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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Willa Cather Childhood Home Restoration Underway

Willa Cather Childhood Home Restoration Underway

An empty front parlor awaits restoration.
Monday, September 26, 2022

The Willa Cather Childhood Home is a national treasure, one of only twenty-two National Historic Landmarks in Nebraska and the site most closely associated with the life and literature of one of America’s greatest novelists. The site closed August 15 to facilitate the first comprehensive restoration in over fifty years. Restoration is now underway and will be completed next summer. This project is made possible through a Save America’s Treasures grant administered by the National Park Service, which is being matched dollar-for-dollar through a private fundraising effort.

Acquired and restored in our early years, the site opened to visitors in 1967 and was gifted to the Nebraska State Historical Society in 1978. The transformative restoration will ensure the 140+-year-old home is preserved as a cultural attraction for the learning and enjoyment of future generations. The restored home will create a more immersive destination to discover family artifacts and encounter the lived world of the Cather family.

A modest one-and-a-half story frame house, the Willa Cather Childhood Home was Cather’s residence between the ages of ten to sixteen. While she moved away from Nebraska in 1896, her parents Charles and Mary Virginia Cather rented the home through 1904. Many of Cather’s best known writings depict life in Red Cloud and Webster County during Cather’s formative years. The Cather house is vividly described in The Song of the Lark, “Old Mrs. Harris,” and “The Best Years.”

The National Willa Cather Center took ownership of the Willa Cather Childhood Home from History Nebraska in 2019 and is committed to preserving and interpreting the landmark site, including the delicate original wallpaper Cather purchased and hung in her attic bedroom as an adolescent. Major elements of the restoration will include an accessible entrance; new climate control and electrical systems; restoration of windows and doors, new fire and intrusion alarm systems, roof replacement, foundation repair, recreation of the original fence, and conservation of the original wallpaper in Willa Cather’s bedroom.

The restoration is a key component of the National Willa Cather Center’s Campaign for the Future, which has raised over $7 million for restoration of numerous Cather-related historic properties, expansion of educational programming, development of visitor amenities, and growth of an endowment. During the construction period and leading up to the reopening, visitors are encouraged to explore the exhibits at the National Willa Cather Center and participate in guided town tours of six additional historic properties related to Cather’s life and writing. The Center’s mobile app also offers a 30-minute narrated tour of the Willa Cather Childhood Home.

We aspire to raise an additional $200,000 for the restoration, wallpaper conservation, and future interpretive enhancements to the interior and site exterior. Please consider supporting the project with a charitable gift. Pledges are payable over a five-year period. Contributions may be mailed to the Willa Cather Foundation, 413 N. Webster St., Red Cloud, NE 68970. Donations may also be made online. For more information, please contact Executive Director, Ashley Olson, at 


This project is supported by a Save America’s Treasures grant administered by the National Park Service. The NPS, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), award these matching grants to support the preservation of nationally significant historic properties and collections. The Save America’s Treasures grant uses revenue from federal oil leases for preservation and conservation projects without expending tax dollars and requires a dollar-for-dollar match in non-federal donations.

We’re also grateful to the John K. & Lynne D. Boyer Family Foundation, Mammel Foundation, Fred & Eve Simon Charitable Foundation, the Dinsdale Family, and an anonymous supporter for their gifts to the restoration effort.