Laura Ingalls Wilder
Some people are surprised to find out that there is a Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Iowa. That’s because the very popular series of eight Little House books doesn’t mention that the family lived there. But as it turns out, for about a year, the Ingalls family lived in Burr Oak, Iowa, where they helped to run the Masters Hotel. The time period is between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake.
The Masters Hotel
I visited the town of Burr Oak in the summer of 2014 and was curious about what I would find there. The Masters Hotel, where the Ingalls family lived and worked is still standing. And most of its rooms have been restored to look like the way they did 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 three meals a day for 20 to 30 people! The kids helped make beds and do the dishes. Everyone worked incredibly hard.
Wilder’s Original Manuscript, Pioneer Girl
At the hotel 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, The Annotated Autobiography, was published in book form. It was edited by Pamela Smith Hill and was a New York Times Bestseller. It was also translated into Japanese by Yumiko Taniguchi.
A video about the museum can be found here: https://visitdecorah.com. Begin your official tour across the street at the Burr Oak Visitors Center.
Other Local Attractions
Adventurous sojourners with a little extra time should check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder entry of our Minnesota page for other fun and surprising things to do near Burr Oak.
This is the first stop on our Iowa Author Adventures Trail.
Rebecca Blake Beech