Tag Archives: Willa Cather

Literary Road Trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska, home of Willa Cather

literary road tripLast weekend I wanted to get out of town. And I knew I wanted to, sometime this fall, make the trip to visit the town known for being the home of Willa Cather, perhaps Nebraska’s most famous author. Many of Cather’s books are set in Red Cloud.

The small town (population 1,100) of Red Cloud, Nebraska wasn’t too far — 1.5 hours one way — so we jumped in the car, found sustenance for the journey, and headed south.

To my shame, I haven’t yet read any of Cather’s works (at least that I remember), but that didn’t stop me. Death Comes for the Archbishop has been sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting to be read, for well over a year now.

Brief overview
Before leaving home I’d printed information for a self-guided walking tour of the town’s Cather sites (I printed this from the chock-full, amazing, loaded, over-the-top informative Cather Foundation website).

Main street :: Red Cloud, Nebraska

Main street :: Red Cloud, Nebraska

We drove into town and stopped at the Red Cloud Opera House, which houses the Cather Foundation offices, along with its bookstore and an art gallery. I was tempted by some books and memorabilia, but I resisted.

Buildings
We walked up and down main street (aka Webster) looking at the buildings listed in the walking tour guide. We saw Dr. Cook’s Drug Store, the State Bank Building, and more, but the building that really stood out was Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank:

From the walking tour info: "This building was erected in 1889 by Silas Garber, fourth governor of Nebraska and prototype of Captain Forrester in A Lost Lady. Restored by the Cather Foundation, the bank displays the original Colorado Sandstone frontage, along with native Red Cloud brick."

Once we realized that we’d explored all the listed buildings on Webster but had a long ways to go to complete the tour, we jumped in the car to explore the rest of town.

Among the sites we saw were: her childhood home,

The Cather family lived in this home from 1884 to 1904.

The Cather family lived in this home from 1884 to 1904.

the Harling House

This is the house described in My Antonia, where Antonia worked.

This is the house described in My Antonia, where Antonia worked.

and a Baptist church.

This is the church of Cather's youth. She was raised Baptist but later joined the Episcopalian church.

This is the church of Cather's youth. She was raised Baptist but later joined the Episcopalian church.

Prairie
Once we were done looking at buildings, we drove south of town (within sight of the Kansas border) to the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie.

The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie consists of 608 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie. The foundation is returning this land to its pre-1900 conditions.

The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie consists of 608 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie. The foundation is returning this land to its pre-1900 conditions.

A closer view of some of those grasses:

The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie.

The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie.

So that’s it! Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of Red Cloud, Nebraska.

Have you taken any literary road trips lately?