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Save America's Treasures Grant Awarded for Restoration of the Willa Cather Childhood Home

Save America's Treasures Grant Awarded for Restoration of the Willa Cather Childhood Home

Thursday, September 26, 2019

With intent to preserve a National Historic Landmark and a major tourist destination, the National Willa Cather Center announced today a $415,000 federal Save America’s Treasures Grant. The award of this full-ask grant will enable restoration of the Willa Cather Childhood Home in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

The Willa Cather Childhood Home, a modest one-and-a-half story frame home, was built in 1879 in the vernacular tradition of early prairie houses. Willa Cather, one of our nation’s greatest writers, lived in the home from the age of ten to sixteen. While Cather moved away from Nebraska in 1896, her parents Charles and Mary Virginia Cather rented the home through 1904.

Although Cather only lived in Red Cloud for a short time, her life there provided a large portion of the subject matter for her fiction. Many of Cather’s best known writings depict life in Red Cloud and Webster County. The Cather house is described in The Song of the Lark, “Old Mrs. Harris,” and “The Best Years.” As the most important Nebraska structure associated with her career, the Willa Cather Childhood Home opened for tours in 1967 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972. The property was deeded to the National Willa Cather Center by History Nebraska in early 2019.

“Visitors from all over the world remark that walking through the doors of Cather’s Childhood Home and into her tiny attic bedroom is an unforgettable experience,” said National Willa Cather Center Executive Director Ashley Olson. “We’re grateful to the Historic Preservation Fund and the National Park Service for helping to ensure this landmark property will be preserved for generations to come.”

The multi-year grant will support planning and implementation of critically needed restoration work. Efforts will include foundation repair, interior and exterior structural and non-structural repairs, efforts to ensure conservation of the original wallpaper in Cather’s attic bedroom, building system improvements, landscape drainage improvements, and historic landscape restoration.

The National Willa Cather Center is one of 41 recipients nationwide selected for a share of $12.6 million in Save America’s Treasures grants administered by the National Park Service this year. 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), awarded these matching grants to support the preservation of nationally significant historic properties and collections through the Save America’s Treasures program. 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.

The award for the restoration of the Willa Cather Childhood Home is one of many important projects funded by the 2018 appropriation including the conservation of sound recordings from Alexander Graham Bell (Smithsonian: Washington, D.C.); the restoration of the Olson House, the site of American artist Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World (William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum in Maine); the conservation and digitization of the Kennedy family album and scrapbook collection (John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts); and the conservation of the architectural drawings collection (Carnegie Hall in New York), among many other conservation and restoration projects in archives and museums across the nation.

For a list of all previously funded Save America's Treasures projects, please view the SAT Impact Map at go.nps.gov/satmap.

For more information about the grants and the Save America's Treasures Program, please visit go.nps.gov/sat.