Restoration of Cather’s childhood home in Red Cloud, Nebraska, set to begin soon

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LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — Restoration work will soon begin on the historic Red Cloud home where Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather spent most of her teenage years.

Cather had an attic bedroom in the vernacular one-and-a-half-story wood-frame house at 245 N. Cedar St., where she lived between the ages of 10 and 16. She left for college in 1896.

The 143-year-old childhood home is considered the “crown jewel” of Red Cloud’s multiple historic sites associated with Cather. The author mentions the house in at least three of his books: “The Song of the Lark”, “Old Mrs. Harris” and “The Best Years”.

Visitors from all over the world

“Visitors from around the world note that walking through the doors of Cather’s childhood home and into her tiny attic bedroom is an unforgettable experience,” said Ashley Olson, executive director of the National Willa Cather Center.

The nearly million-dollar restoration work is the first in 50 years on the structure. It will start on August 15 and should be finished next year.

As well as rehabilitating the wooden structure, improving access and adding air conditioning controls, work will include restoring, and possibly reproducing, the pink wallpaper that Cather herself installed in her attic bedroom. . The paper was payment for his job at a Red Cloud pharmacy.

“It’s a pretty special place,” said Catherine Pond, marketing coordinator for the Cather Center.

The childhood home has been open for public tours since 1967. The Cather Center took ownership of the home in 2019 from History Nebraska. Restoration work is made possible in part by a $415,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service.

Ready-to-use funds

The project is part of the Cather Center’s ambitious “Campaign for the Future,” which has raised more than $7 million for the restoration of several Cather-related properties. It would also be used for the expansion of educational programs, the development of visitor amenities, and the growth of an endowment.

The center recently received a “ready-to-use” $2.3 million grant from the state legislature, using funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, to help restore a historic hotel in Red Cloud.

The ready-to-start grant, as well as the federal grant to restore the childhood home, require matching private funds. The Cather Center is looking to raise an additional $200,000 in private donations to help fund restoration work at the childhood home.

For more information, contact the Cather Center at WillaCather.org.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a grant-supported network of news outlets and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Cate Folsom with questions: [email protected] Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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