Novelist Sinclair Lewis, one of central Minnesota’s most famous native sons, lies buried in Sauk Centre under a modest headstone. Of his many and varied literary achievements, his epitaph lists only “Author of Main Street.” Passersby might wrongfully infer from this that Sauk Centre has all but forgotten Lewis, the local boy who gained international literary acclaim and immortalized a fictionalized version of the town in 1920’s Main Street.
Walk just one mile down the road from the cemetery to the author’s Boyhood Home, however, and you will see how wrong you are in this assessment. Take just one look at the well maintained home (originally built in 1889, and a National Historic Landmark since 1968), now a major tourist draw and center for Lewis scholarship and symposia, and you will realize that Sauk Centre is enamored with Sinclair Lewis now more than ever.
Rather than his later life, career, and death, the Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home focuses foremost on the Nobel laureate’s early and formative years in Stearns County. On Tuesday, July 16, in recognition of the site’s literary significance and historic value, the Minnesota Association of Library Friends (MALF), in partnership with the Sinclair Lewis Foundation and with support from several other local organizations, dedicated a plaque designating the Boyhood Home as an American Library Association/United for Libraries “Literary Landmark.” The plaque concisely sums up Lewis’ life and distinctions, reading:
“Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) spent his formative years in this home. Lewis was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American society and capitalist values, as well as for their strong characterizations of modern working women.“
-Minnesota Association of Library Friends & Sinclair Lewis Foundation July 16, 2013
The ceremony was one of the linchpin events at Sauk Centre’s “Sinclair Lewis Days,” an annual, week-long festival celebrating the community and its most famous native son. Turnout beat expectations, with over 50 people in attendance. Attendees included District 12B Rep. Paul Anderson (R) and Sauk Centre Mayor Brad Kirckof.
Speakers included MALF President Mary Ann Bernat, who spoke about United for Libraries and the Literary Landmark program; biographer Roberta Olson, who gave a brief sketch of the youth’s years in Sauk Centre; and local author and publisher Dave Simpkins, who is currently researching Lewis’s diaries for an exciting upcoming volume on the author.
Sorry you missed the event? The site, at 810 Sinclair Lewis Ave., is open for viewing and tours Tuesday-Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Please call the Sauk Centre Chamber of Commerce at (320) 352-5201 for daily hours.
The Sinclair Lewis Boyhood Home is Minnesota’s fourth Literary Landmark, and the first to be co-sponsored by MALF. For more information on the national Literary Landmarks program, including a complete list of previous designees, visit ala.org/united.
For more details on last week's festivities, see: