Here’s some great news about one of my favorites places: Wilder Homestead in Burke, N.Y., just outside of Malone.
When Wilder Homestead, the childhood home of Almanzo Wilder, opens for the season on May 23, it will begin a new chapter of activity, connections, and very special recognition as a Literary Landmark™ – the only of all “Little House” sites to earn this designation. A ceremony is in the works for Saturday, July 11.
Thousands of people from around the world flock to this site in northern Franklin County each year to get a glimpse of rural life in the 1860s as well as to follow in young Almanzo’s steps. Laura Ingalls Wilder told the story of her husband’s childhood in the beloved children’s book “Farmer Boy,” the second in the series of her Little House books.
In 2014, the New York Library Association nominated the Homestead for the Literary Landmark™ honor in conjunction with the library association’s 125th anniversary in 2015. The Empire State Center for the Book and HarperCollins Publishers also supported the application to United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
A bronze Literary Landmark™ plaque will be unveiled during the ceremony on July 11, coinciding with the Homestead’s annual Children’s Art Event (10 a.m. until 4 p.m.) and tours. Plans are for the plaque to be installed near the side entrance to the Wilder farmhouse, where Almanzo lived from his birth in 1857 until 1875 when the family moved to Spring Valley, Minn.
Fast forward to Aug. 25, 1885, when Almanzo married Laura Ingalls in DeSmet, S.D. As noted by the website, www.almanzowilderfarm.com, Almanzo, Laura, and their young daughter Rose left their homestead claim in 1894 and moved to Mansfield, Mo. In their later years in Mansfield, Laura wrote her famous books, including “Farmer Boy,” published by Harper & Brothers in 1933.
When “Farmer Boy” reached the Malone, N.Y., area, several local residents realized that they had connections to Almanzo. One remembered Almanzo and indicated where the Wilders had lived. This site was subsequently backed by written records.
Another local resident, Mrs. Frances Smith, realized that she was related to Almanzo. She was the granddaughter of the same Uncle Andrew and Aunt Sarah Day mentioned in “Farmer Boy.” She and her daughter, Dorothy, corresponded with Laura. Dorothy Smith persuaded other interested people to form the nonprofit Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder Association (ALIWA).
On June 5, 1987, ALIWA purchased the 84 acres remaining from the original farm. Archeological digs in 1988 and 1989, as well as an architectural house report, proved the house to be the original described in the book. This is the only Little House on its original site. It is on both the NYS and the Federal Register of Historic Places.
The Homestead includes the original Wilder house with period furnishings. The barns at the farm were rebuilt on the original sites according to blueprints Almanzo recreated from memory. There’s a small museum and gift shop on the grounds, as well as a picnic pavilion and restrooms. Trout River, where Almanzo fished, is across the road.
The newest addition to the farm, an 1860s-era one-room school house, was added in 2013. Hundreds of fourth-graders tour Wilder Farm each year as part of their local history classes and field trips. They have declared the school house to be “awesome,” thanks in no small part to volunteer Jim Lusk who brings the tour to life as teacher “Mr. Jones.”
For more background about Wilder Farm, or Wilder Homestead, check the website www.almanzowilderfarm.com. Watch Facebook for regular updates.
Hope to see old and new friends at the farm this season!
Here’s the 2015 calendar to help plan your visits.
May 23: Opens for season. Monday – Saturday, 10-4 and Sunday noon-4. Last tour each day begins at 3 p.m.
Saturday, July 4: Children’s art display opens
Saturday, July 11: Literary Landmark Celebration & Children’s Art Event, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Unveiling of the Literary Landmark plaque. Wilder biographer Bill Anderson to attend. Awards ceremony for the children’s art show along with student essays. Kids’ art activities, 19th century games, vendors, food available.
Saturday, Aug. 29: Cultural Festival/Scottish Fling, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Come celebrate the Scottish heritage of the area in the mid-19th century with food, music, and demonstrations. St. Andrew’s Society of the Adirondacks is participating.
Saturday, Sept. 26: Harvest Festival & Civil War Living History Encampment, 10 a.m -4 p.m. All Wilder buildings will be open for self-guided tours. Civil War living history encampment and skirmishes. Pumpkin painting and children’s 19th century game in the apple orchard, children’s corn pit in the barn, “Farmer Boy” readings. “As Time Passes” adult juried art show on display in the museum. Vote for People’s Choice. Food and beverages available. Freshly made doughnuts.
Sunday, Sept. 27: Civil War Encampment & skirmish
Open extended Sunday hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Regular admission and guided tours available.
Sept. 30: Final day of regular season
For the month of October, advance appointments can be made for tours, depending on tour guide availability. Minimum admission is $25. Please call or email to schedule, two weeks’ notice preferred.
Saturday, Dec. 5: Christmas with Almanzo, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Free admission for this gentle, family-oriented celebration. Come and enjoy readings from “Farmer Boy” Christmas chapter in the parlor of the house. (Adults must accompany and remain with child.)
Enjoy cookies, mulled cider, Christmas carols, and children’s activities. Visit the gift store for last-minute shopping with complimentary gift wrapping for purchased items.
Contact the Association at 518-483-1207 in season or send email to email@example.com. The mailing address is PO Box 283, 177 Stacy Road Malone, NY 12953.
Have you visited Wilder Homestead before? Post a comment about your experiences. If you haven’t had the chance yet to visit, we hope to see you this summer. Be sure to sign the visitor book in the gift shop when you do!