State historic sites preserve Stratton-Porter legacy

Posted on Jun 12 2007 in Features

limberlostLimberlost Cabin puts you in Stratton-Porter’s shoes

In a framed photograph on a mantel, Gene Stratton-Porter stands beside a fireplace.

As you look at the photo, it suddenly dawns on you that you’re standing exactly where she stood when the photo was taken a century ago.

That’s what the Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva does. It puts you into the shoes of the famous writer, photographer and naturalist.

From 1895-1913, Stratton-Porter lived in the 14-room home with her husband, a successful Geneva businessman, and their daughter.

Though the home was built before her career began, a love of nature is evident in the home’s design and details. It was here that she began writing and immortalized the Limberlost.

In the 18 years she lived there, Stratton-Porter wrote six novels and five nature books, including the best-selling Freckles and A Girl of the Limberlost which brought her international acclaim and wealth.

After the Porters built a new home farther north in 1913, the Geneva home was sold. In 1947, the home was turned over to the State of Indiana and has been maintained by the state ever since.

With the additions of the Loblolly Marsh Wetland Preserve, Limberlost Swamp and other sections of the restored wetland offering almost 1,400 acres of wetlands within five miles of the home, the state historic site has gained a whole new attraction. Visitors have a chance to see wildlife and nature in self-guided tours.

In addition, those who love Stratton-Porter and her work will have yet another opportunity to stand in her shoes — and not just by the fireplace as the wife of wealthy businessman, but in the muck and marshlands of the renowned naturalist and writer she was.

If you go:

Address: 200 E. Sixth St., Geneva; one block east  of U.S. 27.
(The Loblolly preserve is located on County Road 250 W, just north of State Road 18, in Jay County, and is free to visit any time.)

Hours: 10 am-5 pm, Wed-Sat; 1-5 pm, Sun.

Closed Mon-Tues, most holidays, and from Dec. 19 – March 31

Contact: (260) 368-7428;

gspWildflower Woods surrounds you with Stratton-Porter’s life’s work

Almost as soon as you step from your car at the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site, you become enveloped under a canopy of tall trees and a gently winding forest path that  leads you into a clearing. You step back 90 years into Stratton-Porter’s garden. And it becomes obvious why the home is called “The Cabin in the Wildflower Woods.”

Stratton-Porter built this two-story home on the shore of Sylvan Lake after she achieved wealth and fame as a writer and naturalist in Geneva. With the loss of the Limberlost swamp, she came to the Rome City area in 1913 to continue her work in untouched natural settings.

Here, she preserved some 15,000 species of plants, vines, trees, shrubs and wildflowers gathered from the area, fearing the same fate would befall them as had the plants of Limberlost.

Today, the historic site still encompasses 20 of the property’s original 150 acres. Her gardens, arbor, orchard and many of the scenic paths were still intact or have been restored. Most of the home’s furnishings and her library were preserved, as well, since the home never left the family.

In 1920, the demands of her career took her to California. There, she started building a workshop on Catalina island and a mansion in Bel Air. Yet, she kept the home on Sylvan Lake. Apparently intent on returning to the home, she told others she wanted to be buried there.

While in Los Angeles, though, she was killed in a traffic accident only four years after she left Indiana. She was 61. She was buried in Hollywood. But in 1999, she and her daughter, who died in 1977, were reinterred on the property.

If you go:

Address: 1205 Pleasant Point, Rome City; on the south shore of Sylvan Lake.

Hours: 10 am-5 pm, Wed-Sat; 1-5 pm, Sun.

Closed Mon-Tue, most holidays, and from Nov. 13-May 1; grounds open dawn to dusk, year-round.