A Steinbeck Family Surprise


A Love Your Parks Tour Literary Story by Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid, assigned by the team at Books Forward

It was our first visit to San Benito County, the eastern gateway to Pinnacles National Park. Located east of Monterey and Salinas, the area is authentic central California with a rich heritage of ranching and farming, a dynamic landscape of rolling hills and oak studded grasslands, fascinating geology, and a growing number of wineries. Hollister, the county seat, has a charming historic downtown district with specialty shops, all kinds of restaurants including a strong farm-to-table scene, and a wonderful art and architectural walking tour.


On Big Blend Radio, Anita Kane talks about the museum’s exhibits and research archives, as well as the historical park’s buildings, exhibits and annual events. 

How will we know it’s us without our past? John Steinbeck


As usual, the local museum is one of our first stops when we visit a new destination. Not only do they provide the backstory to a community and region, they always have some kind of surprising local anecdote or artifact to share.

The historic Wapple House in downtown Hollister is home to the San Benito County Historical Society Museum. It’s a Prairie Style house that was built for local Hollister pharmacist George Wapple. Construction on the house was finished in 1909. The museum features the history of its fascinating architecture as well as the family’s history.

To our delight, another prominent family in San Benito County that the museum highlights is of John Ernst Steinbeck Jr., who was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature. His classic novels “Of Mice and Men,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row” and “East of Eden” were set in central California and were known for providing a sense of place. His grandfather Johann Adolf Steinbeck, a carpenter, arrived in Hollister circa 1873. Later in life, he and his wife Almira lived in the historic downtown district near what is now known as the ‘East of Eden’ house, which was featured in the 1981 movie, “East of Eden,” based on the book which his grandson wrote in 1952.  Though the author was born and raised in Salinas, his family roots are in Hollister and San Benito County.  

For more on the area’s history, including the Steinbeck family, take a listen to our Big Blend Radio interview with Anita Kane from the San Benito County Historical Society, and take a visit to the museum. www.SBCHistoricalSociety.org.


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