–My picture of the Hemingway-Janes house in Piggott, Arkansas
(click on all pictures to enlarge)
Last week I went on a jaunt to Little Rock, Arkansas, and from there took a day to go see the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott, Arkansas. Piggott is located in northeastern Arkansas, close to the Missouri border. If you look at a map, Piggott seems to be halfway between Little Rock and St. Louis. This was my second Hemingway site to visit, the first being a trip to Idaho in 2008.
The drive to Little Rock, Arkansas from Dallas, Texas was quite pleasant. Texarkana is a little more than halfway and is a great place to stop. T Town is growing and there seems to be lots of construction along the highway there. Once you get into Arkansas a bit, the landscape begins to change to have more hills and more trees. Everything was green, as this area has had plenty of rain and storms this spring.
Since Piggott is approximately a 3-1/2 hour drive from Little Rock, I decided to go to Piggott the very next day before exploring Little Rock and visiting the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. I wanted to get my day of driving done since the weather was so pleasant. Seeming to follow a railroad line, the drive to Piggott was uneventful. Rice is the crop in this part of Arkansas, as there were man made rice paddies, graineries, and irrigation systems all along the way. I passed through the German towns of Waldenburg and Weiner, Jonesboro (where Arkansas State University is situated), and was close to Piggott when I got to Paragould. I love that name. Apparently, the name is a blend of Paramore and Gould (Jay Gould) of railroad fame. Not too much further down the highway was Piggott.
The museum in Piggott sits on a hill and consists of the former home of Paul and Mary Pfeiffer and a barn/studio that Hemingway used to find some solitude to do some writing. He used this barn/studio when he was visiting the parents of his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. I loved the beautiful landscaping and tall trees that were on the property next to the barn/studio.
Here is an postcard of an older picture of the barn from the 1930s:
And here is what is looks like now:
–A different angle
The barn/studio is very rustic looking and has screens and electric lighting near the roof now. I am sure a lot of the wood has had to be replaced. Here is an interior shot of the barn where tools and other equipment are kept:
As you can see, great care and renovations have kept the barn looking quite nice these days. The grounds are very well kept by the current crew. The museum gift shop is located on one side of the barn, but the other side on the top has the studio where Hemingway worked and relaxed. Following is an interior shot of the upstairs in the studio:
–Can’t you imagine Ernest at the desk or playing poker with friends or family?
The really fun and so very interesting part of the museum grounds to see for me was the Pfeiffer-Janes house. After Paul and Mary Pfeiffer died, Mary in 1950, their home was bought by a local family named the Janes. The Janes owned a department store in town and they knew the significance of keeping the house in good condition. In 1982, the house was put on the National Historic Register. Arkansas State University bought the house in 1997 and has restored much of it to its original state (including the beautiful colors on the walls) as the Pfeiffers had it in the 1930s. Even much of the original furniture and many possessions of the Pfeiffers are now in the house. Following are more postcards and pictures of the interior of the house:
–From a postcard. You can see the beautiful wood trim, pressed tin ceilings, and polished wood floors.
My grainy pictures of this same sitting room:
–Having just seen a Stickley exhibit at the DMA, I loved seeing the Stickley rockers and couch in this room.
The adjacent room contained this Steinway baby grand, which I believe was a gift from Paul’s brother, Gus.
–From a postcard. I also liked the lace panels that were on all the windows. Each room seemed to have a different pattern. Mary Pfeiffer had similar curtains when the Pfeiffers lived in the house.
–From a postcard. This dining room’s table was elaborately set with the family’s china and Depression era glass and a beautiful tablecloth when I saw it . . .
–From a postcard. The stairwell in the middle of the house was beautiful. Upstairs, there was a nice landing all around the stairwell with the bedrooms surrounding that space.
Another interesting site next door to the Hemingway-Pfeiffer museum is the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum and Study Center. Karl Pfeiffer was Pauline’s brother. This house and surrounding grounds contains a house museum, botanical gardens, animal sanctuary, the Matilda Pfeiffer Mineral Collection, and the Pfeiffer Native American Artifact Collection (which Matilda procured from a local collector when he retired). Matilda Pfeiffer was a great collector of minerals from the 60s to the late 80s. I was overwhelmed at the number of cases on display in the great room of this house (built in 1933) containing minerals, geodes, Indian arrowheads, and other personal Pfeiffer memorabilia. This house was also very beautiful. It had more of a modern feel (maybe because it was bricked on the outside), but I enjoyed seeing this beautiful house, too. The house has a sunroom and large side patio and there is a lagoon in the back. The lagoon was a cement swimming pool until Matilda decided she would convert it back to a more natural state. The pool was the site of one of the scenes in A Face in the Crowd starring Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal. Many Piggott locals and children were featured in the film.
I took mainly outdoors pictures at this house. This was because the cases with minerals were lit up and the sunshine from the windows was very bright. Following are a couple of the pictures:
–Path to the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer house. The trees and landscaping were lovely.
–Pond at the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer house that was once a swimming pool.
I did manage to buy a few souvenirs from the well-stocked gift shop:
–Postcards, a literary journal from 1999 featuring EMH and the Hemingway-Pfeiffer museum, stationery, a bracelet, Hemingway: The Toronto Years, and some pamphlets.
I had wonderful personal tours led by Karen at the Pfeiffer-Janes house and barn/studio and by Teresa at Matilda Pfeiffer’s home. Everyone at these homes seemed to really love their jobs and had a lot of great information about the Pfeiffers, Piggott, and Hemingway. I am really grateful that I got lots of attention as a group of schoolkids had been there earlier. What I learned about the Pfeiffers (Paul and Mary) were that they were very rich people during the Depression, but helped their neighbors and fellow Piggott citizens in various ways. Many of the local women would make quilts and Mary Pfeiffer would buy many of these even though she didn’t need them. When she died, a whole room-sized huge closet was filled from top to bottom with quilts that she had bought and stuffed into the space to help others. Also, Paul Pfeiffer overlooked many debts since he was a landowner/landlord. And, it has been found that the house was constantly being painted to help men earn some money. The exterior of the house was found to have 47 coats of paint done during the Depression time period. Pauline Pfeiffer’s parents were very generous, religious (devout Catholic) people. They even had one of the downstairs rooms made into a chapel.
I knew nothing about Karl and Matilda Pfeiffer and found their home and museum extremely interesting. Karl liked hunting and he and Ernest would go hunting in the area. Matilda lived approximately 20 years after Karl had died, continuing with her collection and specifying in her will that the house and grounds become a museum. Piggott can be proud of these good citizens.
Ernest never visited or corresponded with his in-laws after his divorce from their daughter, maybe because they were such good people and he felt guilty. He did write a major portion of A Farewell to Arms and some short stories in Piggott. Pauline died in 1951, the next year after her mother died.
Facing a long drive back to Little Rock and after a couple of hours at these beautiful houses/museums, I was on my way. Thank goodness for audio books. I listened to the better part of an 8-disc audio book on my way to and from Piggott. No, it wasn’t one of Ernest’s books, but was The Rules of Engagement by Anita Brookner. I am participating in a Brookner challenge, so I chose this book and am now thoroughly hooked on Brookner.