September 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Community Volunteers to Renovate Roethke's Childhood Home

roethke home.jpg

On September 26th and 27th, 100 volunteers from around Saginaw, Michigan will gather together to renovate the childhood home of Pulitzer prize winning poet Theodore Roethke. 

"Our goal is to bring the museum up to standards that will allow us to host visitors year-round, and house a poetry library and Roethke Special Collections materials," said Mike Koleth, Vice President of the Theodore Roethke Home Museum.

The volunteers - drawn from the ranks of Dow Chemical Company - will conduct extensive landscaping, re-paint the interior and exterior of the house, and update the electrical system.

The museum is also in the process of expanding its Roethke library.  "We are trying to build the special collections both through donation and the small acquisitions budget that we have," said Koleth. The museum features some of the interesting material from its special collections in regular updates to its Facebook page.

Theodore Roethke is widely regarded as one of the finest American poets of the 20th century.  His childhood home is a registered National Literary Landmark.

Roethke, the son of a German immigrant, grew up at 1805 Gratiot St in Saginaw. His father and uncle ran a greenhouse where Roethke spent much of his youth.  The experience had a powerful influence on him.  He later wrote, "[The greenhouses] were to me both heaven and hell, a kind of tropics created in the savage climate of Michigan, where austere German Americans turned their love of order and their terrifying efficiency into something beautiful." Roethke went on to attend the University of Michigan and Harvard University before embarking on a life and a poet and professor, teaching at a variety of universities around the country.  Roethke won the 1954 Pulitzer Prize in poetry his book Waking. Roethke passed away from a heart attack while swimming in his friend's pool on Bainbridge Island in 1963.  Roethke was 55 years old.

[Photo of Roethke house provided by Mike Koleth]