I’m embarrassed to admit that when I moved back home again to Indiana in 2010, I didn’t even realize that I’d purchased a house across the street from a famous Hoosier writer.
I’m working to rectify that situation.
Best-selling author and Ladies’ Home Journal editor Emily Kimbrough grew up at 715 East Washington Street in Muncie, Indiana. This street provided the setting to her memoir of a happy childhood, How Dear to My Heart (published by IU Press). In the foreword, Kimbrough said she wrote the book in an attempt to “say aloud some of the things which the smell of burning leaves in the fall brings back to my mind every year."
Ever since I moved here, I’ve been thinking of ways my neighborhood can continue to capitalize on Kimbrough’s literary legacy.
In 1978, the tree-lined streets lovingly described in Kimbrough’s book were officially designated the “Emily Kimbrough Historic District,” and for 37 years, the neighborhood association has hosted the Old Washington Street Festival, a large, two-day event which offers home tours, food and craft vendors, and historical activities and re-enactments.
This year during the festival, I plan to sell copies of How Dear to My Heart outside the Kimbrough House to raise money for the neighborhood association and awareness in the local community about Kimbrough’s influence.
I want people to understand that it’s Kimbrough’s book that made the neighborhood well-known in the first place. The book is how we know so much about what daily life was like on this street a hundred years ago.
The festival takes place Saturday, September 14 (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Sunday, September 15 (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.). There’s no charge for admission, but the historical home tour costs $10.
Visitors from outside Delaware County are always welcome at the festival. You can find out more about the Old Washington Street Festival at their website. We’d love to see you.
If you can’t make the trip, you can still learn more about the Emily Kimbrough Historic District (including a recent documentary entitled “A History Dear to Our Hearts” that includes footage of the unfortunate state of Kimbrough’s home—prepare yourself) at Historic Muncie: Preserving Middletown’s Neighborhoods.
I didn’t know Emily Kimbrough, of course, but I think she’d be happy to know that so many people are working to ensure that the neighborhood she wrote about and that bears her name will always be a good street to grow up on.Cathy Day, author of The Circus in Winter (Harcourt) and Comeback Season (Simon & Schuster), is an associate professor of English at Ball State University.