|Cover of the revised 2004 edition of A Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald's St. Paul, by John J. Koblas. Note other Fitzgerald titles in background. (Photo by Mark C. Taylor)|
|F. Scott Fitzgerald during his teenage years.|
|599 Summit Avenue, where F. Scott Fitzgerald finished his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1919. (Photo by Mark C. Taylor)|
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1896. The Fitzgeralds moved to upstate New York in 1898, but they returned to Saint Paul in 1908. Saint Paul would remain Fitzgerald’s home, off and on, until 1922, when he left for good. The neighborhood where the Fitzgeralds lived was quite fashionable, and fortunately only one of the houses Scott lived in has been torn down. If F. Scott Fitzgerald could come back and wander around his old neighborhood in 2017, 95 years after he left it, he would find it much the same.
John J. Koblas’ book A Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul: A Traveler’s Companion to His Homes and Haunts, is an excellent reference for those seeking to learn more about the places associated with Fitzgerald. First published in 1978 and updated in 2004, the book combines text and photos of many of the sites, along with helpful maps.
A Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul fills a gap in the literature about Fitzgerald by emphasizing his Minnesota connections. Fitzgerald lived an upper-middle-class life in Saint Paul, and it was here that much of his awareness of class and status was formed. His maternal grandfather had made a fortune in the wholesale grocery business and then died young. Fitzgerald went to all the right schools, and rubbed shoulders with the very rich. The image of him as a poor boy obsessed with the rich is wrong, but because his social and financial positions were slightly more precarious than that of his wealthier friends, he was finely attuned to differences in class and status. Fitzgerald knew that he was not going to be able to just drift aimlessly through life with the family fortune supporting him.
It was in Saint Paul that a young Fitzgerald first dreamed of becoming a writer, and he was first published in the pages of the Saint Paul Academy’s school newspaper. Fitzgerald finished his first novel, This Side of Paradise, while living in his parents’ row house at 599 Summit Avenue, and he also put the finishing touches on his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, in a house at 626 Goodrich Avenue, just a few blocks away. Saint Paul was an important place in the life of this talented author, and you can still get a good idea of what Fitzgerald’s Saint Paul was like by walking along Summit Avenue and the surrounding neighborhoods.