Visit the Home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Anyone interested in reading or discovering more about Florida history will appreciate a day out at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, located between Ocala and Gainesville. This attraction is centered on the simple homestead and 72-acre citrus estate where Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings created 10 books and 33 short stories including her best-known novel, The Yearling. Many of the tales are set in the rural landscape of Central Florida and feature some of Rawlings own staff and friends. Unfortunately, she wove many of their antics into her stories and on more than one occasion was sued for doing so!
A visit to the state park starts with a 30-minute drive from Ocala along the backroads of US-301 and CR 325, bowling along roads lined with fields, woodland, horses and agriculture with old farms and isolated houses scattered here and there. The simple cracker farmhouse is situated between two lakes at a small community called Cross Creek, the name of her autobiography. Once at the Rawlings estate you will notice the tranquility of this area, broken only by the sound of happy birds and insects chirping in the undergrowth. Huge live oaks are draped with yards of grey Spanish moss drifting in the afternoon breeze.
Visitors are requested to pay a fee of $3 into the honesty box to wander freely around the grounds and outbuildings of the farm as well as enjoying the two short nature trails nearby. To fully appreciate the home, visit on Thursdays through Sundays between October and July when guided tours are given throughout the day.
The guides all wear 1930s dress appropriate to country living which sets the scene for learning more about the home, the author herself, her books and rural life. Tours start in the barn and progress through the cracker-style farmhouse which is furnished with Rawlings’ belongings. It recreates the home as it was in the 1930s. The house has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sitting room with bookshelves lined with Rawlings’ works and a formal dining room with fine Wedgewood china. In the screened porch her typewriter sits on a table made from the trunk of a palmetto palm tree. The farmhouse kitchen still has the original stove and equipment. Rawlings loved to entertain and she produced a cookbook which is open in the kitchen showing one of her recipes.
The gardens include a flower and vegetable patch, a duck pond and a productive citrus grove. The renovated barn has some interesting relics, antique carts and tools from the farm in its operational heyday. Rawlings’ 1940 yellow Oldsmobile sits rusting beside the farmhouse.
There are many more fun and interesting things to do and see in Florida so do check out “20 Best Historic Homes in Florida” (available in all formats) which has 19 more places to visit. The Villages residents will also find this and ” Favorite Days Out in Central Florida from ‘The Villages’ Residents” a useful addition to my “The Villages” series of books.