Pavelka Farmstead

“We turned to leave the cave; Antonia and I went up the stairs first, and the children waited. We were standing outside talking, when they all came running up the steps together, big and little, tow heads and gold heads and brown, and flashing little naked legs; a veritable explosion of life out of the dark cave into the sunlight.” — My Ántonia

The Pavelka Farmstead and the fruit cave described in My Antonia, from which the children emerged in a burst of light and life, is located just south of Highway 4 near Bladen. Restored and managed by the National Willa Cather Center, the Pavelka Farmstead was chosen as one of twelve Hidden Treasures in Nebraska by Heritage Nebraska in 2010 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

In addition to being an unassuming farm wife with ten children, Anna Pavelka was the inspiration for Ántonia Shimerda, arguably Willa Cather’s most famous character and the namesake for her 1918 novel, My Ántonia. Pavelka worked as a hired girl, helping to support her family after they immigrated from Bohemia and struggled to succeed at homesteading in Nebraska. Her father’s tragic suicide gave Anna the kind of notoriety no one would want, and the harrowing conditions of life in a dugout make the circumstances of her adult life all the more triumphant. The Pavelka Farmstead embodies not only John and Anna Pavelka’s success as a farm family, it also symbolizes the immigrant stories and rich multiculturalism that shaped the Great Plains at the dawn of the twentieth century. Pavelka’s strength, determination, and pioneer expertise make her a role model for women across many geographic, social, economic, and cultural divides.

Since 2020, the site has been undergoing significant historic and structural restoration—including returning the farmhouse to its original footprint—as well as landscape improvements during the period of the Pavelka family tenure. The property will be interpreted as an early twentieth century farmstead of an immigrant farm family in Nebraska. Read more about its ongoing restoration HERE.

Take a virtual tour of the Pavelka Farmstead and see all that has been accomplished since early 2020 at the start of our Campaign for the Future! Our next phase will be interpreting the house and farm in the early 1900s period of Nebraska settlement.

For additional reading

Here are three special themed and downloadable digital issues of the Willa Cather Review, published three times a year by the Willa Cather Foundation, and an article about the Pavelka Farmstead — click on each title for a direct link:

From the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Where Women Made History" 2020 online crowdsourcing project of American women and their significant places: 


Pavelka Farmstead
2031 Road 1100
Bladen, NE 68928
United States