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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Self-guided Tour Map

Self-guided Tour Map

The Self-Guided Tour is an extensive self-guided exploration of the many historic sites and locations related to the life and times of Willa Cather. Maps are available at the National Willa Cather Center or can be downloaded here.

Brief information about each site is included. Please note that tours of the properties themselves are available during scheduled tours only, and only properties marked with an asterisk are owned and managed by the National Willa Cather Center; all others are privately owned, and we ask that visitors respect the privacy and property of the owners.

Red Cloud Opera House*

413 N Webster Street

This lovely structure was built in 1885 and restored by the Willa Cather Foundation in 2003. The first floor houses an art gallery and our NWCC offices; upstairs you’ll find the Opera House with the original floors, support columns, and wood on the front of the stage. Willa Cather gave her graduation oration in 1890 from this stage, and it was here that she first encountered the artists and actors that would populate her fiction.

The Moon Block*

5 blocks north of the Opera House

Built in 1886-87 by Senator Moon of Michigan. It is called the Moon Block but appears in The Song of the Lark as the Duke Block; Red Cloud in turn becomes Moonstone.

Dr. Cook's Drug Store

406 N Webster Street

Across the street from the Opera House is the site of Dr. Cook’s drug store. (The second brick building from the corner of 4th and Webster.) When Willa Cather was in high school, she worked here, taking her pay in books and the wallpaper that still hangs in her childhood room.

State Bank Building

401 N Webster Street

Made of Red Cloud brick in 1883, this is one of the first brick buildings in town.

Farmers' and Merchants' Bank*

338 N Webster Street

This building was erected in 1889 by Silas Garber, fourth governor of Nebraska and prototype for Captain Forrester in A Lost Lady. Restored in the early days of the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial, the bank displays the original Colorado sandstone frontage, Red Cloud bricks, and many original interior furnishings. 

Miner General Store

301 N Webster Street

Across the street and south of the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank, on the corner of 3rd and Webster, you see the building erected by J.L. Miner (the prototype for Mr. Harling in My Ántonia) in 1883 for his general store. Cather describes this building in “Two Friends” and mentions the high windows over the wooden sidewalk. 

Charles Cather's Real Estate Office

307 N Webster Street

Located on the second level, one bay north of the old Miner Store, you’ll see the site of Charles Cather’s real estate office, where Willa Cather also had her laboratory for dissecting animals.

Willa Cather Childhood Home*

241 N Cedar

The Cather family lived in this home from 1884-1904. Willa Cather describes it in great detail in The Song of the Lark and “Old Mrs. Harris.” Willa Cather’s room was upstairs on the north. Visitors can see some of her original possessions still displayed there, as well as the family’s household items throughout the home.

J.L. Miner House*

241 N Seward Street

One block west of the Cather home is the J. L. Miner House, the home described in My Àntonia, where Ántonia worked. Anna Sadilek Pavelka, the prototype for Ántonia, lived here while working for the Miner family. This is where Cather befriended Annie and developed a lifelong friendship that inspired her most beloved novel.

The Rosen House

322 N Seward Street

Across the street to the east is the white frame house where Mr. and Mrs. Weiner lived. They are the prototypes for Mr. and Mrs. Rosen in “Old Mrs. Harris.” Mrs. Weiner’s kitchen overlooked the Cathers’ backyard. 

Division Street

Division Street is a physical reminder of class difference in Red Cloud. South of Division was a working class community, largely associated with the railroad. As you pass this street, you’ll see the boardwalk staircases on the way to the Depot.

Burlington Depot*

At the intersection of Welsch and Seward Streets

Cather uses the depot in many of her works, such as in an early scene in My Ántonia. The Depot also figures prominently in “The Sculptor’s Funeral.” This is Red Cloud’s third depot, built in 1897. Willa Cather would have used it when traveling to and from her hometown.

St. Juliana Falconieri Church*

425 W 3rd Street

This is the site where Anna Sadilek Pavelka’s first child was baptized and where Anna was married. This church had no bell in the belfry, “poor man’s stained glass” (lead paint with hand-made designs); the parish priest rode the train from nearby towns to hold services. A special whistle alerted worshipers of Mass when the priest was aboard the train.

Red Cloud Cemetery

At intersection of Third Street and Cherry Street

Here you’ll see the graves of Silas Garber; members of the Sadilek family, including Frantisek Sadilek, whose son Anton brought his body here from the crossroads burial place; and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cather (Willa Cather’s parents), and Grandmother Boak. Also in the family plot is the grave of Marjorie Anderson, the girl who came with the Cathers from Virginia; she was the prototype for Mandy of “Old Mrs. Harris,” Marty of “Poor Marty,” and Mahailey of One of Ours.

The Forrester Home

East of the stop sign at 2nd Avenue and Webster

Here you’ll see a large cottonwood grove. This is the setting for A Lost Lady. On this hill in 1870 the first settlers built their stockade. Later Silas Garber (Captain Forrester) built his home here.

Baptist Church*

Seward and 5th Avenue

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

Cather Second Home*

541 North Seward

At the corner of Sixth and Seward stands the Cather family’s second home. Charles and Mary Virginia Cather lived here from 1904 until 1928; Charles Cather died in 1928, and MAry Virginia was hopsitalized for a long illness before her death in 1931. Willa Cather's parents purchased this home in 1903 and left their little rented home at Third and Cedar where Willa had spent her formative years. Over the next twenty-eight years, Willa often visited her family in this house during summers and occasionally for Christmas. Cather's last visit to Red Cloud was for a family reunion at Christmas in 1931. She described this house as the Ferguesson family home in one of her short stories, "The Best Years."

Methodist Church

Seward Street and 6th Avenue

Across from the Cather Second Home is the Methodist Church; Cather describes it in winter in My Antonia.

County Courthouse

621 North Cedar

This is the building described in the scene of trials of German immigrants in One of Ours.

Ninth Avenue

This section of town is where the more affluent families were building newer, better homes. In Lucy Gayheart Cather speaks of Quality Street. Cather likely chose the expression because a German woman, Mrs. Newhouse, called that section of town Quality Knob.

Matthew Bentley House

9th Avenue and Cedar Street

On this corner stands the home of M.R. Bentley, prototype for Wick Cutter in My Ántonia. Like much of the novel, the anecdotes of Wick Cutter and his wife were drawn largely from real events.

William Cather Home

8th Avenue and Cherry Street

This is the site of the home of Willa Cather’s grandparents, the Burdens of My Ántonia. Although the original house is gone, the trees remain. Cather mentions that Jim Burden watched the line of the river hills. Because there were no trees in Red Cloud at the time, it was possible to see the river hills. You can approximate the view without trees by standing in the center of Cherry Street and looking south.

Will Ducker House

821 North Franklin

This large white house belonged to Will Ducker, the scholarly Englishman who taught Willa Cather Latin and Greek.

Dr. McKeeby House

641 North Cherry

This is the home of the prototype for Dr. Archie in The Song of the Lark. Behind the house was the strawberry bed where Thea went to pick strawberries.

Grace Episcopal Church*

546 North Cedar

Willa Cather joined the Episcopal Church in 1922 at the age of fifty. On the north wall are two painted glass windows dedicated to her parents. She chose the window of the Good Shepherd for her father because he raised sheep in Virginia. The Cather family was devoted to this church; the walnut altar rail was given in memory of Douglass Cather. The church held memorial services for Willa Cather in 1947.

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