A marker for poet Evaleen Stein’s ‘Little House of Dreams’
How a local effort will plant an Indiana Historic Bureau marker to honor the writer, illustrator at a corner near downtown Lafayette in 2023
Thanks to sponsors of today’s Based in Lafayette edition:
The Art League of the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette. Visit the Art League’s Bling on a Budget sale 3-6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Art Museum, 102 S. 10th St. in Lafayette. Purchase gently used costume and fine jewelry, scarves, ties, watches and purses at incredibly low prices. Benefits Art Museum and art educator scholarships. Secret Bid auction for select gold, sterling and designer items. More information and photos on Art League’s Facebook page, or website at artleaguelaf.org/bling-122123.
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A MARKER FOR POET EVALEEN STEIN’S ‘LITTLE HOUSE OF DREAMS’
A few weeks ago, Lafayette writer Angie Klink took you inside the Ball Mansion, the beautiful anchor of Lafayette’s Historic Ninth Street Hill.
About that time, the Indiana Historical Bureau announced that a home just around the block, at the corner of South Seventh and Hitt streets, was in line for a historic marker in 2023. The home of Evaleen Stein, a friend of the Ball family and one of Lafayette’s and Indiana’s literary lights in the early 20th century, the “Little House of Dreams” was nominated for the honor by Klink.
Here, Klink talks about Stein and what it took to bring the marker to that corner.
Question: What got things rolling on getting a marker for Evaleen Stein’s home?
Angie Klink: The process has been a snowball effect that led from my research and writing about author, poet and artist Evaleen Stein for a paper I presented to The Parlor Club.
I recently became a member of The Parlor Club, one of our community’s oldest literary groups founded in 1877. Members are from Purdue University and Greater Lafayette. The president of Purdue is an ex-officio member. Evaleen Stein was a member from 1888 until her death in 1923 and was deemed the group’s “Poet Laureate.”
The Parlor Club meets monthly and a member presents a scholarly paper. I presented my first paper last February on Stein. I became fascinated by her life when I learned she once lived in the home across the street from mine that she named “Little House of Dreams.”
For years, I have walked my dog past Stein’s former home and thought how most people were unaware of the gentlewoman of letters who once lived there. Stein receives little recognition for her nationally known writing and her place in the golden age (1880-1920) of Indiana literature.
Stein’s friends and peers such as George Ade, John McCutcheon, Booth Tarkington, Lew Wallace and James Whitcomb Riley, her mentor, still today receive plenty of press about their place in Indiana’s literary landscape, yet Stein’s name fell away into oblivion. This year, the stars were in alignment, and I set out to change that.
From my research about Stein and my Parlor Club paper, I wrote an article that was recently in Traces of Indiana History magazine published by the Indiana Historical Society. From there, my Stein mission continued to snowball, and I used my source documents to apply for an Indiana State Historical Marker. A few weeks ago, the Indiana Historical Bureau approved the marker to be placed at Stein’s former home at 708 Hitt St. in 2023.
Ball Mansion tour: “A look inside the historic Ball home on Ninth Street Hill”
Question: Before we get too much further, who was Evaleen Stein? And what makes her life and her role here worth marking in Lafayette?
Angie Klink: From 1897 to 1923 Stein published 300 poems, many about flora and fauna, 13 children’s novels and three books of poetry. She translated books written in Italian and Japanese. Children continue to read Gabriel and the Hour Book (1906), The Little Shepherd of Provence (1910), Our Little Celtic Cousin of Long Ago (1913), Child Songs of Cheer (1918) and 1914 book The Christmas Porringer. All boast numerous five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Today, Stein’s books are in the public domain and are available in print or eBook format through various publishers, including Yesterday’s Classics. Children can hear her poems read on YouTube.
Stein was also an illuminator, an artist who decorated book pages with intricate borders. Her illuminations were exhibited by the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, and one, titled “The Twenty-Third Psalm,” earned an honorable mention at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Stein’s mother, Virginia, director of Lafayette’s public library, hung the illumination on a library wall. Today, it graces the Swezey Room of Indiana History at the Tippecanoe County Public Library, along with a floral watercolor by Stein.
Stein promoted Royal Brand Baking Flour with her amusing poem “A Ballade of Sad Biscuits.” She helped sell Liberty Bonds with her opus “The Thrift Stamp Speaks” and produced commercial decorative art for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
She wrote a Purdue hymn and a centennial ode for the Battle of Tippecanoe. In 1916 she appeared at Purdue to read her 14-page ode titled “To Indiana, on the One Hundredth Anniversary as a State.” The Purdue Exponent reported, “Coming as it does, from one of Indiana’s favorite writers, the leading poetess of the Hoosier state, and a daughter of the late John A. Stein, who was an intimate friend of John Purdue, founder of Purdue University, it is especially appropriate for the occasion.”
Question: The Little House of Dreams – where does that name come from?
Angie Klink: Evaleen and her mother, Virginia, built their house after Evaleen’s father, John, and brother Orth died. John was a senator who influenced the establishment of Purdue in Tippecanoe County and is considered to be second only to John Purdue as the father of the university. Orth was a journalist who brought public shame to the family.
The house was a fresh start for Stein and her mother to recreate their lives after loss and embarrassment. She cultivated a lovely side garden, and her writing desk sat near the fireplace where above the mantel she painted this poem:
“Peace and Joy come sit beside
“This our hearth and here abide!
“Share our firelight’s rosy gleams
“Bless our ‘Little House of Dreams.’”
Question: How hard was it to get a marker for the house?
Angie Klink: The eight-page application required a detailed explanation of why Stein should have a marker, photos of where it could be placed, proposed text for the plaque and letters of support. Each fact I stated about Stein required source citations, and those sources were checked by the Indiana Historical Bureau. It took time and perseverance. Indiana Historical Bureau stated that this round of applications was one of the most competitive they have had. Stein’s marker is one of 16 that will be installed in Indiana in 2023.
Question: What other context should we know?
Angie Klink: The Stein family spent summer vacations along the Kankakee River near Riverside, Indiana, with prominent Lafayette citizens. Judge Cyrus Ball (of Lafayette’s Ball Mansion) owned the land. The Stein campsite was dubbed, “Camp Evaleen.” Stein painted many watercolors depicting the camp that are now preserved by the Ball family and Tippecanoe County Historical Association.
For more than a decade after her passing, Stein was remembered annually on her birthday by the Lafayette Teachers’ Federation. A memorial wreath was placed on her grave at Greenbush Cemetery, and school programs featured children reading and singing her poems.
Stein melded the delicate pleasures of nature with a humble and private writer’s life. Perhaps her proclivity toward solitude – and the fact that she was a woman – is the reason she has been overlooked in the history books as a great American writer. A reviewer said, “There is something particularly exquisite in Evaleen Stein’s storytelling — that indefinable quality of simplicity which is perfection.”
The total cost of the marker is $3,300 to be paid by the applicant. I applied for a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and received $1,000 to help with funding. I am now seeking donations for the balance of $2,300.
The Evaleen Stein Indiana Historical Marker will be dedicated at a public ceremony in 2023, 160 years after her birth and 100 years after her death.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Donations to help erect a marker at Evaleen Stein’s “Little House of Dreams” may be sent to the Community Foundation of Greater Lafayette, 300 Main St., Suite 100, Lafayette, IN 47901. Or online, go to the Community Foundation of Greater Lafayette site and click on “Donate.” Designate donations to the Evaleen Stein Marker Fund.
THANKS FOR SUPPORTING INDEPENDENT, LOCAL REPORTING.