James Thurber’s writing desk and exterior of the Thurber House in Columbus (left by Jessica Strawser, right courtesy of Thurber House)
Ohio Life

Visit the Home Where Writer James Thurber Lived

In the quiet corridors of Columbus’ 1873 Thurber House, explore the life of the noted 20th-century author and cartoonist. 

Best known for his career with The New Yorker and the humorous works he published during the 20th century such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Catbird Seat, writer and cartoonist James Thurber was also an Ohioan. 

He lived in a house his family rented at 77 Jefferson Ave. in what is now Columbus’ Jefferson Avenue Historic District between 1913 and 1917 while studying at Ohio State University. His time there greatly influenced his writing, with occurrences in the home serving as inspiration for many of his future works.

“His mom was very theatrical and loved practical jokes. [She] was known all throughout Columbus for her practical jokes,” says Meg Brown, director of children’s education at the Thurber House. “His dad … was kind of quiet [and] reserved, but he loved words. [Thurber] has said that he got his love of writing from his dad and his sense of humor from his mom.”

After falling into disrepair in the decades following the Thurbers’ time there, the house was purchased and lovingly restored, opening as a nonprofit literary arts center and museum in 1984. Two floors of the house are open for tours, and the third floor has been reworked into an apartment that hosts artist residencies.

Artifacts from Thurber’s career, including some of his earliest published works from The New Yorker and his original Underwood typewriter, antique furnishings, photographs and letters are displayed throughout the museum portion of the home. Guided and self-guided tours are available on weekends and select weekdays.

Unlike other house museums, the Thurber House provides relatively unrestricted access to the home’s living spaces, allowing visitors to engage with the history by sitting on the furniture or even playing the piano. Notable authors have even been invited to sign the walls of Thurber’s bedroom closet.

Thurber was a lifelong supporter of literature and the arts, and the Thurber House is dedicated to preserving that legacy. The organization hosts writing workshops, author events and presents one of the country’s most esteemed awards for humor writing: The Thurber Prize for American Humor.

“Ohio has such a wealth of writers and cartoonists,” Brown says. “I think it’s really important to celebrate those from the state that you grew up in.”

77 Jefferson Ave., Columbus 43215, 614/464-1032, thurberhouse.org