Posted by Sue Hallgarth on February 18, 2014
For twenty years Willa Cather and Edith Lewis spent their summer months at Whale Cove Cottages on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada. They reached Grand Manan by ferry. Current ferries are considerably larger and better equipped than the one Cather and Lewis used. The Grand Manan V pictured below just passing Swallowtail Lighthouse is capable of carrying semi-trucks and busses as well as cars and passengers.
The Inn at Whale Cove Cottages is still in operation, the buildings modernized, the dining room busy serving gourmet meals. Here’s what it looks like when you turn down the long driveway to the Main House and see Whale Cove in the distance.
In 1925 when Willa Cather and Edith Lewis decided to build their own cottage as part of the cluster of cottages at Whale Cove, they had already spent three summers sharing Orchardside with several other Cottage Girls. Here is a picture of Orchardside during the early days of Whale Cove Cottages, sometime between 1890 and World War I. Cather and Lewis rented two adjoining rooms that formed the northern part of Orchardside cottage (to the right of the front door).
Here is the way Orchardside looked a century later.
Here is the way Orchardside looks today, taken from the south side of the cottage, facing the Main House at the Inn at Whale Cove Cottages.
Willa Cather and Edith Lewis used Orchardside Cottage as the model for the “Cather Cottage.” It was built by islanders Charles Green and Oscar Locke between 1926 and 1927.
The “Cather Cottage” is on the northeast edge of the compound of cottages and overlooks a herring weir in the Bay of Fundy.
In one of only two known photographs of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis together, they are shown here tending hollyhocks at their cottage (the other picture appears on page 520 in The Selected Letters of Willa Cather). This photograph is damaged, but it clearly shows Cather and Lewis enjoying themselves.
Directly behind the “Cather Cottage” is the rock wall featured in On the Rocks. Here, in a picture probably taken by Edith Lewis in 1932, Willa Cather proudly displays its design.
The same rock wall, diminished in size and overtaken by grass, in 2013.