Mitali of Mankato: All Things Maud Hart Lovelace

Some of you may remember how much I enjoyed visiting Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott, and Prince Edward Island, where L.M. Montgomery set her Avonlea novels. This past weekend I checked off another visit to a childhood home of a spiritual author-mother. I attended the "Winding Hall of Fate: Betsy-Tacy Society Convention 2012" in Mankato, Minnesota—or "Deep Valley," as it's known in Maud Hart Lovelace's beloved stories.

I was invited to speak on an author panel, but mainly went to see if Mankato, like Concord, Ma, and Cavendish, PEI, felt like home thanks to the rich sense of place created by my favorite authors. And yes, by golly, it did—despite some disturbing "urban renewal" (read: 1970s uglification), I felt like I was wandering the streets of Deep Valley with some of my favorite fictional friends.

Enjoy the photo tour below. I use fictional names in the captions; read the thoroughly-researched afterwords in the recent HarperPerennial reissues to discover more about the real people in Maud Hart Lovelace's life.

View from my hotel room of the hills bordering "Deep Valley," or Mankato.
The tall spire is the Presbyterian church where Bonnie's father was a pastor,
and the site of "Christian Endeavor" meetings in the novels.
I woke up early and strolled past Carney Sibley's house, where the crowd gathered.
The sleeping porch, where Carney and her guests slept in Carney's House Party.

Next, my walk took me past Lincoln Park, the edge of Betsy's neighborhood.
Cab was one of the proud instigators of the infamous cannon escapade.
Finally, at the top of High Street, I spotted the Ray's house
(impeccably restored and maintained by the Betsy-Tacy Society).
A 360 view in the morning quiet.

 "Is Betsy home, Mrs. Ray?"
Tea on Betsy's porch.
Julia's piano.
Tour of Betsy's house.

List of books owned by the Ray family.
Where everything pudding was concocted.
One of the ornaments bought in the annual Christmas shopping spree.
Maud Hart Lovelace's Book of Common Prayer.
Mrs. Ray's brass bowl.
Tacy's front porch (this house is also restored and
maintained by the Betsy-Tacy Society—join now!)
The bench where Betsy and Tacy shared picnics.
I walked up to the Big Hill, but it was jammed with homes (nice ones, but still).
Nonetheless, the stately trees were still as alluring as in the books.
Tib's chocolate-colored house.
The Muller's front entrance.
First Presbyterian Church, site of the Betsy-Bonnie-Tony triangle.
Carnegie Library, where Betsy and Joe prepared for the Essay Contests.
Miss Sparrow, Indian version, waits to meet Betsy.
The high school no longer exists, but here's what it looked like back in the day.
Mineopa Falls, site of a Sibley picnic in Carney's House Party.
Was this the Beidwinkle's farm? We think so.
Murmuring Lake.
View from the old cabins at Murmuring Lake.
The beautiful co-conspirators who organized the Convention, aka Bonnie and Carney.
Jennifer Hart of HarperPerennial talks about how she brought the books
back into print and encourages us to share them with the
next generation of readers, which I plan to do. Won't you join us?
Note: I didn't take a photo of Emily's slough (from Emily of Deep Valley, my favorite Maud Hart Lovelace novel), but I did see it and we drove through what used to be known as "little Syria." Again, the slough looks just as I imagined it, even though what used to be the Webster's house is now the site of the high school. Here's a lovely photo of it taken by Francesca Russell.