As I often advise people, Burr Oak, Iowa, Spring Valley, MN and Pepin WI make up a real nice Wilder weekend. I took myself up on my own advice this weekend on my way to Laura Days in Pepin. I hadn’t been to Burr Oak yet this summer or met their new director, as of March.
He led the tour himself and it was one of the better tours I’ve gotten there. Still using the “Sleep tight” myth, but other than that really good. The Masters Hotel looks like it’s gotten more love and attention this year in little things. The June Hawley card which had partially fallen apart had been fixed. The things about William Reed were put together in a notebook, not just piled up, and someone had added a couple of framed and matted informational displays. The museum itself hadn’t changed much, but they have found a strawberry butter mold,
like Ma’s in Little House in the Big Woods which was a very nice addition. They have totally rearranged the gift shop. They now have all the books in series order along the brick wall that makes up part of the vault. The ceramics display that was previously there is all gone. It seems like they had fewer things than before, but since it changed so much it’s hard to tell. The new item I found was a beautiful wooden bookmark with a Burr Oak tree on it. The letters are moved back to the corner and the named bricks display moved up higher on the wall. A simple device of adding Almanzo and Laura’s heights along the wall has proved very popular. The letters place in the front area has been filled by historic photos of Burr Oak. I was running late by then, so I didn’t stop anywhere else in town.
I had taken time earlier to eat at Tea and Tarts in downtown Decorah who I recommend as worth the drive to anyone. I had the chicken salad and the house tea. It’s two and a half hours from Burr Oak to Pepin by the fastest route and a little under an hour between Burr Oak and Spring Valley directly.
I’ll save Pepin for tomorrow and skip to my stop on the way back in Spring Valley. I didn’t stop at the museum because I’m hopefully going to get to see that when I come back later in the month. I can report that the barn is STILL standing and, praise be, they moved the stupid boat so you can get a decent photo. Royal’s grave was still in shadow. I had lunch with James Wilder family expert Sharon Jahn which was great fun and I learned a lot about Wilder family and Spring Valley history. Including the distant Wilder connection of why you might want to visit Howard, South Dakota, just to say you’ve been there. 😉 I hope to get a look at her notebooks and all the good research she and the Spring Valley Historical Society have put in researching the Wilder family.
UPDATE 2014: Things have changed in Burr Oak since 2008. They have once again changed directors, they have redone several of the displays. They’ve opened up the pantry so you can see more of it. They have sent the Jane Hawley dolls back to their creators family. Lots has changed, but most of the good things and improvements I mentioned in the post are still there.
Also the Tea and Tarts Tea Room that I think you can tell from the post that I simply ADORED is no longer in operation. Their menu board was even at the What’s New Antique Shop the last time I went through, so it is well and truly gone. My allegiance had switched to Tea and Tarts after the Victorian Rose shut down. There are quite a few interesting restaurants in Decorah, but not one of them has become my current favorite. Let me know if you find one you especially love.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.