F. Scott Fitzgerald In Hendersonville
By: Dan Gibbs
Iconic writer F. Scott Fitzgerald spent time in several towns in western North Carolina in 1935-36 including a few months in Hendersonville. Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be one of the greatest American novels ever written. It was published in 1925.
By the end of 1935, Fitzgerald had fallen on hard times since his most critically accepted novel The Great Gatsby had been published. His wife Zelda had been institutionalized with schizophrenia and he was familiar with the mountains of western North Carolina as Zelda spent time in hospitals in Asheville and Tryon. He stayed at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville for several months and also stayed at the Oak Hall Hotel in Tryon. Fitzgerald was also not in good health as he suffered from tuberculosis and he was an alcoholic. In November 0f 1935 he chose the Skyland Hotel in Hendersonville as a mid-point between Asheville and Tryon. His room overlooked Main Street He also wanted to revive his writing career.
When Fitzgerald arrived in Hendersonville, he was deeply in debt. He wrote about his brief stay in Hendersonville in his journal stating that “I am living very cheaply.” He went on to write that his meals consisted of potted meat, crackers, and oranges and bottles of beer to drink.
As far as his financial situation was concerned, he wrote that he was “tens of thousands in debt but had less than forty cents cash in the world” and that no one in Hendersonville knew how bad off he was. He checked out our library for some reading material one night and took a book back to his hotel with him.
Fitzgerald is credited with writing “The Crack-Up” while he was in Hendersonville, a three-part article that appeared in Esquire magazine in February, March, and April 1936. It is an autobiographical look at how he reached that point in his life. He wrote a few companion pieces to “The Crack-Up” but never wrote another novel.
In late 1937, Fitzgerald signed a contract with MGM Studios in Hollywood to work on screen writing and left western North Carolina for good. He died in Hollywood in 1940 at the age of 44.
Two articles I researched provided a lot of information on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s visit to Hendersonville. “Writer’s Retreats: Author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Frequent Visits to the Mountains Yielded a Turning Point Amid Dark Days” appeared in the May 2013 edition of WNC Magazine and Tom Orr of the Hendersonville Times-News wrote about Fitzgerald and his visit to Hendersonville in his Ridge Lines column “Make the Fitzgerald Connection” on June 3, 2012.