Just about two years ago, we wrote a post called 14 Famous Man Rooms, which offered a look at the rooms where over a dozen famous men wrote classic books, pondered big ideas, and tinkered with their inventions. Readers offered some really great additions in the comments, and we’ve come across more interesting, manly rooms in the interim, so we decided to put together a follow-up to that post. While the rooms in the former post ran the gamut from Frederick Douglass’ office to Frank Lloyd Wright’s drafting studio, this post focuses on libraries, writing rooms, and studies.
I don’t know about you, but visiting historical homes is one of my favorite things to do while on vacation. There’s something about being in the place where people lived and loved, the rooms where they paced anxiously, shed tears, and celebrated achievements, that really makes me feel connected to the past and to a man’s personal history in a way that fascinates and inspires me. If you can’t crisscross the globe this summer, come along with us for a tour through 15 rooms where famous men, both past and present, hatched and penned their influential words and ideas.
Rudyard Kipling’s Study
When Rudyard Kipling came upon the secluded, 17th century Bateman’s House in Sussex, he was immediately smitten. He wrote:
“We had seen an advertisement of her, and we reached her down an enlarged rabbit-hole of a lane. At very first sight the Committee of Ways and Means [Mrs Kipling and himself] said ‘That’s her! The only She! Make an honest woman of her — quick!’ We entered and felt her Spirit — her Feng Shui — to be good. We went through every room and found no shadow of ancient regrets, stifled miseries, nor any menace though the ‘new’ end of her was three hundred years old…”
The Feng Shui of Bateman’s was good to Kipling indeed. It was here in his study that he penned that manliest of manly poems — “If.”
William F. Buckley’s Study
If you were looking for William F. Buckley during his life, the first place to check was his study, which he converted from a garage. It was here, surrounded by mementos, books, and paintings (some of which he did himself), that he would toil on his columns and novels, and it was here that he was found dead when he passed away in 2008.
William Randolph Hearst’s Library & Study
Built in San Simeon, California by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Casa Grande, or Hearst Castle as it is now known, boasted 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a movie theater, tennis courts, an airfield, and the world’s largest private zoo. Hearst himself lived in the castle’s third floor Gothic Suite. The floor’s library (seen above) housed more than 4,000 books, along with 150 vases from ancient Greece.
3,000 more books could be found in Hearst’s Gothic Study. The room served as a private library and office from which Hearst controlled his media empire and as an executive boardroom for discussing matters with his cohorts as well.
Be sure to also check out pics of the Hearst Castle’s billiards room, theater room, and indoor and outdoor pools — really unbelievable. This place is near the top of my to-visit list (Sagamore Hill — see below — currently holds the number one spot).
Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut
When Roald Dahl moved to Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire in 1965, he built a small writing hut (you can take a 3-D tour here) for himself. Dahl’s family has kept the hut much like it was when the author died, but even during his life it was a pretty dark, bare bones, ramshackle sort of place. No one could enter the hut but Dahl himself, and no one was allowed to clean it either; it reeked of tobacco and the floor was covered with pencil shavings and cigarette ash.
The solitude of his hut inspired Dahl’s creativity; he wrote all of his children’s stories from within its little walls. Here’s how Dahl described the power of the place:
“You become a different person, you are no longer an ordinary fellow who walks around and looks after his children and eats meals and does silly things, you go into a completely different world. I personally draw all the curtains in the room, so that I don't see out the window and put on a little light which shines on my board. Everything else in your life disappears and you look at your bit of paper and get completely lost in what you're doing. You do become another person for a moment. Time disappears completely. You may start at nine in the morning and the next time you look at your watch, when you're getting hungry, it can be lunchtime. And you've absolutely no idea that three or fours hours have gone by.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Study
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived in his Windlesham home on the outskirts of Crowborough in East Sussex for 23 years. When he died there in 1930, his request was to be buried in a garden next to a writing hut he had built on the property. But during his life, he actually preferred to write in the study on the first floor of his home. There he penned several of his famous Sherlock Holmes works, including The Poison Belt, in which he describes the view looking out from his study and across the Crowborough Common to distant Rotherfield.
Oh, and speaking of Mr. Holmes, he had a nice den too…