Some people are surprised to find out that there is a Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Iowa because the very popular series of eight Little House books doesn’t mention that the family lived there. As it turns out, for about a year, in between the adventures chronicled in On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake, the Ingalls family lived in Burr Oak, Iowa where they helped to run the Masters Hotel.
The Masters Hotel is still standing and most of its rooms have been restored to look like they looked when the Ingalls family worked there. In the parlor is a pump organ which my tour guide encouraged me to play. It was amazing to recreate the kind of musical sounds that Laura and her family, and the hotel guests would have heard in that room.
Downstairs, you can see the small room where the entire Ingalls family lived for a time while they worked at the hotel. Their room is on the same floor as the kitchen and dining area. Ma cooked 3 meals a day for 20 to 30 people! The kids helped make beds and do the dishes. Everyone worked incredibly hard.
At the hotel there is a copy of a hand-written manuscript which Laura wrote describing her family’s time in Burr Oak. I felt really lucky to get to read a copy of it on my tour in August of 2014. The following month, curious Little House fans were finally able to have access to the Burr Oak story, along with the rest of Laura’s remembrances. That’s when her original manuscript, Pioneer Girl, was published in book form. The book was a New York Times bestseller and is currently being translated into Japanese.
Here is a video and further information about the museum. Begin your official tour across the street at the Burr Oak Visitors Center.
Adventurous sojourners with a little extra time should check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder entry of the Minnesota page for other fun and surprising things to do near Burr Oak.
This is the first stop on our Iowa Trail!
Rebecca Blake Beech