Central West End Literary Homes
The leafy streets of the Central West End are the perfect setting for a writer. The neighborhood affords quiet for contemplation, while the nearby theater district offers plenty of people-watching. This potent combination of reflection and inspiration served five of our most renowned wordsmiths especially well: Kate Chopin, T.S. Eliot, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams and Sara Teasdale.
Who>> Famous authors
What>> Family homes
When>> 18th and 19th centuries
Why>> See where the literary legends lived
4446 Westminster Place
T.S. Eliot called St. Louis home from his birth in 1888 through his education at Smith Academy, which was later incorporated into MICDS. After graduating from Harvard, he married and settled in London, where he published most of his poetry, most famously “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land.” In a letter quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Eliot noted about his childhood, “It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not. I consider myself fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.”
4232 McPherson Ave.
Born in St. Louis in 1850, Kate O’Flaherty attended St. Louis Academy of the Sacred Heart and Academy of the Visitation. She married Oscar Chopin in 1870 and moved with him to New Orleans, then returned to her hometown after his death in 1882 and began writing. Chopin published one of her first short stories in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1889. Her most famous novel, The Awakening (1899), is hailed today as an early feminist text. According to Literary St. Louis: A Guide, Chopin said of the neighborhood, “I like to look out of the window” because “there is a good deal of unadulterated human nature that passes along during the length of a day.” She is buried in Calvary Cemetery. The leafy streets of the Central West End are the perfect setting for a writer. The neighborhood affords quiet for contemplation, while the nearby theater district offers plenty of people-watching. This potent combination of reflection and inspiration served five of our most renowned wordsmiths especially well: Kate Chopin, T.S. Eliot, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams and Sara Teasdale.
4633 Westminster Place
Mississippi native Tennessee Williams, born 1911, moved to the Central West End with his family when he was a child. After attending University City High School, Williams went to University of Missouri, but left school to work at International Shoe Company in St. Louis. He later finished his studies at Washington University and University of Iowa. Many of Williams’ plays, which include Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, were produced on Broadway, and some were turned into films. The events of The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams’ memory play, are said to be based on his family life at 6254 Enright Ave., another of the family’s St. Louis homes. Williams is buried in Calvary Cemetery.
[William S. Burroughs]
4664 Pershing Place
“I was born in 1914 in a solid, three-story, brick house in a large Midwest city,” wrote William S. Burroughs in his novel Junkie. Although a work of fiction, the details align with the stately residence in which Burroughs was raised. He attended John Burroughs School, then Taylor School (a private boys’ school, now the location of Taylor Park in Clayton), and he graduated from Harvard University. After moving to New York, Burroughs became an integral member of the Beat Generation, a group of authors famous for their provocative writing and alternative lifestyles. His books include Naked Lunch, which was so controversial it was subjected to an obscenity trial. Burroughs is buried in his family’s plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery.
38 Kingsbury Place
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sara Teasdale, born in 1884, attended Mary Institute and Hosmer Hall (a former girls’ school in the CWE). After she married, she moved to New York, where she spent the rest of her life. Love Songs was her most awarded collection of work. Teasdale is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery.