Former Residence of Thomas Wolfe
Writer Thomas Wolfe moved into the fourth-floor apartment at 13 East 8th Street in 1926, after accepting a teaching position at NYU. It was here that he would write the bulk of his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel. He lived in the apartment with his lover and benefactor, Aline Bernstein, who paid for the apartment. The couple lived in the apartment for several years, even as their relationship became increasingly strained. They eventually moved to a larger apartment on West 11th Street and separated soon after the novel's publication.
Backstory and Context
A native of North Carolina, writer Thomas Wolfe left his home state to attend Harvard after graduating UNC Chapel Hill. At the time, he saw himself primarily as a playwright and went to Harvard to study his craft with George Pierce Baker. In 1923, he came to New York City, hoping to sell one of his plays to the Theatre Guild. Wolfe would struggle financially for several years while sharing an apartment with several roommates from Chapel Hill and trying to get the university to fund his writing efforts.
In 1924, Wolfe took a teaching position at NYU's English Department. He would continue to teach at the university on and off for the next several years, and after his first year, he took some of his savings and made what would become the first of several trips to Europe, where he hoped to focus on his writing. When he returned to the city from Europe, he met Aline Bernstein. Bernstein was married and twenty years his senior, but the two began a serious and ultimately tumultuous affair. It was reportedly Bernstein who encouraged Wolfe to focus more on producing a novel rather than plays.
In January of 1926, the pair moved into a fourth-floor walkup at 13 East 8th Street, an apartment that Bernstein provided for Wolfe. She continued to support him financially when he was not teaching and it was in the 8th Street apartment that he began writing his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel. The book made Wolfe a literary star, although his thinly-veiled portrayal of dozens of people in his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, led to death threats and animosity to such a degree that he was unable to return to the city for several years.
Eventually Wolfe and Bernstein moved to a larger apartment and though she had supported him financially for a number of years, after the publication of Look Homeward, Angel, Wolfe began to see other women and ended the relationship with Bernstein. Once the relationship ended, he moved to Brooklyn and rented an apartment, where he would begin work on his second novel, Of Time and the River. Wolfe died in 1938 at the age of 37.
Thomas Wolfe in NYC , Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Accessed December 21st 2020. https://wolfememorial.com/2015/10/thomas-wolfe-in-nyc/#:~:text=Thomas%20Wolfe%20grew%20up%20in,City%20to%20the%20Theatre%20Guild..
Berman, Andrew . 31 Literary Icons of Greenwich Village , 6sqft. December 6th 2019. Accessed December 21st 2020. https://www.6sqft.com/31-literary-icons-of-greenwich-village/.