The John Updike Childhood Home

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The John Updike Childhood Home is a museum-in-progress that is owned by The John Updike Society, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation organized for educational purposes. The house is located at 117 Philadelphia Avenue in Shillington, Pa., where author John Updike lived from “age zero” to 13, after which John and his parents moved to a farmhouse in Plowville that had been in his mother’s family. The purchase was made possible by a generous donation from the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, and the restoration is supported by the Robert and Adele Schiff Family Foundation, the PECO Foundation, and individual donors.

Updike treasured the house on Philadelphia Avenue because it was where his “artistic eggs were hatched.” He visited Shillington often during his career, and went through the house as an adult on more than a few occasions, remarking that while most of the house was different, the attic remained unchanged from when he was a boy and used to play up there.

Pictured is the front of the house. The two-story portion is original, while the single-story addition was added in 1950 by Dr. Hunter, who built the annex for his practice. The society remodeled the annex so that the three former examination rooms are now office space rented to Dave Ruoff of Financial Alternatives, while the former doctor’s waiting room has been repurposed as the society’s education room, and what used to be the doctor’s office/study will be a museum gift shop.

Like other author houses in heavily residential areas, The John Updike Childhood Home will have limited hours of operation. Access is by appointment only, and during the time when the building is under construction access may be limited. To ask for a tour of the house (which is free, though donations are encouraged) interested parties should contact our docent, Maria Mogford, at mmogford@alb.edu. Dave Ruoff, who grew up on Philadelphia Ave. and had John Updike’s father for a teacher, will also help with tours when Maria is unavailable. His email is finalternatives@comcast.net. IMPORTANT:  No more tours will be given effective February 14, 2017 until the final phase of interior restoration is completed. 

For more information visit The John Updike Childhood Home website.

 

  1. allen reber’s avatar

    i grew up in shillington….passed the house many times…have an early esition of rabbit run

    Reply

  2. sam’s avatar

    Can’t wait to visit this museum when it opens.

    Reply

  3. wayne kirchgasser’s avatar

    Any plans to buy the Plowville farm house?

    Reply

    1. James Plath’s avatar

      The Plowville farmhouse was rather suddenly and quietly sold to the Weaver family, whose orchard lies next to the property.

      Reply

    2. Mr Malcolm’s avatar

      Wow that’s really a very great news, waiting for the opening of the museum.

      Reply

    3. Gretchen Hardy’s avatar

      Mrs. Hunter tells a delightful story about purchasing the home. John had painted fish on the wall going upstairs. She did not care for the wall art and said, “That is the first thing that has to go!” The wall art was painted over. Of course that was long before John became famous. You might want to talk to her and get the full story and description of the art.

      Our Wynonah Book Group (Schuylkill County) hopes to visit the home in the Spring. Any idea when it will be open for tours?

      Reply

      1. James Plath’s avatar

        The curator and I have talked with Mrs. Hunter at length, and have been interviewing others as well. Though the inside is still torn up, Maria Mogford has still been taking individuals and groups through on tours. Just contact her to arrange a date: mmogford@alb.edu

        Reply

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