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Poetry & Porches: 1910 Florida Cracker House Finds A Home On IRSC's Mueller Campus

Tania Ortega-Cowan

Indian River State College - home to this station - is now officially home-sweet-home to a special kind of house plucked right out of the history books!

The Laura Riding Jackson house is a wooden Florida Cracker House…

CT: …which we think was built around 1910. We’re not 100% sure. We are doing some research on that now.

That’s Charlotte Terry.

CT: I’m the vice president of the Laura Riding Jackson Foundation.

Terry is talking about the historic house and its most recent, and hopefully permanent, move to the college’s Mueller Campus in Vero Beach. It will continue to be open to the public as a museum and learning destination. Laura Riding Jackson was born in 1901, and was a widely-acclaimed American poet and writer, who…

JJ: …has been identified as the most prolific female poet of the 20th century.

That’s Jacque Jacobs.

JJ: I am chair of the preservation committee that is responsible for the move of this house.

Laura Riding Jackson was eccentric and adventurous, and connected to the writers group The Fugitives. She lived as a writer in Europe for years, then, in 1941 moved to Wabasso, Florida to live out the rest of her life in the primitive little house with her second husband Schuyler Jackson. Together they wrote a dictionary exploring the foundations of meaning and language. It was called:

CT: The Rational Meaning of Words

She lived in the house for 50 years.

CT: And she died in 1991 at 90 years old.

Soon after her death, in 1993, the house was moved to the Environmental Learning Center. And recently they learned they had to move it again.

JJ: So, that was in December 2017.

After extensive planning and fund raising, the house was finally moved in 5 sections this past July. Now it’s undergoing permanent installation at the College’s Mueller Campus in Indian River County. The house demonstrates a simple way of life and is valued for a multitude of reasons.

JJ: It is designated as an author residence museum and it’s the only one in Florida between Hemingway’s in the south and Rawlings’ in the north.

Then there is the design of the house. Built circa 1910 in Florida Cracker style, with the natural Florida conditions in mind, there is also great environmental and architectural value.

For example, there was no air conditioning…

JJ: …but they were built up off the ground so the air could flow underneath.

And sited to take advantage of the prevailing winds.

JJ: The house was never insulated so the outside walls are it! She never had electricity and only had water into her kitchen.

Now that the house is in place at the Mueller Campus, they will next install gathering and reading areas, and an extensive landscape design with a butterfly garden and over 20 live oak trees. It’s highly accessible to the public, located near the Brackett Library which is a public library, by the way.

CT: We are so excited about collaborating with the college because we are going to fold into their history; their literature; environmental. There are so many things that we can cross-section with them.

They are also looking forward to practical benefits…

CT: …including bathrooms which is nice because we never had one at Laura’s house! Some of the basics. And parking! We never really had adequate and convenient parking.

The house now sits right along the Go Line public transportation route.

Riding Jackson’s poem ‘Dimensions’ ends like this: Measure me by myself, And not by time or love or space, Or beauty. Give me this last grace: That I may be on my low stone, A gage unto myself alone. I would not have these old faiths fall, To prove that I was nothing at all.

Learn more at: http://lauraridingjackson.org/