Willow Shade Click Here for a Critical Evaluation of Willow Shade SITE NAME
Willow Shade

Historical Highway Marker

Virginia Landmarks Register
December 12, 1989

National Register of Historic Places
December 18, 1990

Route 50, .71 miles east of Gore
Frederick County

Willa Cather and her family moved to this home shortly after her birth in 1873. Cather would later describe a home like Willow Shade in Sapphira and the Slave Girl, her last novel. The Cathers moved to Nebraska in 1883, which would provide Willa with the expansive settings of most of her work.

"This house, built in 1858, was the childhood home of novelist Willa Cather from 1874 to 1883, when she moved with her family to Nebraska. It was the setting of the final chapters of her novel SAPPHIRA AND THE SLAVE GIRL. Willa Cather was born December 7, 1873, one mile south in the community of Gore, then known as Back Creek Valley."

“Willow Shade was the childhood home of the renowned American author Willa Cather. The gaunt Greek Revival house was build ca. 1853 for Cather's grandfather and his wife, Emily Ann Caroline Smith Cather, both descendents of early Frederick County settlers. After Willa Cather's birth nearby in 1873, her Cather grandparents moved to Nebraska and turned Willow Shade over to her parents. There she lived until age nine when she and her parents also moved to Nebraska. In her last novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940), Cather immortalized Willow Shade when she wrote: “The slats of the green window shutters rattled, the limp cordage of the great willow trees in the yard whipped and tossed furiously by the wind. I had been put in my mother's bed so that I could watch the turnpike, then a macadam road with a blue limestone facing."

Willa Cather Birthplace Ripshin


This site was created by Emily Kane as part of the University of Virginia's American Studies program.
For more information about AS@UVA, click below.

American Studies at U.Va.