The resident of a small Fox Island cabin in the early part of the 20th century eventually caused reverberations the world over. Her presence can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Julliard School, the New York Public Library and the gardens of Giverny at Monet’s home in France.
Her legacy can especially be seen on grocery store check-out stands all over the world.
Lila Acheson Wallace, who moved to Fox Island in 1908 with her family, went on to found Reader’s Digest, which evolved into a small media empire. Her family cabin was moved to the grounds of the Fox Island Museum and Historical Society — with Wallace’s financial help — in 1977.
Wallace wrote to the historical society: “It’s very gracious of (the society) to want to move the log cabin which evokes so many happy memories for me and restore it to its original state. It’s a project which appeals to me very much.”
Now in 2015, the cabin has gone into disrepair. When the chain that warns potential visitors away is unlocked, the front steps creak. The cabin is dark and musty inside, but still well-constructed.
“We have bugs and rodents and what have you,” said Karen Kretschmer, fundraising chairwoman for the cabin restoration project.
There’s something about the cabin, despite the issues inside. It is still intact and looks much as it did in 1908. The museum added period furniture when it was open years ago, so there’s an old tub and a dining table inside.
“(The cabin) represents a more authentic view into history because it’s so intact,” Kretschmer said.
The list of needed upkeep includes replacing some logs, the deck skirting and some floorboards. Kretschmer said another goal is to make the cabin compliant with the Americans with Disabilities ACT. The roof needs to be cleaned, vegetation needs to be pruned, and a broken window needs replacing.
While many cabins in the state are largely replicas, Kretschmer said, Wallace’s is preserved. The Fox Island Museum is hoping to restore it to its former incarnation and get it on the state’s list of historic places.
The historical society is in the middle of preparing grant applications to restore the cabin, but everything hangs on the historic registry decision.
“Right now we’re a little bit in limbo,” she said. “As soon as we hear from (the registry) ... that’s when we go out to bid.”