Tourism officials say a self-guided walking tour will help provide a more complete picture of Louis L’Amour’s boyhood years living in turn-of-the-century Jamestown.
It all started while conducting the research for the new Louis L’Amour exhibit that opened in February in conjunction with the centennial celebration of Alfred Dickey Public Library, said Allison Limke, visitor experience manager at Jamestown Tourism. The idea is to attract fans of the late writer who may want to seek the places related to L’Amour’s years in Jamestown from his birth in 1908 until his family left Jamestown in the early 1920s.
“We are trying to make the story more cohesive by making it into a good tour so that visitors have this experience,” Limke said.
The centerpiece of the six stop self-guided tour is the Alfred Dickey Public Library at 105 3rd St. SE, where there is a new kiosk that provides information on L’Amour’s early life that cannot be found anywhere else, said Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism.
The 1.5 mile route through the downtown area also includes the Louis L’Amour Home Site at 113 3rd Ave. SE; the former Franklin School at 308 2nd St. SW; the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse at 504 3rd Ave. SE; the Gladstone Inn at 111 2nd St. NE; and First United Methodist Church at 114 3rd St. SE. The is designed to be completed in around 30 minutes, and last around two hours with time spent observing the locations.
L'Amour is a larger-than-life character who became the premier western genre author of 89 novels, and even more short stories and poems, Swedlund said. The L’Amour autobiography, “Education of a Wandering Man,” published after his death in 1988, mentions Alfred Dickey Public Library and places in Jamestown with experiences that shaped his young life, he said.
The months leading up to the centennial of Alfred Dickey Public Library in February provided an opportunity to create the L’Amour kiosk space, Swedlund said. It was a chance to try and connect with the LaMoore (Louis L’Amour changed his spelling) family to see what was possible with showing how North Dakota provided a foundation for L’Amour that he acknowledged later in life, he said.
“We never had anything beyond a list of his books to point at and so that is why this is so important,” Swedlund said.
L’Amour was almost solely responsible for the western novel becoming the most successful genre for several decades with some of the stories including characters and scenery loosely based on Jamestown, he said. He traveled the world and settled in Los Angeles, where some of his novels were made into movies.
L’Amour’s book circulation remains strong a generation after his passing, Swedlund said.
“People often tell me that Louis L’Amour was to western writing as Elvis Presley was to rock and roll,” Swedlund said. “He was underestimated for his time as to what a significant figure he was.”
The library kiosk includes a digital presentation and exhibit display to illustrate the author’s statements that he spent many hours there reading at Alfred Dickey Library after it opened in 1917, Swedlund said. There is research, stories and information in homage to a lesser-told period of his life, he said.
“It may seem trite but there is a plethora of information that fans will not find anywhere else,” Swedlund said. “There is no other place that talks about these influential years of his life than what we have here.”
The First United Methodist Church stands adjacent to the library and is where the LaMoore family worshiped. The church is still in use today.
The L’Amour home is no longer standing where there is now a power transfer station belonging to Otter Tail Power Company. A small kiosk on the fence includes photos of the L’Amour home and livery.
Louis LaMoore, who was L’Amour’s father, was a large animal veterinarian, a constable and held several public jobs at the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse that is now a museum. His mother was a teacher.
There is a L’Amoure display at the Gladstone Hotel where he was said to have performed with theater groups as a boy, Lemke said. The original hotel burned down in 1968 where there is now a new hotel with the same name.
“The Gladstone is an interesting piece since it was rebuilt after L’Amour left but he had performed there as a young boy,” Limke said. “They do have a photo display there of the original building.”
A few blocks away the former Franklin School that L’Amour attended remains preserved. The lower floors contain offices and visitors can tour the second floor classrooms and walk on the grand staircase.
The Talking Trail audio tour includes stories for most of the sites. The signage to dial and hear the stories are located at the sites or find them online at discoverjamestownnd.com.
For more information and a L’Amour tour brochure, contact Jamestown Tourism at 701-251-9145 or visit discoverjamestownnd.com.