Monday, March 13, 2023

A Visit to Cross Creek

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In 1928 Marjorie Kennan Rawlings used a small inheritance to buy a 72 acre orange grove with a house and outbuildings sight unseen.

  It has been said that she did it on a whim and it changed her entire life.  She moved here from Rochester New York where she was a journalist.  This place and the local people had profound effect on her.  She talked frequently about feeling as though she had come home when she first walked down this path and saw the property.  She lived here for 25 years.  She and her husband are buried nearby.

This type of decorative metal gate was very common in the first half of the 20th century.  I remember seeing them at the homes of relatives when I was a girl.  I found it great fun to enter the property through this gate.

Rawlings wrote her greatest literary successes inspired by this place and the people living around her.  She is most famous for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling but it is her book, Cross Creek,  about her life on this property and her neighbors, that is my favorite.

This quote from Cross Creek is just inside the gate along the path to the house.  If you are reading on a laptop, you can click the picture to read the quote.  I don’t know if a phone screen will be large enough.  My posts are designed to be read on a laptop.



When Rawlings died in 1953, she gave her home to the University of Florida and in 1970, the state took over management of the property and it became a state park.  Wisely, at her death, her husband had put all of her furniture into storage.  When the home and grounds became a state park, he gave all the furniture that he had stored to be placed again where it had been in the house during her lifetime here.  I have him to thank for how authentic the house still is.

Today there is a parking lot just outside this gate and the path leads to the orange grove and the buildings you can tour.  The tours begin in the barn and are given Thursday through Sunday at  10am, 11, 1 pm, 2 and 3pm.   I spent the entire day here and took 3 of the tours all given by a different guide so it was interesting to see how they differed.  This woman was in period costume for the 10am tour.  She was dressed exactly as my great aunt Carrie was when I visited her in her nearby home in Ocala.

After the introduction in the barn about Rawlings life, we began the tour in the front of the house. We entered into the screened porch area where Rawlings wrote and slept during the heat of the year.


On the right side of the porch was her work table built by her husband. 
The house too reminds me of the one my Aunt Carrie lived in with its french doors uniting the screened porch to the inside..


On the left side was her bed and a sitting area.  The french doors here are closed and there is a second screened door leading outside.

Behind the closed french doors is the “parlor”.  The open door on the left of the fireplace was a closet turned into a liquor cabinet on top and firewood storage below. 


The house has a collection of many copies of her books including foreign editions.


20230223_143507It was fun for me to see this old vacuum in the corner.  It too is just like the one my aunt used to do her “hoovering” as she called it.  The door it is standing next to leads into the first indoor bathroom in this area. 

The guest bathroom actually connects the two sections of the house. See the map later on.  Unless you go outside, you have to walk through it to get to the bedrooms.

The red roses in the toilet are like those that Rawlings put there when she threw a party for her neighbors to christen the first indoor plumbing in the village of Cross Creek.  Ice and drinks were in the bathtub and a tray of glasses on the sink.

You can see the guest bedroom beyond.


Both bedrooms had doors out to the front and back porches so you would not be forced to go through the bathroom if you did not wish to.   They also provided much needed cross ventilation in the heat.  This handmade bed is the oldest piece of furniture in the house.  Visitors who slept here included Robert Frost, Thornton Wilder, N.C. Wyeth, Gregory Peck and others.


I think Rawlings was a lovely young woman.  This is a graduation  picture either from high school or University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I’m not sure which.


Rawling’s bedroom had a second bathroom at the end of the house.  Quite a luxury at the time.  It was added on after the success of The Yearling.


The dining room was set for dinner.  Rawlings loved to entertain her guests with good food and wine.  We were told she always took the chair opposite the window as it looked out on the original outhouse and she didn’t want anyone else to be looking at that while eat.  HA!


She set a lovely table. 


All meals were prepared on the wood cook stove in the room beyond the dining room.


Looks a lot like the farm kitchen doesn’t it Carrie?


I expect in her day the pantry was filled with canning jars and not antique kitchen implements as it is today.


The ice box is just outside the kitchen on the side porch from which we exit the house.


The park has one of the nicest simple brochures I have seen.  Hats off to whoever is responsible.  On one side is this drawing of the house from a birds eye view above.  The brochure’s colors are much brighter than this picture I took of it.  But it will give an idea of the rooms beginning in the lower front door and the summer porch with the two bedrooms in the wing off to the right connected to the rest of the house by the bathroom.   It is definitely an odd layout.  The house appears to have been put together in parts.  That is apparently the way she purchased it.

This is the side porch and door from which we exited to see the grounds.  There is a very small gift shop.


On the other side of the brochure was this map of the grounds.  You can see the entrance gate, the barn where the tour begins, the house, the garden beyond it.  I really love these drawn maps.

Not only do the volunteers lead tours, they do this garden and some of the work on the remaining fruit trees.


Pens for the chickens and ducks.


Part of the orange grove.


Wish I’d asked what kind of chicken is this black one.  We never had any of those.


A  Rhode Island Red rooster and hen.  We had a flock of them at our farm.  They and the Buff Orpington are my favorite chickens.  If you have never had a fresh hen egg, you haven’t really had an egg.  The ones in the grocery are/could be months old.

Chickens are great for working the ground under fruit trees of bugs. .

Also wished I’d asked why she had ducks. Perhaps she was partial to their eggs.

Toward the back of the property was the Tenant house she provided for those who helped her on the farm.


If you look closely, you can see there are two doors.  Each goes into a one room accommodation.


Each room had a bed, table, stove and some chairs.  Not sure if this is what it looked like when people lived here.  I would expect possibly a double bed.



Across the state road, which in her time was sand, is where the rest of the orchard, which she called her citrus grove, was .  It has since grown back to native landscape with a loop trail which I hiked before leaving.


There are still orange trees among the palms and other trees.


I wondered as I left the property if those tall palms were Washingtonian as I’d seen at Koreshan.  They are perhaps three times the height of the house.


I spent a lovely day here and the state historic park would definitely appeal to anyone who has read or wishes to read Rawlings work as much of it is set in this area.  Or if you simply like country life and the time period to which this has been restored which appears to be the 1930’s and 40’s.   I think it is particularly special to me because it takes me back to my great aunt whom I loved dearly and her home.  Neither of which can I visit any longer.

The brochure also had this map of the area showing the house located between the two lakes.

I had forgotten that there is a park and public boat ramp on the property just outside the little entry gate.  My kayak was still at Silver Springs or I would have gone paddling.  Before leaving I took a look around.


Next time!


  1. A great tour as always. FYI – I was able to read easily on my iPhone the Cross Creek quote on the sign…

  2. Lots of these state parks have interesting history. Small parks, small stories, stuff you don't find at the big national parks. Fun to read .

    1. They do have very interesting histories Lynne. I imagine Virginia state parks may too but they are too expensive for me to visit.

  3. Loved the story of your visit. I often find these small historic sites to not only be interesting but reveal how I'd never have survived without A/C in Florida. Yes, I'm a spoiled whimp. ;c)

    1. It was amazing how those of us of a "certain age" lived without AC as children. We're all very spoiled.

  4. I love Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home! There's something about visiting it that brings me so much peace. We've been several times over the years but I never tire of it. We had planned to visit again while we were in Gainesville but didn't manage to get there, so I'm glad you visited and shared your photos and story. I didn't realize that MKR went to university in Madison! We really like that town.

    1. What fun that you love it too. Wish we could visit together some time and go kayaking there. I never tire of it either.

  5. What a wonderful time you must have had there . Certainly looks interesting , I am so spoiled with AC . Thanks for sharing your fun times

    1. I think we are all spoiled Jackie. For me the problem is more the humidity than the heat. But houses were designed with porches to block the sun and doors/windows opposite each other to catch the breeze.

  6. I love Cross Creek, both the book and the place. Ocala has much to see and do in and around that area, and Cross Creek was always one of my favorites. Bel and I would go almost every year when I visited, but we never actually took a formal tour. I have a photo of me standing by that very sign along the pathway. I love the feeling of slipping back in time so completely that happens when I am there. Of course, you had to return.

    1. Slipping back in time is it exactly Sue. I can definitely imagine you there. It was wonderful to just spend the entire day there.

  7. Great story, thanks Sherry. Yes the sign and photos can be read on a phone. I simply touch the image and hold my finger on it. A pop up menu appears allowing you to open or download the image. At that point you can increase its size for greater clarity with full resolution.
    I especially loved the typewriter, vacuum, old stove, etc as usual. Just love the old stuff along with the old cabins...Thanks!!

    1. Wonder why it is so many like the old stuff so much Shayne? My farmhouse in Virginia is a place you should visit. Lots of old stuff!
      Really hope things are looking up for you and Bev.

  8. Thanks for all the pictures of the lovely buildings and stories of Marjorie Rawlings. We were fortunate enough to hike the Yearling trail while we were in Ocala area.

    1. I'd forgotten about the yearling trail Laurie. Thanks for the reminder. I have hiked it in the past as well.

  9. Wonderful post. I love when history comes alive and now Cross Creek (I like that name) is going on my reading list. Hoovering. What a riot! That kitchen with the curtain does remind me of the farm kitchen. Such a neat place!

    1. The whole place reminded me of Aunt Carrie's house and of the farm. So many books, so little time! :-)

  10. Replies
    1. You are very welcome Judith. Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed it.

  11. What a lovely trip made so much more special by your references to your aunt. So glad you did that. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the comment Pam. It is made more special by the memories it invokes.

  12. What a serene, timeless little world-- although I haven't (yet) read anything by MKR, I get such a sense of who she was from her home. Would love to spend a year living here.

    1. What fun to see your comment here. Thanks so much for it. Perhaps we should read Cross Creek in the "book club" at some point. Pretty sure it would be a one-weeker. I'd love to read it again.

  13. Mrs. Rawlings had obviously found "her place". I love the sleeping porch. I had to look up Buff Orbington chickens. I know nothing about chickens. Those are pretty and supposed to be nice chickens. Love the clawfoot tub! I've always wanted one. I was thinking today about my grandparents' house. They had a green tub. No shower. People didn't used to take showers. When the house was built and had an inside bathroom, my grandmother's father refused to use it and went to the outhouse instead. Mrs. Rawlings must have had a good life at Cross Creek. xxxooo

  14. I too recognize that gate and many of the furnishings from my youth. This is a marvelous tour, you could be a guide. Can certainly see why Rawlings wanted to live here. (And thank goodness I could finally see all the pics.)

  15. Previous comment from Gaelyn. Oops.


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