Hamlin Garland was a leading regional author and a participant in the late-nineteenth-century turn toward literary realism. Locally, however, Garland is best remembered for his reminiscences of pioneer farm life in west-central Wisconsin’s “coulee country,” a land of high ridges and deep valleys where the Garland family struggled to make a living in the 1860s. Garland’s books did not romanticize the pioneer experience but instead often painted a bleak picture that shattered the triumphal myths of westward expansion. All the same, his writings powerfully molded the image of the region now called the Midwest. Near the end of A Son of the Middle Border (1917), Garland’s parents return from the Dakota Territory to West Salem, near Hamlin’s birthplace, and move into this simple clapboard house. The house also features prominently in the Pulitzer Prize–winning A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921). Garland worked on these manuscripts in his study on the second floor of the east wing. The house, built by carpenter William Hull, was originally a gabled ell, with a two-story gabled front and a one-story west wing. A subsequent owner added a one-story eastern extension and a kitchen to the rear. Soon after finding his first success with Main-Travelled Roads (1891), Garland bought the house in 1893, hoping to reroot his ailing parents in Wisconsin soil. In 1899, Garland married Zulime Taft. Anticipating a growing family, he added second stories to the west and east wings of his parents’ house, a two-story, fish-scale-shingled bay on the gabled front, and screened porches to the front and rear, giving the dwelling its present configuration.
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Hamlin Garland House
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