Cole Porter, one of the most urbane members of the great American songbook writers, was born and spent the first 10 years of his life in the American Midwest, in this Victorian home in Peru (pronounced “PEA-roo”), Indiana.
Porter was born in 1891 to one of the wealthiest families in the state, the grandson of J. O. Porter, a coal and timber magnate. The elder Porter intended for his young grandson to become a lawyer, and sent him east to attend the Worcester Academy and later Yale University. At both schools, the young Porter found that he enjoyed playing piano and escaping overnight to New York with his companions rather than studying.
He defied his grandfather’s wishes, did not become a lawyer, and instead went on to become one of the iconic American composers. He left behind works like Kiss Me Kate and Anything Goes as part of his lasting musical legacy, the soundtrack to the 1920s and ’30s.
Cole Porter’s musical career undoubtedly began in Peru. After mastering piano and violin before the age of eight, Porter’s mother helped him to write his first operetta. His father was a poet, and it’s believed he influenced Cole’s unique rhyming ability. Additionally, the town was not only a farming community but also a winter home for traveling circuses, the whimsical nature of which may have informed Porter’s sensibilities.
Though Porter rarely returned to the Midwest, preferring instead to reside in New York, California, Venice, and Paris, he kept it with him wherever he went. The songwriter was said to have ordered Arnold’s Fudge from his hometown shipped to wherever he was in the world. When his wife, Linda Lee Thomas, died in 1954 Porter had her buried next to his mother in Peru’s Mount Hope Cemetery. He joined them there after his death in 1964.
As for his stately childhood manor, it was first divided into apartments after the Porters moved into finer lodging. Over the decades the building fell into disrepair, and was discovered to be housing a meth lab. The Ole Olsen Memorial Theater purchased the building in 2004, and the building has been restored to its former glory as he Cole Porter Inn. Guests can relax in the rooms where the young musical genius got his start.