The author F. Scott Fitzgerald is famous for writing The Great Gatsby, which was turned into a movie in 2013. Did you know he was also the author of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which inspired the movie of the same name?
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1894. If that name sounds slightly familiar, it’s because he was named for his famous second cousin, Francis Scott Key, who wrote The Star Spangled Banner, the US national anthem, performed at baseball games and other public events.
In St. Paul, Fitzgerald lived in the elegant Summit Avenue neighborhood on and off while he was growing up. When he was 14 years old, he began keeping a diary, recording his secret thoughts and observations. Scott, as he was known then, talked about all the girls he had crushes on and all the social drama going on around him. He was popular and hung out with all the “cool” people – he was that kind of kid. Amazingly, you can now read his diary for yourself. It’s been published for the first time since the 1960’s and is called, The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
One weekend a year, the James J. Hill House offers a walking tour of the Summit Avenue neighborhood where Fitzgerald grew up. Chances are, you won’t be in town while the tour is offered, but don’t worry, the St. Paul Central Library has put together a self-guided walking tour brochure (F. Scott Fitzgerald in St. Paul Homes and Haunts) which you can use year-round. The brochures are available on the 3rd floor near the F. Scott Fitzgerald Reading Alcove which has all of Fitzgerald’s works and books about him. There are also some great pictures with information about Fitzgerald and his life and work. One of the displays describes Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, as “the first flapper.”
The square outside the front of the Central Library, Rice Park, is an enjoyable place to walk around or relax and take a break after visiting the library. There is a sculpture there which honors F. Scott Fitzgerald and a large fountain. The February day I visited, it was so cold that the fountain water had frozen into blocks of ice! It was still beautiful to walk around and see white lights sparkle in the trees.
If you are able, try to see a show at the Fitzgerald Theater. This historic theater was renamed for F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1994. The person most responsible for this name change was Garrison Keillor, another best-selling author from Minnesota. Some time ago, Keillor shared these thoughts about why F. Scott Fitzgerald is so important to him.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s many landmarks in St. Paul are all featured in Part One of our Minnesota Trail!
Rebecca Blake Beech