When my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday this year, I answered without hesitation—I want to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder House. Birthday #60 calls for something memorable, don’t you think? The Laura Ingalls Wilder House has been at the top of my bucket list since we moved to Northwest Arkansas and I learned how close the property is to us.
Fayetteville, Arkansas to Mansfield, Missouri is only 167 miles!
(Riddle me this people—how it is possible I spent my growing-up years on a farm in northeast Arkansas only 219 miles from where Laura Ingalls lived out her life, yet I had no earthly idea…??? 😳)
Since my July birthday comes during a miserably hot time, we waited for the weather to cool and road-tripped to Mansfield weekend before last. September is an ideal time to travel because once kids have returned to school typical summer crowds have dissipated. While the afternoons may still be warm, cooler mornings and shorter daylight hours make many things like walking and breathing and porch-sitting doable. Pleasant even.
I’m so glad we waited; the weather = perfect!
Also, just a reminder, you can celebrate a birthday anytime during the year.
The Chill Bump Factor
I’ve always found historic homes fascinating. There’s something almost sacred about seeing where and how folks lived a hundred+ years ago. But honestly, visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder House will probably rank right up there as a top highlight of places I’ve been, the experience dream-like for me, the place positively hallowed.
I adored the Little House books when I was a kid. My sister and I never missed an episode of the television show. And the day we visited?—walking across the very land where Laura and Almanzo lived for much of their adult lives, being inside the house they built, and in the room where Laura wrote the first five books (her desk is still there!)—well, chill bumps broke out on my arms.
I’m always so grateful when properties with historic significance are saved, restored, and maintained. As a reader and writer, the historic homes of a literary personalities are extra-inspirational to me. I like to imagine the actual place helped fuel their imaginations, and the same will happen to me.
Visiting Rocky Ridge Farm
The $18 admission ticket includes a wealth of information and plenty to see!
A tour of the Ingalls Wilder farmhouse Laura and Almanzo built when they first moved to Mansfield, Missouri shows the grit and determination of this pioneer couple along with their creativity and attention to detail. After 17 years of construction, they completed the farmhouse in 1913. (The first year, they lived in a one room log cabin on the 40-acre property known as Rocky Ridge Farm.)
Often when you visit a historic property, the interior is decorated to look historically accurate. But the Ingalls Wilder farmhouse includes their things—the original velvet living room furniture (recently restored), Laura and Almanzo’s books on the shelves of their small library, Rose’s organ in the music room, Laura’s nightgown on the bed, her desk in her tiny writing room, their framed artwork on the walls, and on and on! Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take interior photos or you know I would have a zillion to show you.
I loved seeing Laura’s kitchen—her stove, the special place she made bread, her dishes. The entire house is so charming with a tiny ladder-type stairwell leading to Rose’s upstairs bedroom and the built-in window benches in the front room.
I never knew that daughter Rose was the first author in the family. After receiving an impressive advance on one of her books, she returned to the farm in 1928 and built the Rock House nearby for her parents, primarily because she wanted them to enjoy more modern conveniences.
The house was built from a Sears & Roebuck kit with design modifications made to make it more like an English cottage.
It was in the Rock House where Laura at age 65 began writing the first Little House book (and went on to write four more).
Laura and Almanzo lived in the Rock House until 1936 when they returned to the farmhouse to live out their days. Oh the pull of home…
The Laura Ingalls Wilder-Rose Wilder Lane Museum contains the largest and most incredibly comprehensive collection of Ingalls Wilder Lane history. Original correspondence, photos, clothing, artifacts, keepsakes, manuscripts, book cover art—everything is wonderfully displayed.
Another chill bump moment: Pa’s original fiddle is on display. (Be sure to watch the attached YouTube video to see Pa’s fiddle being played.)
Also, a bonus for those of us with gardening souls—the pollinator garden surrounding the museum is Garden #123 on the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail. The property, in glorious full bloom, was quite a sight. Can you believe I didn’t take any pictures of it? Evidently seeing Pa’s fiddle and Laura’s writing desk threw me into a temporary brain trance, and obviously I will need to return.
And of course, one can’t visit any museum without a stop at the Bookstore and Gift Shop. Although I didn’t buy anything, I realize there are still many Laura Ingalls Wilder books I’ve not read.
Wilder Days, the annual celebration of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, will be held on the square in Mansfield September 23-24, 2022. (That’s this weekend, y’all!) This event includes food and crafts and music and contests, and even a fiddle contest. AND Pa’s fiddle will be played for everyone to hear.
How cool is that?
Click HERE to find out more about this and other Laura Ingall Wilder events.
Do you enjoy visiting historic homes? If so, which ones stand out in your memory as must-see places?
I still have an entire bucket list of literary homes I’d like to see including the homes of Eudora Welty, Mark Twain, Robert Frost, and Louisa May Alcott. And yes, I have a separate list of international properties I will likely only travel to via my dreams…
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.