Florida looms large in the last decades of Kerouac's life. Jack and his mother Gabrielle or Mémêre first moved to The Sunshine State in December of 1956 and eventually settled into an Orlando area bungalow house just down the road from his sister Caroline in 1957, at 1418 1/2 Clouser Ave.
The Clouser Ave. bungalow, now a writer's retreat run by the Kerouac Project, is where Kerouac banged out The Dharma Bums. Four years later he worked until six a.m. in the "Florida peace" (and central a/c) to finish another major book, Big Sur.
All told, Kerouac completed roughly a quarter of his novels in the Sunshine State, tinkering with Desolation Angels, The Subterraneans, and the book that brought him fame, On the Road.
From 1964 to 1966, in their first (of two) St. Petersburg homes, Kerouac dashed off Satori in Paris. And at the last house, working past his prime he cobbled together his final book Pic. Kerouac complained in his correspondence about the social isolation and "heatwave horror" of Summer. But the same isolation, his letters show, let him get work done.
Kerouac’s Florida is a story about “plying his trade and never giving up,” Bob Kealing maintains. We might honor the “practicing” wordsmith rather than the fatalistic drunk, the disciplined artist who momentarily kept his demons at bay to push through another book, following the sacred calling of his craft. Florida was not just the “end of the road” for Jack Kerouac. It was where he worked.
Research above by Tom Hallock.
Information below on Mirror Lake Library is taken from Wikipedia.
In 1908, the St. Petersburg City Council and concerned citizens began on a journey to get funding for a public library. It was the culmination of a five-year pursuit by Councilman Ralph Veillard, W.L. Straub (owner of the St. Petersburg Times) and Annie McCrae, (who became the first secretary of the library) in 1913 the city was awarded a $17,500 grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The grant was approved and matched by the city and the site on the banks of the city Reservoir (now Mirror Lake) was chosen on July 17, 1914.
The Mirror Lake Community Library was built in 1915 by architect Henry D. Whitfield in the Beaux-Arts style, which heavily influenced the architecture of the United States in the period from 1880 to 1920. It was one of ten Florida Carnegie Libraries to receive grants awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1901 to 1917. Steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie provided funding for more than 3,000 Carnegie libraries in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
One of the stipulations of the Carnegie grant was to racially integrate the library. However, when the library was opened in 1915, St. Petersburg was still racially segregated, and the city refused black residents access. It was not until 1944 that the city began allowing blacks into the basement of the library. After a campaign by Mrs. S.M. Carter, the wife of a pastor, who formed an interracial committee and lobbied the city for funds to open a black library. As a result, the James W. Johnson Library branch was opened as the city's first library for the African American community in 1947 named after native Floridian author, educator, civil rights activist, and former head of the NAACP.
The Mirror Lake Library is significant to the city's history as the first permanent home of the public library system and embodies the transformation of the Sunshine City in the second decade of the twentieth century from a pioneer village to a city with viable cultural institutions.
In the 1980s, the Mirror Lake Library fell into a state of extreme disrepair. A faulty air conditioning system, water damage and mold plagued the building. The second floor was accessible only by a small, winding staircase; the main entrance was sealed. The city commissioned a study to determine if the building was fit to continue being used as a library.
In 1987, a plan to restore the library was approved by the City Council. The restoration was delayed by a series of setbacks until its completion in 1997 featuring a 8,000 square-foot addition designed to blend harmoniously with the historic exterior and an elevator to make all levels handicap accessible. It reopened with the added wing on May 21, 1997. You can support funding and programming for this gem of a cultural institution by visiting the website of The Friends of Mirror Lake Library.
Below is a photo of Jack Kerouac's library card when living in St. Petersburg, FL. Sadly he died at the age of 47 on October 21st, 1969 several years before this library card expired. You can find out more about the author's tragic passing at the St. Anthony's Hospital tour site.Read More