The house was the birthplace of Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage. Born in 1871, he was the last child to be born to minister Jonathan Townley Crane and his wife Mary Helen (Peck) Crane. Stephen lived a short life dying of dysentery at the age of 29 in Germany while covering news as a journalist. Before his death he had accomplished an author’s dream of publishing a work that would become a classic, “The Red Badge of Courage.”
THE HOUSE STORY
In 1929 the house was purchased by the Stephen Crane Association with plans to memorialize Crane by restoring it, making it the headquarters of the Association to be filled with mementos and photographs along with his works. But as time drew on the economics surrounding World War II changed plans of many, so too the plans for memorialization of Crane’s birthplace changed as well. The Crane house began to deteriorate due to lack of funds. The birthplace was dismissed as being unimportant since Crane only spent the first three years of his life at 14 Mulberry Place. It was decided that since restoration was not possible and back taxes were in need of being paid, memorialization might prove better in the form of a playground to be called the “Stephen Crane Memorial Playground and Skating Rink.” A plaque was donated by Louis V. Aronson. The 25-1/2 feet by 100 feet of play space included a wall where the plaque ultimately found its resting place.
Looking at the site today there is no sign of a playground, not even a plaque. Despite the fact that the playground memorial plans have come and gone, the house was razed in 1940 and the memorial playground was set in place complete with the donated plaque. But times changed once again and at some point Victory Optical Co. took over and the playground disappeared into what is now a parking lot. Prior to the demolition of the house, thanks to the WPA in 1936, the Historic American Buildings Survey included the Crane’s house and a photograph along with detailed sketches have been preserved by the Library of Congress. Perhaps one day using the sketches 14 Mulberry Place will be recreated and Stephen Crane will finally have his memorial reclaimed.