The Limberlost cabin has been a part of Geneva for 120 years but most are probably
unaware of its beginnings. According to the “Geneva Herald” April 20 1894 issue, it
reported that excavations were being made for the new residence of C.D. Porter. The
article stated that the “two-story frame building of modern design and the estimated cost
is over $8000.” Another article in the “Decatur Democrat” put the price of the home
around $5,000 and with the price of the lots would have put the home at about $7,000.
The home was begun around Charles and Gene’s 8th wedding anniversary.
Charles Porter took his wife Gene to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The Forestry
Building made a lasting impression on Gene. It inspired her to build a home in the rustic
Queen Anne style built of Wisconsin red cedar logs.
The Porters chose a young and capable architect named William “Will” Christen of
Decatur to design their home. At the time, Will had an office in Decatur over Peter
Holthouse’s Clothing Store. Gene Stratton-Porter worked with Will on the design of the
home. It would be the first of several homes that she would build.
In early 1895, Will moved with his wife Ada to Rockford Ohio. He built homes and
business in that area. In his 40s, he served as mayor of that town. Besides the Limberlost
cabin, Will’s second most noteable structure in Adams County is the two-story school
built in 1913 for the town of Bobo. Today it is a private residence. In 1922, Will was the
architect for the new high school in Rockford.
During Will’s long career, his buildings would make a lasting impression on the
Melbourne Florida landscape. He was an architect and builder there for thirty years. In
1919, he created the new high school in the Neoclassical style. Today it known as the
Henegar Center for the Arts. In the early 1920s, he was the architect for the Indialantic
hotel and casino. A historic marker there bares the name of William Christen as the architect.
The masonry contractor for the cabin’s construction was awarded to John Schupp. John
listed stone mason as his profession in the 1870s and 1880s when he was living in
Decatur. It is possible that he created the stone fence around the cabin. A contractor of
“fee simple” was Henry Fred Linn who was a carpenter by profession.
At this time, Geneva was prospering from oil money and the town was booming. Charles
Porter was a well-respected man in the community. In an 1895 article in the “Geneva
Herald” he was described as a man of “mature experience in financial matters.” He was
co-owner of Porter and Deitsch, founder the Bank of Geneva, and he owned several
properties in town as well as a 239 acre farm in Hartford Township that had oil wells on
it. This home showed that Charles was a successful member of the community.
Gene and Charles were living in the cabin by February 1895. Charles wrote that the logs
of the cabin were oiled. After the cabin was sold to their friends, Corwin and Chloe Price
in 1920, the logs were painted as they remain today. Chloe Price would sell the cabin to
the Limberlost Conservation Association December 31 1946 and donate it to the state.
We tip our hats to Will Christen, John Schupp and Henry Fred Linn who so long ago
created the Limberlost cabin and to the Porters and the Corwins that loved the home.