Today, in our continuing visits to sites within driving distance of Indianapolis, we make the second stop at one of the homes of Gene Stratton-Porter, an under-appreciated Hoosier author and naturalist.
Last week, we visited Limberlost Cabin, Stratton-Porter’s home near Limberlost Swamp in Geneva, Ind., built by her wealthy husband, Charles Porter. While there, she wrote and published successful novels, magazine articles and nature photographs, making her wealthy in her own right. After Limberlost Swamp was drained for commercial purposes, she purchased a 143-acre site along Sylvan Lake in Noble County, near where she had met her husband. She built a two-story house on the property, which she moved into in 1914. Mr. Porter remained at Limberlost Cabin, visiting her on weekends. The 14-room house, which she named the Cabin at Wildflower Woods, featured a cedar-log façade similar to the one on Limberlost Cabin, a huge indoor fireplace and a darkroom for developing her prize-winning photographs. She planted 14,000 trees and assorted wildflowers and shrubs on the surrounding property, creating her own wildlife sanctuary. The Cabin at Wildflower Woods attracted crowds of fans, causing her to move to California in 1920 for greater privacy.
While in California, she established a company to produce silent films and built a 14-room vacation retreat on Catalina Island. She built a 22-room, 11,000-square-foot house on a hilltop in what became Bel Air but died in a traffic accident in 1924, weeks before the house was completed and was buried on the grounds of the Cabin at Wildflower Woods. Stratton-Porter wrote 26 books, five selling more than 1 million copies. Eight of her novels became movies.
Many today consider Gene Stratton-Porter the lesser-known equal of Booth Tarkington. Limberlost Cabin and the Cabin at Wildflower Woods are owned by the Indiana State Museum and open to the public.