Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Loving Limberlost

I have always loved log cabins and thought at one time I wanted to live in one (with modern amenities of course).

So, how could I help but fall in love with Limberlost the moment I saw it. That love deepened as I walked within its walls and among its grounds.

Built in 1895, Limberlost is an impressive, 14-room, Queen Ann style, rustic log cabin. It was built by Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924)( By 1910 one of America's most successful female authors and one of the world's first nature photographers and conservationists) and her husband, Charles Porter. They built their lovely log cabin near the Limberlost Swamp (see earlier blog) in Geneva, Indiana.

The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law and I visited Limberlost while we were back in Indiana in June. Our guide was very informative as he gave us our private tour of Limberlost and told us about Gene Stratton-Porter's life.

There were no cars when Limberlost was built and the first building we visited was the coach house. The handyman/grounds keeper lived in a room located in the coach house while the horses and coaches were kept in the rest of the building.

This is a smoker made from a hollow log that Gene saw in the forest. She brought it to her home and used it to store garden tools.

Gene helped to build the fence around the cabin. Notice the openings...Gene was a great lover and observer of nature and she wanted small creatures to be able to come into her yard unhindered.

Curt, our guide, opened the front door of Limberlost and as I stepped over the threshold I was surprised by the oak paneling...very un-log cabin-like.

We entered the room where Gene wrote two of her most famous books: Freckles (1904) and A Girl of the Limberlost (1909).

This is the music room. On the fireplace's mantle was a picture of Gene standing beside the fireplace and before I saw it I asked Curt how tall Gene was. He had me stand in the same place and strike nearly the same pose, as he, Darling-Sister-n-Law and The Colonel compared the photo of Gene to me and it appears that she was about the same height as I am (5'7"). I saw some of her shoes and they were nearly the same size as mine.

Gene Stratton-Porter was quite talented. She was a writer, artist and photographer. This is a painting of hers in the music room.

In Limberlost's dining room is a beautiful English style fireplace and a gorgeous oak table (these feature in A Girl of the Limberlost).

At the end of the dinning room, separated by a heavy curtain, is the solarium.

In this room Gene took care of injured birds, grew plants, watched and waited for moths and butterflies to hatch. She would open the small windows and let the moths and butterflies fly in at will and when they would lay eggs around the house she would cover them with upturned glasses to prevent anyone stepping on them. There were moth eggs in the solarium when we visited. They were on the curtains and on the floor. These are Imperial Moth eggs.

The solarium from the outside. Love all of the windows.

This is Gene's bathroom. She used this room as a dark room when she began taking photographs and developing them.

There is a small, circular porch off of the sitting room of the downstairs bedroom. One evening Gene experienced, in her own words, "the most delightful experience of her life" there.

In middle May around midnight, Gene took a female Cecropia moth out onto the porch.

"The night-sky was alive with Cecropias. They came from every direction, floating like birds down the moonbeams". No doubt Gene was permeated with the odor of the female month. The male moths swarmed her and landed in her hair, on her shoulders and clung to her gown and hands. Gene counted close to a hundred and reveled with the moths until dawn drove them to shelter.

I remember seeing Cecropias in the bushes at our old house when I was a kid. They were huge moths and their cocoons looked like fuzzy, brown, paper bags.

We toured the upstairs of the house which consisted of a large sitting room and a couple of bedrooms. At the top of the stairs was this beautiful Lincrusta (a deeply embossed wall covering made from linoleum).

When we finished our tour of Limberlost we went to the visitor center to see what was there. There were books for sale and a few items on display. This was the desk of Gene's husband, Charles. He was a banker.

These dolls were dressed as two characters from A Girl of the Limberlost. The green dress is made to resemble a Luna moth and the yellow dress, an Imperial moth.

Our tour guide showed us an Imperial moth that had recently hatched. We were informed that the moth was a male. He was beautiful.

Gene Stratton-Porter lived in her "little" cabin for 18 years. When the Limberlost Swamp began to be drained in 1913 Gene moved away. It saddened her to see the swamp disappear. The swamp was her playground, laboratory and inspiration. She moved near Rome City, Indiana and built her second home, "The Cabin in Wildflower Woods" on the shores of Sylvan Lake. Maybe one day I will visit it.

I fell in love with Limberlost and the more I learned about Gene Stratton-Porter during my tour of her home, the more I felt the desire to have known her while she was alive (and read her books).

Gene was a writer, artist, photographer, conservationist and an organizer of  her own movie company (she moved to California in 1920).


  1. G.S. Porter is my favorite author! Thanks for such a wonderful blog piece. The family and I will have to make a trip there in the future. (Sam)

  2. Sam, I'll go with you being my second trip and all. Jenn

  3. Thank you for this post. I've just discovered Girl of the Limberlost again. I'm wanting to visit Indiana and the Limberlost someday. I have relatives in Indianapolis, but am from California. The Girl of the Limberlost was one of my Mom's favorite books.