James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home - Atlas Obscura

James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home

Greenfield, Indiana

Take a glimpse into a pioneer-era homestead at the birthplace and home of Indiana's "Children's Poet." 


James Whitcomb Riley, the acclaimed “Hoosier Poet,” wrote approximately  1000 works of dialect and children’s poems over his lifetime—most famously creating the source material for the Little Orphan Annie media franchise.

Riley was born in 1849 in the town of Greenfield, Indiana, the third child of state politician Reuben Riley and his wife Elizabeth. The earliest days of his childhood were spent at the nearby Brandywine Creek, later referenced in his poems “The Old Swimming Hole” and “A Barefoot Boy.” His mother often read him poems and fairy tales. It was with her help that the young James and his friends would write and perform plays around town for the public under the troupe name the Adelphians.

Rising to fame during the late 19th century, Riley became a bestselling author, a major figure in the Golden Age of Indiana Literature, and a namesake for several local institutions such as the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children. The James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum provides an opportunity to view this period of the poet’s life through both family keepsakes and notable objects from later in Riley’s career.

Know Before You Go

The Riley Birthplace and Museum of Greenfield, IN, is the birthplace, childhood residence, and familial estate of James Whitcomb Riley.

It should not be confused with The Riley Museum Home— located in the Lockerbie Square Historic District of Indianapolis— that Riley inhabited during the last two decades of his life.

Despite covering different periods of one man's life, the two museums are owned and operated by entirely separate entities. Make sure you have the correct hours of operation, admission prices, and/or contact details for the museum you are intending to visit.

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December 12, 2023

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