Fiction on Foot

O. Henry

Free literary tours created by North Carolina Literary Map include tours in Asheville, Charlotte and Greensboro, the home of author O. Henry. This tour features the hotel named for him and noted for its afternoon teas, and audio recordings of Henry speaking about the art of writing. Photo courtesy Greensboro Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

The author known as O. Henry may have adopted that pen name in honor of his girlfriend’s cat — or to hide the fact that he wrote some of his short stories from prison.
Either way, you know the witty, often ironic tales of William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry, including his most famous, “The Gift of the Magi.”

O. Henry

Portrait of author O. Henry, by W.M. Vanderweyde, New York, 1909

Take an inside look at the life of O. Henry at his birthplace of Greensboro, just an hour from Cary, in one of several free literary tours created by North Carolina Literary Map.

“People in North Carolina are serious about literature and history, and many are fans of certain authors,” said Keith Gorman, assistant dean for Special Collections and University Archives at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “The tours can be a pilgrimage, and give them the chance to experience places they’ve read about.”

In Greensboro stops include Porter Drug Store, where O. Henry worked for his uncle, a grouping of bronze sculptures depicting the author and his works, and the hotel named for him, where you can enjoy the local teatime tradition.

“You can access his biography and photos through the website, and there’s even an audio recording of O. Henry actually talking about writing, that you can listen to while you walk the tour,” said Kathelene McCarty Smith, instruction and outreach archivist at UNCG. “He’s fascinating. He resonated with people in the community then, and is still appreciated here.”

Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene

A monument, erected in 1915, to Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene stands in the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro. On March 15, 1781, the largest battle of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign was fought at the site. Photo by Marmaduke Percy/Wikimedia Commons. 

Additional literary tours are in place in Asheville and Charlotte, with another coming to Chapel Hill. All tours are self-guided using easy mapping technology on phones or tablets, and the order of tour stops is flexible.

“And because people inevitably ask about it, a Nicholas Sparks tour is in progress,” Gorman added. “We’re looking at the coast, and plan to revisit the Triangle. All 100 North Carolina counties have writing communities.”

For more information on literary tours, see

While you’re there:

ACC Hall of

See the 4-foot, 360-degree video globe of ACC highlights, and call a game in the interactive broadcasting booth. The conference was founded here in 1953.

Guilford Courthouse National Military

Walk the grounds defended by Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene and his militia in 1781, in the most heated battle of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign.

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum,

Stand at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where the Greensboro Four launched a civil rights protest in 1960 that became part of the nationwide movement.

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