Before William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry wrote his famous short story “The Gift of the Magi,” he lived for a few years in Austin, Texas. The tiny house he rented survives as a museum. It’s tucked in right next to the giant Hilton Austin in the center of town and this property looks like it would have great potential to become a parking lot or fast food joint, and in fact it barely missed the wrecking ball back in the 1930s.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post on authors’ homes, the places where famous authors lived are often a disappointment compared to the places they describe in their books. And, a huge modern building right next door doesn’t help you envision the author’s life as it was in the 1800s. Nonetheless, if you’re in Austin, you should pay a call at Porter’s house, if only to get a taste of how people lived at the time. The price is right, too. It’s free, but please make a donation when you leave.
While he resided here (1893 to 1895), Porter made his living drawing maps for the General Land Office and publishing a paper called the Rolling Stone (quite different from the current publication of that name). Before you go, be sure to read a couple of his most famous stories–“The Gift of the Magi” or “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
Ah, the symbolism. If Porter could see his tiny home now, wedged in next to the giant hotel, I’m sure he would find inspiration for another story.