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Fresno home of William Saroyan, Pulitzer Prize playwright and author, to become museum

The west-central Fresno home of prize-winning playwright and author William Saroyan will open to the public and researchers as a cultural site and museum on Friday, Aug. 31 — on his 110th birthday.

Saroyan lived in the house at 2729 W. Griffith Way the last 17 years of his life. He died in May 1981.

To mark the occasion, there will be a grand opening celebration at Fresno State’s Satellite Student Union that evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m., according to Liana Nikoghosyan of the Renaissance Cultural and Intellectual Foundation of Armenia. The formal program will start at 7 p.m. with a movie about the project, speakers and several musical performances. The event is free, but attendees are asked to RSVP at http://saroyanhouse.com.

Saroyan was born in Fresno in 1908. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940 for “The Time of Your Life” and won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Story for the film adaptation of “The Human Comedy.” He wrote extensively about Armenian immigrant life in California and Fresno.

Nikoghosyan said Arthur Janibekyan, founder of the Renaissance foundation, bought the house to save it from foreclosure and being sold at auction in 2016. She said the process of establishing the museum began after that. She said there will be interactive and innovative exhibits, including a hologram of Saroyan.

It will also house a large digital archive about Saroyan. A research area will be created in the house to enable students, scholars and other interested people to benefit from what Saroyan left behind, she added.

The house was placed on the local register of historic resources, and a plaque honoring Saroyan was placed on a wall of the home in 1989, eight years after he died. After his death, it was a rental home for many years and attracted squatters, according to a 2016 Fresno Bee story announcing the museum project.