Memories of the “Cather Cottage” on Grand Manan

Posted by Sue Hallgarth on November 4, 2013

When I first visited Grand Manan in the 1990s and found the restored Cather Cottage at Whale Cove, this is what it looked like from the edge of the Red Trail (one of the many hiking trails on the island). Situated a few hundred feet from the edge of a cliff, the cottage faced the Bay of Fundy whose fifty-foot tides quietly rose and fell at the base of the cliff.

Willa Cather and Edith Lewis cottage, Grand Manan

While there I taped several long conversations with Kathleen Buckley, who at that time owned and managed Whale Cove Cottages and took care of what has become called the Cather Cottage for Jim and Helen Southwick. Edith Lewis deeded the cottage to Helen Cather Southwick, Willa Cather’s niece, in 1965. Willa Cather’s name never appeared on the deed. Kathleen Buckley was enormously helpful to me, providing information about Cather and Lewis (whom she remembered) and about the Cottage Girls who returned every year during the twenty summers Cather and Lewis spent at Whale Cove.

Kathleen Buckley

Kathleen Buckley

Inside the Cather Cottage were the usual cottage furnishings, none of them original, but the cottage also yielded a few truly memorable things.

A view of the attic, where Willa Cather spent most of her mornings writing.

Cottage Attic

A piece of flooring near the top of the attic steps, made from an old packing board with Edith Lewis stamped at the bottom.

Floor Board with Edith Lewis' name

And very important for me, leaning on the fireplace mantel, two framed watercolors that Kathleen Buckley told me had been done by Edith Lewis. They are very simple, one is not quite finished and the paper on which they were painted is now light brown.

Edith Lewis watercolor of cliffpainting by Edith Lewis

Later, as I continued doing research on Cather and Lewis and interviewed others who had known them or were familiar with Grand Manan, Lucia Woods Lindley gave me a copy of the beautiful black-and-white photo she had taken earlier of the Cather Cottage from where the Red Trail continued south through the trees. Lucia Woods Lindley and Bernice Slote published Willa Cather: A Pictorial Memoir (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971). Lucia Woods Lindley continues to be an Advisory Member of the Board of Governors, The Willa Cather Foundation.

Willa Cather and Edith Lewis cottage, Grand Manan

2 thoughts on “Memories of the “Cather Cottage” on Grand Manan

  1. Thank you, Sue Hallgarth! This lovely place seems a haven for us too as we think of Cather and Lewis and their work and life together. Thanks, too, to Lucia Woods Lindley, a great philanthropist and artist whose friendship meant so much to Bernice Slote and Virginia Faulkner. Hilda Raz

    • Thanks, Hilda. Lucia Woods Lindley deserves your praise and so do Bernice Slote and Virginia Faulkner whose early work, along with that by Mildred Bennett and Sue Rosowski, set the bar high for scholars and others interested in Willa Cather’s life and works.

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