St. Pete's Literary Lion
- From approximately 1966 to 1969, Jack Kerouac lived with his mother, Gabrielle and his wife, Stella, in a small block house at 5169 10th Ave. N., in St. Petersburg, FL. A steady stream of visitors began arriving at the small house, knocking on the door in the hopes of spending time with the reluctant face of the Beat Movement. Attempting to reconcile his Buddhist leanings with his overwhelming urge to drink and carouse, he spent many nights in the peaceful back yard, dragging a cot outside to sleep under the stars.
- Stella and Gabrielle acted as gatekeepers – shooing away the college students hoping to entice Kerouac out of the house for a night on the town. Locals itching for trouble threw stones at the windows, itching for a fight with the sudden celebrity in their midst. While residing in St. Petersburg, Kerouac was known for his frequent visits to Haslam’s Bookstore, bringing stacks of his books to tables near the front door in order to more prominently display them, and the hours he spent at the Flamingo Bar, drinking his infamous “shot and a wash” and playing pool with friends.
His time in St. Petersburg is mentioned frequently throughout his body of work and he remains a beloved icon to many in St. Petersburg. For years, his name remained listed in the St. Petersburg phone book, where young literature lovers would look it up and giddily call the out-of-service phone number. To this day, a steady stream of fans finds their way to the small brick house, sitting on the steps or leaving notes of remembrance in the mailbox.
Jack Kerouac died on Oct. 21, 1969, of a stomach hemorrhage, at St. Petersburg’s St. Anthony’s Hospital. He was 47.