Welcome to Pansy’s House

Isabella Macdonald Alden was born the youngest child in a loving, and very tight-knit family.

She and her sisters were especially close, even though there was a vast difference in their ages.

For example, Isabella celebrated her first birthday the same year her eldest sister, Elizabeth, married and moved into a home of her own. But since Elizabeth’s new house was only a few steps from the Macdonald’s front door, Isabella and Elizabeth shared a close relationship.

The same was true of Mary, who was 14 years older than Isabella. When Mary wed and set up housekeeping, her home was built on property that abutted the Macdonald’s back garden. As a result, Isabella spent a lot of time with Mary and they, too, had a special bond.

Isabella’s sister, Mary Macdonald Williamson (age 87) with two of Isabella’s grandchildren in Palo Alto, California (1914).

It’s no wonder, then, that when Isabella married and began keeping a house of her own, she made certain the door was always open to family members. She wanted her sisters to feel the same welcoming spirit in her house as she had always felt in theirs.

When her son Raymond was young, Isabella and her husband Ross began taking him to Florida, hoping the southern climate would benefit Raymond’s health. To their relief, Raymond’s health did improve, so the Aldens decided to make Florida their winter home.

The Aldens and the Livingstons in Florida. Front row left to right: Julia Macdonald (in white blouse), unidentified man, Margaret Hill, Ruth Hill, Grace Livingston Hill and her husband, Frank Hill. Second row (in light-colored dress) Marcia Macdonald Livingston and her husband Charles Livingston. Back row, third from left: Isabella Macdonald Alden, Raymond Alden, Ross Alden.

They bought a plot of land in the new town of Winter Park, and began building a house that would be big enough to accommodate plenty of family members.

Interlachen Avenue in the 1890s. Bicycles appear to be a favorite mode of transportation.

They built on an oversized lot on the corner of Lyman and Interlachen avenues, right across the street from All Saints Episcopal Church.

An 1888 photo of All Saints Episcopal Church. You can see the front half of Isabella’s new house peeking from the left side of the church.

The house was completed in 1888. Ross dubbed it “Pansy Cottage,” a name that stuck and was soon known all over town. This photo shows the size of the “cottage”:

The inviting home was three stories tall, with large yards in front and back, and a wrap-around porch that invited family, friends and neighbors to sit down and enjoy a cozy chat. It was the perfect place for the family to gather, far away from the cold New York winters.

In this photo you can see family members on the front steps and porch, in the yard, and even peeking out of the top-most windows. They look like they’re having fun!

Isabella and her family members spent many happy winters at the Pansy Cottage; and the Florida climate did improve Raymond’s health.

A side view of Pansy Cottage, with children riding their bicycles.

In 1906 Ross and Isabella began their preparations for retirement. They sold Pansy Cottage and moved to their new house in Palo Alto, California where, once again, everyone was welcome in Isabella’s new home.

In fact, she and Ross shared the California house with their son Raymond, and his wife and children, as well as Isabella’s sisters Julia and Mary.

Julia Macdonald (about 1875).

After Ross and Isabella sold Pansy Cottage, it was passed along to different owners. Eventually, it was turned into a rooming house; and in 1955 Pansy Cottage was demolished. But thanks to photos like these, we can still peek into Isabella’s world and imagine a bit of her life with those she loved in turn-of-the-century Florida.

Click here to read more about Isabella’s house in Palo Alto, California.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 28.

30 thoughts on “Welcome to Pansy’s House

    1. I believe Helen Lester was published in January 1865. Here’s why: My copy of the book has an 1865 copyright date. Then, I found an article in the Prebyter (a Cincinnati newspaper) dated January 18, 1865, which states Helen Lester was “just published.” Here’s a link to that newspaper clipping. I hope that helps, but let me now if you have any more questions. I wish you much success with your book! —Jenny

  1. Oh, I wish I could go visit that house! Imagine getting invited to spend a few weeks with Isabella Alden in that house! And it’s fun to realize that her stories set in Florida, or at least far south, were taken from personal experience.

  2. I, too, would have loved to see the family homes! I enjoyed the family picture…my Mother loved Grace Livingston Hill books!! Thank you so much!

    1. Huh, I didn’t know Grace Livingston Hill wrote more than two books. Did she write more than romance? *hopes she did*

      1. Grace wrote over one-hundred romance novels. She also wrote short stories, as well as a non-fiction book about the origins of The Salvation Army. For many years she wrote a syndicated newspaper column with Bible lessons for Christian Endeavorers (I could be off on that description; I read the compilation of her columns many years ago). Like her Aunt Isabella, Grace was a very busy writer!

      2. Oh, so she was a romance writer, I see.
        WAIT WHAT???? THEY WERE RELATED??? I just thought their writing styles were similar, I had no clue. O_O

      3. I had no idea, oh wow! *is mindblown* I thought they were contemporaries, but not actually related. Wow. I’d gotten some of Grace’s books from a friend, which is how I knew her. Never considered they were related.
        woahh…

      4. I will, thanks! I’m going to really read Alden too, I had no clue at all. 😀

  3. An amazing cottage! Family is so important. We don’t see nearly enough of ours like we used to! It’s also interesting that Isabella moved from one side of the country to the other. I did not realize she lived in the California Bay Area, just a few hours drive from where I live. 🙂

    1. Her house in Palo Alto is still standing, Shannon. The last time I saw it, it looked a little run down; I hope someone is taking good care of it now, and making wonderful family memories of their own. —Jenny

  4. I woulda liked to seen that house in real life, I wonder if it’s recognized as a historical site, the way Louisa May Alcott’s was?

  5. I continue to love to read about Isabella’s life and how it influenced her stories. We need more family time in this day and age; An opportunity for our children/grandchildren to feel connected and loved.

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