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Laura Bush dedicates Porter home as literary landmark

Date of release: 06/13/02

KYLE, Texas (June 13, 2002) – Laura Bush today helped dedicate the childhood home in Kyle, Texas, of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Katherine Anne Porter as a National Literary Landmark as designated by the Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA) and the Library of Congress.

The Porter home is owned by Preservation Associates Inc. of Kyle and leased to Southwest Texas State University, which operates the building as a museum dedicated to the author, as well as a writing center and home for writers-in-residence at the university.

Mrs. Bush is well known as an advocate of literary causes. She participated in the ceremony along with SWT President Jerome Supple, Gail Bialas of the Texas Center for the Book, National Book Award winner Tim O’Brien, and Meredith Baker O’Brien, who read from Porter’s work. Laura Bush and Bill Johnson unveiled the landmark plaque on behalf of the Katherine Anne Porter board.

“This is a special day for fans of the great American author Katherine Anne Porter,” said Mrs. Bush. “With this landmark designation, we honor the legacy of a native Texan who enhanced the landscape of American literature and inspired readers and writers alike.”

Supple thanked Mrs. Bush for her participation in the dedication and said that her presence reinforced Porter’s important place in American literature.

“Southwest Texas is pleased to have had a part in saving this landmark from destruction,” said Supple. “This house helped to shape a little girl with dreams into one of this nation’s greatest prose writers and possibly its greatest short story writer. It is fitting that we honor her in this way and inspire future writers through their contact with a part of her.”

The small frame home on Kyle’s Center Street has been the subject of significant restoration and landscaping projects in recent years. Tom Grimes, director of SWT’s master of fine arts program in creative writing, was one of many individuals involved in the home’s preservation.

“Katherine Anne Porter lived in the home for 10 years during her childhood, and it influenced her early work enormously,” said Grimes.

Porter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter and is also well known for her only novel, Ship of Fools.

In addition to its use as a museum and a home for writers-in-residence, Grimes said the university also uses the house for tours, programs for school children, and readings and talks by visiting writers. Such presentations have been made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx and U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Haas. The house will host a new creative writing program for children this summer, sponsored by the Burdine Johnson Foundation, which made the historical renovation of the house possible.

The Literary Landmarks Association was founded in 1986 by former FOLUSA president Frederick G. Ruffner to encourage the dedication of historic literary sites. Dedications have included homes of famous writers (Tennessee Williams, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and William Faulkner, for example), libraries and museum collections, literary scenes (such as John’s Grill in San Francisco, immortalized by Dashiell Hammett), and even “Grip” the Raven, formerly the pet of Charles Dickens and inspiration to Edgar Allen Poe, which now presides – stuffed – at the Rare Books Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The only other National Literary Landmark in Texas is the O. Henry home in Austin.

City of Dallas Director of Libraries Ramiro Salazar, Mrs. Laura Bush and Bill Johnson of the Katerhine Anne Porter House restoration committee, unveil a plaque Thursday, June 13, designating Porter’s childhood home in Kyle as a National Literary Landmark by Friends of Libraries USA.