Columbus State’s McCullers Center Inherits Author’s Nyack, N.Y. Residence

Gift Includes $350,000 and Artifacts, Adding to University’s Extensive McCullers Collection and Plans

COLUMBUS, Ga.– Columbus State University has acquired Carson McCullers’s adult home in Nyack, N.Y., a gift from the estate of Dr. Mary Mercer, the noted author’s physician and long-time friend. The estate also includes possessions from the late author, and a $350,000 gift that will help with conserving and cataloging the newly acquired McCullers items.

The house, its possessions and literary works, in combination with assets the university has already secured – including the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Carson’s childhood home – means Columbus State University now holds one the world’s most impressive McCullers research and artifacts repositories.

Mc­Cullers, was born Lula Carson Smith on Feb. 19, 1917 in Columbus. Best-known for her novels — The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Member of the Wedding, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Clock Without Hands — McCullers was also a playwright and a short story writer. Her body of work includes two plays, 20 short stories, over two dozen nonfiction pieces, a book of children’s verse, a few poems and an unfinished auto­biography. McCullers died Sept. 29, 1967 at age 50. CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, located in the author’s childhood home at 1519 Stark Ave., is dedicated to preserving her legacy.

“These acquisitions have meaning far beyond the walls of Columbus State University,” said Tim Mescon, CSU president. “Carson McCullers, one of our own, is among the literary world’s greats. These generous gifts will not only benefit Columbus State, but generations of students and scholars to come through their research and through programs we hope to put into place.”

McCullers’ three-story, 6,000-square-foot Victorian home overlooks the Hudson River in downtown Nyack, just 20 miles outside of New York City. She resided there from 1944 until her death in 1967. Originally a single-family home, the author had it subdivided into apartments on the advice and with the help of friend and playwright Tennessee Williams. Mercer acquired the house soon after Carson’s death, and since then the house has been rented exclusively to artists. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

“This acquisition presents a thrilling opportunity for our students to study in a great American city in a famous American author's home,” says Courtney George, director of Columbus State’s Carson McCullers Center. “We intend to use the house for lodging for ‘study-away’ programs in the New York City area, much like CSU’s Spencer house in Oxford, England.”

Along with the home in Nyack, the Carson McCullers Center has inherited many artifacts related to McCullers, including her art collection, book and record album collection, various papers, letters, and photographs, furniture that includes the sofa where she wrote her last novel Clock Without Hands and the marble table where she lunched with such visitors as Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Julie Harris, Helen Hayes, Edward Albee, Isak Dinesen, Henry Varnum Poor, Horton Foote, Bessie Breuer, George Davis, and Lotte Lenya. The furniture and some of the artwork now resides in the Carson McCullers Center on Stark Ave.

Columbus State’s Schwob Memorial Library Archives is managing the new McCullers papers, books, and attendant artifacts, which also will be available for research purposes.  The additional documents place CSU’s collection behind the University of Texas, and just ahead of Duke University, in terms of size. Among the items are:

  • 10,000 pages of McCullers’ personal documents

  • The book she was holding when she had a stroke from which she never recovered in 1967

  • Digitized recordings of McCullers and Tennessee Williams from a lecture given together in 1954 at NYC’s 97thStreet YMCA

  • A blanket given to her by director John Huston after a visit to his home in Ireland (along with screenwriter Gladys Hill) to discuss the screenplay from her novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye

  • An original lithograph by James Whistler, a friend

“The collections’ strengths are going to be the art world and the literary world in the mid 20th century,” Tom Converse, a Columbus State archive assistant, said. “She knew everybody. She knew all the playwrights. And (McCullers) was meticulous, and kept very detailed notes.  Things like the letters, the clippings, telephone messages, correspondences with lawyers and attorneys about royalties. She kept everything. This will move CSU into the next level of research libraries, and researchers will definitely benefit from it.”

The Carson McCullers Center will host a reception in honor of Carson’s 97th birthday on Wednesday, February 19th from 5-7 p.m., so that guests and visitors can view some of the new items on display. For more information about the McCullers Center, contact Courtney George at 706-565-4021