Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pictures of Jack Kerouac's hotel in San Luis Obispo

Gerald Nicosia, author of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac, recently visited San Luis Obispo, CA, and tracked down a building where Jack Kerouac stayed during April 1953. Gerry took the below pictures and gave me permission to share them. He also provided me with most of the following information for context.

According to Gerry, Jack liked San Luis Obispo so much that he wrote to his mother about wanting to move her there. Now the building is home to a living community called "The Establishment" (click here for information - I think Jack might dig this place), but in Jack's time it was the Colonial Hotel. It was an ideal place for Jack: near the railyard, cheap ($6/week), and near a grocery store (he could cook in his room) and poolhall/bar. Plus, the Mission San Luis Obispo was three blocks away. Remember, Jack was mostly an unknown writer at the time and liked to live on the cheap, salting away what income he did earn (e.g., from the railroad) for future travels.

In Jack's time the address was 103 Santa Barbara Avenue, but they moved the street and did some renumbering. Now the building's address is 1703 Santa Barbara Street (you can find it on Google Maps and there's a street view, but I couldn't positively identify the building). Gerry said it has a new coat of mint green paint but is otherwise much like it was, including the overgrown stone path to the front door. We don't know for sure which window was Jack's, but he mentioned being able to see the Santa Lucia Mountains from his window and Gerry says the second story front windows are the ones with that view.

If, like Gerry and me, you thrill to stand where Jack stood, put this on your itinerary for your next trip to California.

(c) 2012 Gerald Nicosia
Former Colonial Hotel in San Luis Obispo, CA

(c) 2012 Gerald Nicosia
One of the second story windows was likely Jack Kerouac's room

(c) 2012 Gerald Nicosia
Another view of the second story

(c) 2012 Gerald Nicosia
Jack Kerouac's front door during April 1953


Unknown said...

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Courmayeur Ski Resort said...

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Mike Cassidy said...

I lived in that building from 1975 to 1985, helped in the renovation to pay my rent (it had been condemned) and lived in both of the upstairs front rooms. So, I lived in a room that had been occupied by Jack and never knew it until today. I knew the place was something special, but I never knew how special until now. Thank you!