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Ernest Hemingway's home has sold, but we can still visit

Hemingway's Oak Park childhood home
The childhood home of Ernest Hemingway in Oak Park, Ill., has been sold; the deal closed Tuesday. A couple will turn the three-story house, which was divided into three apartments in the 1930s, back into a single-family private home.

The Ernest Hemingway Foundation purchased the property in 2001 in hopes of making it a cultural center, the Associated Press reports. Those efforts failed to come to fruition and the house was put on the market for $525,000, which was its final price.

The house was designed by architect Henry G. Fiddelke in collaboration with Grace Hall Hemingway. The Hemingway family moved to the house in 1906, when Hemingway was 7. "The building was built originally as a glorious home for entertaining,” real estate agent Steve Scheuring said. “Ernest’s mother was really the one that took charge in assisting the design of the home. It once had a music room off the north side and she [Grace] held music events in the home while the front two rooms off the entry foyer were his father’s physician offices.”

Hemingway slept in a third-floor bedroom until he graduated from high school. According to some reports, he began writing fiction there before leaving to write for the Kansas City Star; others say he returned to the house after World War I, writing there while recuperating from his injuries. In any event, the legend stands that Hemingway began writing in the house in Oak Park.

Buyers Kurt and Mary Jane Neumann plan to make the home a single-family residence where their family can live. But that doesn't mean the doors are locked. “We don't want anyone to feel like we're going to shutter it up or minimize the historical significance,” Bruce Neumann told the AP. “We appreciate curiosity in the home. We just need to balance the reality that it's going to be our family home.”

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Photo: Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home in Oak Park, Ill. Credit: Baird & Warner Real Estate

The deluxe mommy-porn apartment in the sky

Fiftyshadesofgrey_condos
E.L. James' novel "50 Shades of Grey" has gone from an underground hit to a major national bestseller on the power of its kinky sex. Much of the fictional sex between billionaire Christian Grey and college student Anastasia Steel took place in Grey's luxury apartment, set in the real-life Escala Building in Seattle.

On its blog, the real estate site Zillow takes a look inside those condos, in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. There are high ceilings, huge windows and incredible views from the terraces. The units, which can be custom outfitted, sell for $400,000, going up to $4- to $6 million and more. Because 70% of them have sold -- and because of the interest generated by "50 Shades of Grey" -- the condos are now shown by appointment only. Zillow writes:

While author James did take some creative liberties with her fiction — you can’t land a helicopter on the penthouse roof like it was done in the book, says Escala’s Director of Sales Erik Mehr — he agrees that the Escala is still the best pick for a billionaire character like Grey.

“If you were going to pick something opulent,” Mehr said, “This would be the building.”

James uses the word "opulent" only once -- to describe a couch, not an apartment, but close enough. Luxurious digs may get some people exited, but here at Jacket Copy, we think being wooed by a $14,000 rare book is truly thrilling.

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Photos: The Escala Building. Credit: Zillow.com

Francesca Lia Block takes her mortgage woes public

Francesca Lia Block and her children
She called me back after talking to the public radio show "Marketplace." That's the kind of person children's book author Francesca Lia Block is: She writes kids books about fairies. She doesn't like to cause conflicts. And she calls people back.

But Bank of America has not, according to Block, always shown her the same courtesy.

For close to a year, Block, author of the Weetzie Bat books for kids, has been calling and talking to various representatives at Bank of America. Some call her back, some disappear, some give one answer, some another. She says she's underwater on the mortgage but has never missed a payment -- all she wants to do is renegotiate terms and save her house. On Friday afternoon, she posted a record of her travails on Facebook and a new blog, Save Francesca's Faerie Cottage.

"The bank did call me today," she said Monday, "and said we saw your stuff online and we want to follow up." Whether anything will come from that is still uncertain -- she was speaking to the media relations department, which told her something different from she'd heard from the president's office on Friday.

Block could have predicted none of this in 2007, when she and her mother bought a Culver City home together. At that time, the Los Angeles housing market had been going up, up, up; buyers were wild to get in before being priced out. Block, who has two children, was eager to buy a home that was convenient to schools; she realizes now that the mortgage she'd gotten was ill-advised.

"I trusted them," she says of her broker, who was with a large firm that she declines to name. She got an interest-only mortgage; its payments will balloon a year from now. There has been a precipitous drop in home prices -- her home's value has dropped by $150,000. Together, that would be enough reason to seek new terms with the bank. Yet Block has had two personal calamities that make the issue more critical -- and more complex.

The first is her own health. The author of the Weetzie Bat series, Block is a successful author by any measure. "I've done quite well over time," she admits, "but it was a bad year." That was the year her eye "just split" -- technically, it was a spontaneous perforated retina. She has a cataract in her other eye. Working -- looking at a computer screen -- was difficult.

In addition, her mother fell ill. Diagnosed with cancer in 2008, her mother died a year later. Not only was Block negotiating that loss emotionally -- her mother's name was on the loan.

"We talked to an attorney about what to do, and it was clear that the house would be in my name, so we didn’t think it was a problem," she says. "She and I were very open about what was going on; she, more than anything, wanted me and the kids to stay here. But it didn't help."

Block was unable to switch the loan to her name, the bank told her, because the house was underwater. Her mother left her the house, but Block -- who was the one making the payments all along -- needs a loan to be in her name. At one point, the bank told her that she'd need $150,000 cash to secure it. She began trying to figure out how to come up with that enormous sum, and waited, and waited. The bank never called her back.

2011 was a better year -- better, perhaps, save for the ongoing efforts to keep her house. She applied for the Making Home Affordable program in April 2011. And called, and faxed, and called again. And she wrote.

"I worked every day last year, seven days a week, to make the payments," she says. "I physically can’t do it anymore. If this doesn’t work, I think I’ll have to give up."

Last week, she reached the president's office and was told her case was under consideration -- and that they would call her back.

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Photo: Francesca Lia Block and her children. Credit: Nicolas Sage

Ernest Hemingway's childhood home is for sale

Hemingway's Oak Park childhood home

Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home in Oak Park, Ill., is for sale for $525,000. The Hemingway family moved to the house in 1906, when Hemingway was 7, and when he returned from World War I he spent time recuperating there. The large home is now a triplex.

The Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, which has owned the home since 2002, put it up for sale with hopes that it can find a buyer who appreciates its literary legacy. The foundation is located in another Oak Park house, where Hemingway was born. That house underwent a restoration to honor his centenary in 1999.

The Hemingway house that's for sale was designed by architect Henry G. Fiddelke in collaboration with Grace Hall Hemingway. Each of the restored apartments has two bedrooms; together they rent for about $3,700 per month.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Ernest Hemingway's boyhood home in Oak Park, Ill. Credit: Baird & Warner Real Estate

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