Where to Find the NYC Haunts and Houses of Famous Writers

July 28, 2015

New York City has always been a hub for writers. Whether they were living in luxury or getting their start as starving artists, famous writers have lived and worked all across New York, and you can still see many of these writerly abodes today. Whether you’re a fan of the Beat Generation, Sci-Fi, or even Southern Gothic, you might be interested in tracking down a famous writer’s home.


70 willow street brooklyn heights, truman capote brooklyn houseImages courtesy of Sotheby’s

Truman Capote ↑

This big yellow house at 70 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights once belonged to Truman Capote, the author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “I live in Brooklyn, by choice,” Capote once said, and boy, did he ever. His home included crystal chandeliers and eleven fireplaces spread across 18 rooms. The home was previously the most expensive sold in Brooklyn, pulling in $12.5 million in 2012, knocked from top rank by Jay Maisel’s $15.5 million Cobble Hill townhouse purchase just last month.


allen ginsberg's nyc home, allen ginsberg170 E. 2nd Street. Image © Open Plaques (left); 408 East 10th Street – Ginsberg’s residence in the ’60s and ’70s (right)

Allen Ginsberg ↑

The building, 170 East 2nd Street, was one of many East Village haunts for Beat poet Allen Ginsberg over the years. Ginsberg was famous for living modestly, working and living in small apartments in areas that you might not expect to meet one of the 20th century’s most famous poets in. From the looks of things, neither of these Ginsberg residences seems to have abandoned his modest, Buddhist spirit. Hopefully any Ginsberg fans visiting 408 East 10th Street will still be able to enjoy the unicorn mural captured by Google Street View.


edith wharton's home nyc, edith whartonWharton’s birthplace, in 1880. Image © The Edith Wharton Society (left); The building today. Image © Edith, Janine and Jim (right)

Edith Wharton ↑

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, for The Age of Innocence, a story set in 1870s New York City. She was born at 5th and 23rd, above what now neighbors—what else?—a Starbucks. The building began life as a brownstone, but now if you want to recreate the scenes of Wharton’s novella New Year’s Day, you may have to buy a caramel macchiato.


norman mailer penthouse nyc, norman mailer home, penthouse nycImages courtesy of the Corcoran Group

Norman Mailer ↑

The famous essayist and author Norman Mailer owned another beautiful Brooklyn Heights home: A penthouse that combines a rustic interior design with a more modern look along the walls and ceiling. Mailer redesigned the space at 142 Columbia Heights in the 1960s around a nautical theme. The New York Times called it a “quirky cross between a Victorian parlor and the cabin of a sailing yacht,” and you can see that they weren’t too far off. Mailer’s penthouse was listed for sale after his death in 2007, then briefly relisted for $2.5 million in 2011, but is currently off the market.

Bonus: Tour the townhouse where Mailer briefly rented the top floor for use as his writing studio. The home, located at 192 Columbia Heights, is currently listed for $15 million.


the chelsea hotel Image © Flippage

The Hotel Chelsea ↑

The Hotel Chelsea at 222 West 23rd Street sits in an entirely different class for the amount of talent it has managed to attract over the years. Take a deep breath before you dive into this list of Chelsea Hotel writers: Mark Twain, Arthur C. Clarke, William S. Burroughs, Leonard Cohen, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Wolfe, Arthur Miller, Edgar Lee Masters, and so many others, not to mention all of the musicians and artists who have also stayed there.

Mark Twain’s presence alone could make a building into a landmark, but The Chelsea Hotel has housed so many other famous writers over more than a century of existence. The hotel has been under renovation for years now, keeping only the long-term residents while a new management team rebuilds its aging interior. Hopefully it will return to its historic place in New York’s literary and cultural history.


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