Friday, August 22, 2008

The Pearl S. Buck House

I visited Pearl S. Buck's big stone farmhouse in Perkasie, PA, last weekend. Pearl Buck was an amazing woman most famous for authoring The Good Earth. This was only one of many books and other writings that earned her the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes. the house, although large, seems humble by today's standards. Her treasure room with the Nobel Prize for Literature displayed prominently among her many other awards, keys to cities, and academic hoods from her honorary doctorates, seems plain but elegant.

Pearl Buck was never a fancy lady. She spent most of her childhood and pre-college years in china with her missionary parents during a time when that country was in upheaval and treated foreigners poorly. She returned to the US for college and then again with her husband when they realized her daughter was going to need lifelong medical care. In the end, she lived 40 years in China and 40 in the US.

She bought the farm, Green Hills Farm in Perkasie, in 1935. At the time, she had two children, but she and her second husband went on to adopt seven more. With her Bucks County neighbors Oscar Hammerstein, James Michener, and David and Lois Burpee (seeds), she created an organization that specialized in adoption for bi-racial kids, and another organization to aid children in need in their own countires. Today those two organizations have merged and still thrive. Pearl S. Buck International now exists in a new building adjacent to the farmhouse.

The farmhouse tour started in the big kitchen and brought us through the dining room, living room (where the Dalai Lama once sat!), upstairs to her bedroom and treasure room, and back downstairs through the library, Pearl's offices, and her husband's office. Along the way we saw some of her 8,000 books, the Good Earth Desk, and the gown she wore to the Nobel prize ceremony. The house is just as she would have left it, except for the gardens which are tended by Pearl's daughter, Janice, now in her 80s!

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