ROME CITY — Visitors to the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site will experience a “Dream of Beauty” on Sunday, Dec. 1, for the state historic site’s annual Christmas event.
Guests will tour the author’s cabin, hear live Christmas music and make Victorian crafts and cards. The DeKalb County Horsemen’s Association will provide horse-drawn wagon rides on the grounds.
“A Dream of Beauty” is open from 1-6 p.m. Admission is $8 per person for adults, $7 per person for seniors, $ 5 per person for children age 3 to 17, and free for children younger than age 2.
Gene Stratton-Porter is Indiana’s most widely read female author. She was a woman ahead of her time as a writer, nature photographer, conservationist and entrepreneur. The “Cabin at Wildflower Woods” near Rome City was designed by the author as her second home and completed in 1914.
The famous 20th century author’s Victorian style is recreated annually for the “Dream of Beauty” event, using the details she shared with friends about Christmas 1917. She described the Christmas decorations as “a dream of beauty” in her large log home, then only a few years old on the south shore of Sylvan Lake. Her daughter, Jeannette Porter Meehan, recalled that Christmas in her own book about her mother, “Lady of the Limberlost.”
“Mother wrote of this Christmas: ‘Our Christmas was a dream of beauty. I had a lovely red-ribboned holly wreath in each window and door glass, bells in the doorways, the lights and mantels draped with Spanish moss and ground pine sent me from Pennsylvania. I had a big Christmas tree loaded with glittering ornaments in the library and one on the cement porch for the birds loaded with suet, meat, bones, nuts, and grain. Fifteen minutes after it was up the birds were swarming over it. Then a man sent me for a gift a darling little blue spruce tree, perfect in shape, which I trimmed with the tiny, cunning things for the dining room buffet. We draped the electric lights and used red candles and roses in the living-room, yellow in the dining-room, and white lilies and candles in the library, which is in green and white.’”
Site Manager Tiffany Parker said more of the upstairs floor is added to the cabin tour this year. In addition to Gene’s bedroom, which has been open before, visitors will see an adjacent room and the sleeping porch that faces the lake.
Visitors will make their own Christmas cards and Christmas crackers, filled with candy and trinkets, in Gene’s garden shed near the cabin.
“Live music will be provided by Mark Linehan on flute and cello, in keeping with the Vicrorian feel,” Parker said.
In her lifetime, 1863 to 1924, Stratton-Porter authored 12 novels, seven nature studies, three poetry books, children’s books and numerous magazine articles. Her works have an estimated 50 million readers and have been translated into several foreign languages and Braille. Eight of her novels were produced as movies.
Stratton-Porter published her first novel, “The Song of the Cardinal,” in 1903. “Michael O’Halloran” was her first of several novels written while she lived on Sylvan Lake.
Stratton-Porter’s first home was in Geneva, Indiana, near the Limberlost Swamp. That property is also a state historic site.
The Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site near Rome City is 148 acres that includes her century-old gardens, Sower’s Woods, lake shore and newly restored wetlands and prairies. The graves of Stratton-Porter and her daughter are maintained as a memorial at the site.
The “Cabin at Wildflower Woods is built of Wisconsin cedar logs with locally grown wild cherry panels in the entrance hall and dining room. The cabin features three unusual fireplaces, one of polished English brick, one of Native American artifacts and stones collected from other states, and one of puddingstone. Stratton-Porter also installed her own darkroom in this cabin as well as a modern-for-the-time kitchen with a McCray refrigerator.
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