Indiana Backroads: Book Markers at Gene Stratton-Porter Sites
Hoosier author Gene Stratton-Porter found peace and inspiration in the natural world. A visit to her old haunts in northeastern Indiana reveals why.
So what if critics described her novels as “mawkish” and “soggy with happiness”? Gene Stratton-Porter (1863–1924) became one of America’s most cherished writers, selling an eyeball-bulging 50 million books. And much of the literature was inspired by her Indiana home—in places you can still visit.
Some people have a weakness for peanut brittle (me) and puppies (also me). Stratton-Porter had a weakness for … well, for swamps. After serving as the setting for Stratton-Porter’s classic A Girl of the Limberlost, the Limberlost Swamp, which once covered 13,000 acres, was drained in the early 1900s. Today, in Adams and Jay counties, the trails and boardwalks of Limberlost Swamp Wetland Preserve (U.S. 27 and County Rd. 1200 S, Geneva) and nearby Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve (County Road 250 W, 3 miles west of Bryant) offer glimpses of that bygone landscape, from a great blue heron taking wing over still water to butterflies touching down on tufts of wildflowers. (Pro tip: Wear insect repellant.) Geneva’s Limberlost Cabin (202 E. 6th St., 260-368-7428), where Stratton-Porter lived from 1895 to 1913 and wrote half of her books, is a “cabin” only in the sense that it’s made of logs. The sturdy, cleverly designed two-story home, complete with conservatory and wraparound porch, now showcases a well-worn mechanical Underwood typewriter and other artifacts from Stratton-Porter’s life.
As the swamp vanished, Stratton-Porter headed north to a new refuge on the tranquil shores of Noble County’s Sylvan Lake, in Rome City, where she built the Cabin at Wildflower Woods (1205 Pleasant Point, 260-854-3790) in similar layout and style as her Geneva home, down to the white-cedar logs. The gardens have a 120-foot wisteria-covered arbor and flowers planted by the author herself, who is buried at the site.
At the midpoint between the two Stratton-Porter cabins, Huntington’s Purviance House B&B (326 S. Jefferson St., 260-224-1545) is anything but rustic. In this 19th-century Italianate mansion, elegantly appointed in period decor, the Beck Suite offers a luxurious king-size bed, fireplace, and whirlpool tub (and the breakfast coffee cake, from the innkeeper’s family recipe, is button-popping good). It’s one of several comfort destinations the Huntington County seat has going for it, including the Brick House Grill (19 W. Washington St., 260-224-6696), a self-described “upscale gastropub” where locals throng for filet mignon, ahi tuna, and a fine draft selection of craft beer. Really more vintage than antiquey, Antiqology (401 N. Jefferson St., 260-200-1065) carries a curated collection of furniture and housewares, hand-scooped ice cream, and five hundred (yes, hundred) varieties of craft soda.
Indy to Geneva, east on U.S. 36 and north on U.S. 27; Geneva to Huntington, north on U.S. 27 and west on U.S. 224; Huntington to Rome City, north on State Road 9.