1983 Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award from the governor in a Harrisburg ceremony. Updike wrote often about the house, Shillington, Reading, and the surrounding area, and was honored by presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush in White House ceremonies.
This article from the NBC Philadelphia affiliate gets the county wrong—Shillington is in Berks, not Bucks County—but it’s a fact that soon there will be a state-approved marker placed outside The John Updike Childhood Home. The property is owned by The John Updike Society and will be operated as a museum and literary landmark. A grand opening for the house-museum is scheduled for October 3, 2020. While the restoration is complete, what remains is to decide on which items would make for informative and satisfying displays, and to mouth those permanent exhibits.
Updike’s Pennsylvania-inspired fictions include The Poorhouse Fair, The Centaur, Of the Farm, Pigeon Feathers, Olinger Stories, and the Rabbit tetralogy (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit at Rest). The approval of the historic marker comes near the 10th anniversary of The John Updike Society’s founding in May 2009.
The society’s application for inclusion on the National Historic Register is separate, and is now with the National Park Service, who will make their determination sometime between now and the beginning of May.