Spending the weekend in a guest home where Willa Cather once slept was impressive in my mind. Her parents bought the home after she had left Red Cloud. But, she would stay in the house when she visited.
The Cathers bought the Cather Second Home, as it’s called, in 1903 and moved in 1904, after some renovation work was completed.
Jessica Cather, Willa’s sister, married James Auld in the living room in 1904. The living room today looks a whole lot different from it did 111 years ago, wouldn’t you agree?
The house stayed in the Cather family until 1944. WA Maynard owned the house for a few years, before donating it to the city for use as a hospital. The staircase was widened to accommodate hospital needs.
Later, it served as a nursing home. It was then purchased and eventually turned in to a bed and breakfast. The Willa Cather Foundation obtained the home in 2011, and has run it as a host-free bed and breakfast since.
We had a fun time touring the house on our own. In fact, we were the only guests in the house that weekend.
The formal dining room was rarely used by the Cathers. They mainly used it when Willa came to visit. They usually ate in a back room near the kitchen.
We had no problem eating in the dining room. We enjoyed a nice breakfast of homemade lemon bread (blueberry bread another day) and fruit.
I liked how the dining room was decorated, with older looking accents.
The kitchen is DEFINITELY different from what it looked like when the Cathers lived there.
The house has a reading library, where guests are welcome to grab a Cather novel, or other book, and relax reading a few passages. Lisa started on “O Pioneers!” and then switched to “My Antonia.” I loved the “Off the Beaten Path,” which had fun facts about Nebraska. I knew a lot of the information, but learned a few new things, too. I enjoy books like that.
The main floor has one bedroom – Black Hawk. Each guest room is named after a town in one of Cather’s six novels related to the prairie and Nebraska. She wrote 12 books overall. This room is located where the original kitchen was. It’s an ADA-accessible room.
Our room – Haverford – was at the top of the stairs. The room was named for “Lucy Gayheart.” The room had two doors – at the top of the stairs and along the hallway to the other guest rooms.
It had a queen-sized bed, with a nice comfortable chair for reading (or laptop work). Each guest room has robes, because you must share the bathrooms. Our room was about 10 steps from the bathroom. There was a half-bath across the hall.
Willa stayed in the Frankfort room. It was named for her book “One of Ours,” which won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1922. The room has a door to a second level porch. It’s closed to guests, for safety purposes.
The Moonstone room (“Song of the Lark”) was used by Willa’s father, Charles. One attraction for this room is that during the day, it has excellent natural light. At night, the moon can often shine in.
The Sweet Water room (“A Lost Lady”) was used as her mother’s room. Virginia Cather’s room can be adjoined with the Frankfort room. The rooms have locks on either side.
The Hanover room (“O Pioneers!”) can be accessed directly through the half bath. It’s the smallest of the guest rooms.
The front porch was amazing. It stretches across the house. We spent the latter hours of Saturday evening enjoying a nice drink and watching the fireflies light up the neighborhood. It brought back childhood memories.
The yard was beautifully maintained. We loved the landscaping around the house sign.
The flowers along the street were attractive and had a nice fragrance.
The Second Home is surrounded by some history. An old Methodist church is located across the street. It served as a prototype for a church in “My Antonia.”
About half a block from the house is the Webster County Courthouse. A state historical marker recognizes the town’s Centennial in 1971.
Scattered around town are green markers. They identify significant events or locations that played a role in Cather’s life or in her novels.
We had a wonderful stay at the Cather Second Home. We recommend people consider staying here during visits. The house can be rented out in whole, so if you have a large group trip or family get-together, it would be perfect.
For more information, please visit www.willacather.org.
Disclaimer: Thank you to the Willa Cather Foundation for the complimentary stay. However, all opinions and views are ours.