Visiting the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park was a fascinating journey back to the Florida of long ago. I felt creative energy all around me as I walked through the house, and adjacent grounds. And while standing on the front porch where Marjorie turned the inspiration that surrounded her, into short stories and unique classics; it seemed as though I was in another time; if only for an hour. If you’re a fan of Rawlings’ books, a nature lover, or a Florida history buff, you’ll want to add Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park to your short list of places to visit.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived in Cross Creek, Florida from 1928 until just before her death in December 1953.
The cypress-shingled, “cracker” house Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings called home from 1928 – 1953. When she and first husband, Charles Rawlings purchased the home and adjacent 72 acres, they named it, “Los Hermanos”. (the brothers) Over the years, and as she was able to afford to do so, Marjorie made many improvements to the house and surrounding property.
Looking north, the path leading from the parking area to the farmyard.
Volunteers with the Friends of the M.K. Rawlings Farm, Inc. maintain the house, barn and adjacent farmyard.
A peek inside the tool shed, attached to the barn. The original barn was demolished in 1969. The current barn and tool shed were constructed in 1991.
Just a few of the perennials in the backyard garden. A duck pen can be seen in the background.
An old watering can sits amid clusters of Daylilies.
Most “cracker” homes were small and usually only contained two or three rooms. After additions to the house were completed in the 1940’s, Marjorie’s home grew to 3,000 square feet, and nine rooms. A mansion compared to the other homes in Cross Creek. The house is actually three separate, yet connected units. The main house, the kitchen-dining room, and the guest house.
This magnificent Magnolia tree was planted almost seven decades ago, and still stands today.
Spiderwort plants are abundant throughout the garden and yard. But you must come early if you want to see them. The Spiderwort flower only blooms briefly during the morning.
One of many free range chickens that roam the farmyard.
The East Grove Trail begins directly across the street from the house. The trail is located in the middle of what was once a huge thriving orange grove.
Remnants of the 3,000 tree orange grove, along the East Grove Trail.
A brooding hen. Apparently, the hens in the farmyard lay their eggs wherever they feel safe. In this case, under a Saw Palmetto Palm, in the sugar sand, surrounded by Spanish Moss.
The south side of the front porch. Marjorie often used the single bed to take naps during the day. Because the porch was the coolest room in the house, it was not uncommon for her to sleep on the porch during the hot summer nights as well. The car in the carport is a non-running replica of the car once owned by Marjorie Rawlings.
The north side of the front porch. Marjorie’s first husband, Charles Rawlings, built this table so he could invite neighbors over for a friendly game of poker. Unfortunately, most of his neighbors folded before ever playing a hand, because they couldn’t afford the ante. In 1933, Charles folded on the marriage and Florida, divorcing Marjorie and moving back to Rochester, New York.
During her lifetime, Marjorie wrote 8 books, 33 short stories, and over 1,400 letters. Marjorie’s first book, South Moon Under was published in 1933. The Sojourner was published in 1953, and was her last novel. Her most famous book, The Yearling won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1939. Marjorie spent eight to ten hours a day on her porch writing, and about that porch once wrote, “I can watch the comings and goings of birds to the feed basket in a crepe myrtle bush, and to the bird bath.”
Electricity wasn’t installed in the home until the 1930’s. Because Marjorie did not like the glare produced by bare bulbs, she improvised light fixtures using white butter bowls.
The parlor. A liquor cabinet and bar are cleverly concealed in the corner closet. Marjorie was partial to Kentucky bourbon and moonshine.
Appropriately, books fill a corner bookshelf.
The guest bathroom was added in 1930, when Marjorie had indoor plumbing installed throughout the house. She was so excited, she threw a party, filling the tub with ice and soft drinks.
The guest bathroom vanity leaves little room for vanity.
Gregory Peck slept here; though it couldn’t have been easy. This bed is short on length. Gregory Peck stayed with Marjorie in 1946 during filming of the movie, The Yearling. Although most of the movie was filmed in California, some scenes were shot in nearby Silver Springs.
The master bathroom includes a tub shower combo.
Marjorie’s bedroom. She kept a second typewriter next to her bed which she used often, and whenever served breakfast in bed.
Vintage flat iron, ironing sprinkler bottle and wooden ironing board. This is the back end of the breezeway that runs front to back through the center of house. Breezeways were common in southern homes built during the late 19th century and before air conditioning, and are often referred to as either dogtrot or breezeway houses. Windows and doors along the breezeway and adjacent rooms helped pull cooler outside air into the bedrooms and other living areas of the home.
The dining room boasts a more ornate butter bowl light fixture.
The dining room table is not the original used by Marjorie; but the Hitchcock chairs and Wedgewood china are. In this room, Marjorie entertained, among others, Margaret Mitchell and Robert Frost. Robert Frost visited Marjorie often and the two would talk for hours by the fireplace. Marjorie would always seat herself facing the window, so her guests would not have to look at the outhouse during dinner.
A corn husk broom greets visitors walking from the dining room into the kitchen.
Marjorie Rawlings once wrote, “My one vanity is cooking”. In her book, Cross Creek, she devoted a chapter to writing about unusual meals prepared by her Cross Creek neighbors. Because people from all over the world wrote asking for the recipes, Marjorie’s publisher suggested a sequel to Cross Creek. The result was the Cross Creek Cookery, published in 1942.
The original wood burning stove. When it came to cooking, Marjorie wrote, “Food imaginatively and lovingly prepared, and eaten in good company, warms the being with something more than mere intake of calories.” Marjorie grew the herbs and vegetables used in preparing her famous meals.
One of the few remaining Pecan trees on the property. During the first five years Marjorie and Charles lived on the property, it was considered a working citrus farm. They harvested both pecans and oranges, and at one point in time, the orange grove numbered 3,000 trees. Several freezes over the years eventually wiped out most of the grove. Volunteers regularly plant new citrus trees to replace dead and damaged trees around the house.
Back in the day, most outhouses were built 50 to 100 feet away from the house. So, when Marjorie had indoor plumbing installed; to include toilets, her neighbors found it a disgusting concept. Well, at least until they understood a new meaning for the word “flushed”.
The tenant house is located just south of the main house. Marjorie’s maid, Idella Parker resided in the tenant house during the twelve years she was employed by Marjorie. The original tenant house was demolished in 1969. This house was relocated from an adjacent property in 2002. A porch was added so it more accurately resembled the original tenant house. In 1992, Idella’s memoir entitled, Marjorie Rawling’s Perfect Maid was published. Idella resides in Pompano Beach, Florida and celebrated her 98th birthday in April 2012.
The farmyard’s resident rooster.
Sadly, this canal, Cross Creek and most of Lake Orange have dried up. Droughts, development, water diversion and a sinkhole at the bottom of Lake Orange may all be to blame.
“It seemed to me that the earth may he borrowed but not bought. It may be used but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors…” Prophetic words from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
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