So, guess where I went today?
Today, I went to the source. I walked the same rooms that Laura, Almanzo and Rose walked. Interior photos weren’t permitted, but let me just say this: it’s one of my favorite historic houses ever. It had so many wonderful personal touches, and their lives just oozed through the walls. And can I just say here and now that I would love to have a man like Almanzo in my life? He has got to be one of the handiest literary husbands ever (much preferable to Ewan MacDonald, L. M. Montgomery’s husband). Laura was tiny, just 4’11”, so he built the counters so they would be comfortable for her. She didn’t like to knead bread, so she requested he set the breadmaking counter between two windows, so she could gaze at the beautiful Missouri hills. When they added to the house, he decided that she was taking too many steps between the kitchen and dining room, so created this great pass-through. Can you tell I loved her kitchen especially? She also had the most awesome wood stove EVER.
The house is a real hodge-podge, with rooms added gradually over the years. You could definitely tell when they got to be a bit more successful, because the front room is gorgeous–and much nicer than the first part of the house. They even have a little library nook! There are such little details throughout–Almanzo’s collection of canes (that he made), his various lamps and nightstands made out of funky branches. The lamp shades and needlework that Laura made. Everything in the home was owned by the Wilder family. The provenance and the collection (gotta get some museum nerd stuff in here somewhere!) is amazing.
She did some of her writing at this home and some at the rock house at the back of the property. Her little desk is just charming, not too big, but lots of slots and such for notes and paper. The first four books were actually written at the Rock House, built by Rose for her parents. But her parents ended up moving back to the farm house in which they had put so much love and work.
Then there’s all the wonderful 1920s touches–wonderful closets, light fixtures, and tile. And I just love the door. I’ve been looking for a porch light for my house, and I could totally picture their light at my house.
I ended my time at the Mansfield cemetery. For a cemetery, it was actually kinda disappointing. No big fabulous monuments or even any trees. But it is where Laura, Almanzo and Rose rest. And I will admit I got a bit choked up as I stood in front of Laura’s grave.
Laura, and after I visited her home, I do feel like I should call her Laura, lived a remarkable life. She came from virtually nothing and created indelible images of the frontier experience. There are two things we hear over and over at the museum, especially when kids are near our log cabins. They either say “Look, it’s Abraham Lincoln’s cabin!” (we will ignore how illogical this is. They’re 8. And we all know how great Texas is with Social Studies curriculum. . .). Or, they say “It’s just like Little House.” Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
This is a place I have wanted to vist for many, many years. It wasn’t quite the thrill that Prince Edward Island was, but it’s right up there. These books have been a part of my life since I was very, very small. My grandmother read them to me. They were the first chapter books I read all by myself. Today, I have all kinds of issues with these books, and they are no longer my favorites. And yet, when it comes to kidlit history, they will always be first in my heart.
More pictures from my visit.