Friday, October 24, 2014

From Little House on the Prairie, to Big House-on the Prairie!

George Norlin, from Kansas to Colorado.

"A philosopher of ancient times once dared the paradox that the greatest good fortune lies, not in having the most possessions, but in having the fewest wants."

George Norlin, President, University of Colorado from 1919 - 1940


          Laura Ingalls Wilder got the credit for her recollections of a childhood in the Midwestern woods and northern prairie, but one suspects that if she (or her daughter) hadn't written them down, we would have a backup account from George Norlin.

His Swedish parents arrived in the United States in 1869, and two years later he was born in a little cabin about 100 miles northwest of Junction City, Kansas, near today's Concordia. Later in life he remembered the storms, locusts, floods, beautiful days, festivals and everything else that accompanied that challenging life.  He remembered the little schoolhouse, a mile and a half from his home, to which he was thrilled to go every day classes were held.  Hastings, in Nebraska, was not far to the north, and after college there, he went to the University of Chicago for a degree in Classics.  He started teaching Greek and related classical studies at the University of Colorado in 1899, and in 1901 went to Europe and the U.K. on his first sabbatical.  This was providential, because he met Minnie, his future wife, at the Sorbonne.  They were married in June 1904, and what is even more providential is this:  Minnie was the niece of John Covert, the American Consul at Lyons.  And he owned the house on the right, at 907 12th Street!  So when George and Minnie came back to Boulder, they had nice new digs in a recently built (1885) big house on the prairie.  And it was on the prairie!  If you look at contemporary photos, you see hardly any trees; just prairie grassland, which in many areas persisted for a few more decades. In 1917 George was called to be an interim president, standing in for President Farrand, who had gone to oversee the Red Cross effort in France (Farrand went on to take the presidency at Cornell University in 1919, so Norlin lost his "interim" status, and he and Minnie moved into the President's residence on campus.  Minnie had bought the 12th St. house in 1914, so in 1919 she sold it.

The house has had few owners; five from the Coverts through the current one, and is in excellent condition.  It is for sale now, and if you would like a tour feel free to give me a call!

I am not the listing agent, but he will be delighted if I bring a buyer.

In a future posting I will discuss Norlin's collection of essays and addresses, Things in the Saddle. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940. 

All the best,

Jim Broaddus  303-819-8895

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