The Parties at the Vonnegut Mansion

The Parties at the Vonnegut Mansion


The Vonnegut Mansion
800 North Van Buren St.

During his time in Iowa City, Kurt Vonnegut lived at 800 North Van Buren St. — a Victorian brick mansion in the tree-lined Brown Street neighborhood of northside Iowa City. In this house, Vonnegut began his work on Slaughterhouse-Five. Of one party at the house, in honor of Saul Bellow, Maria Pilar Donoso wrote:

For this celebration in honor of such a distinguished writer, the guests would be a mix, not only professors but also students in Kurt’s classes, close friends, and the most talented participants in other classes or workshops. Thus, there were also whiskey, scotch or bourbon, so well liked by Americans, and gin and vermouth for dry martinis, fashionable drinks at that time. The Vonnegut house, shared with Eddie and Nannie, their teenage daughters, was not particularly elegant but it was spacious and warm, especially that night with the hidden, lighted fireplace in the great living room filled with lights and animated conversations. It seemed almost beautiful. Outside, light snow was falling, sprinkling the windows with white flakes….At the party Kurt assumed the assigned role of the host. He would mix and serve drinks in the living room corner, achieving control of his shyness in that way, that shyness that’s always with him; in front of the typewriter, in front of his friends and students, and at the bar in his house, with a straight drink of whiskey that he’d drink as if it were a prescribed medicine. […] Although Vonnegut is a very timid human being, the night of Saul Bellow’s party he was quite relaxed and animated. Perhaps this was because the guests were professors and students, everyday characters, who freed him of the tensions produced by meeting new people.


The World Come to Iowa: The Iowa International Anthology, 1987