When you think about Cole Porter — the dapper American composer and lyricist recognized for his sophistication and worldly élan — it’s easy to forget that he hails from the Midwest. Cole Porter’s somewhat modest childhood home in Peru, Indiana, is now a cozy Victorian inn painted a pale yellow hue.
If you want to, you can sleep in the room upstairs where he was born June 9, 1891, and check out the downstairs sun porch where he launched his musical career as an elementary school student, charging his audience a penny for a performance.
There are three rooms available in the Cole Porter Inn — “Anything Goes” (named for the 1934 musical), “Night and Day” (from 1932), and the Cole Porter Suite, where I stayed. Marlin and Jill Ash, the new owners (a local couple, they bought it just a few of months ago) are planning to open a fourth option later this year, converting “Kate’s Parlor” from an event space into an extended stay suite.
The Ashes also own “The Pickers Place”, an antiques store in Peru. That gives them a wide variety of period-perfect furniture and accessories choices for the inn.
The décor in the Cole Porter Suite is predominantly ivory with dark green and cranberry accents. My bedroom had a comfy queen-size bed with ornate iron headboard. Lamps have fringed shades, there are old-fashioned radiators, lace under-curtains, and typical Victorian-style portraits hung on the walls. My favorite space in the suite is the west-facing sun porch (a duplicate of the one downstairs in the parlor).
Each suite has a kitchenette with microwave and refrigerator, private bathroom, sitting room, sun room, “smart” television, and high speed internet service. You can make a reservation for the Cole Porter Inn, 19 South Huntington Street, Peru, Indiana, via the inn’s website. You can also check prices through Trip Advisor.
It’s said Cole got his musical genius from his father, a druggist who played piano, guitar, and sang tenor. His mother, Kate, was the daughter of J.O. Cole, said to be the richest man in Indiana at the turn of the last century. He’d made his fortune during the California Gold Rush, and brought it home to Peru, thriving as a coal and timber speculator.
Cole started writing music in elementary school. The future composer learned both violin and piano in this house, where he lived until he headed off to an Eastern prep school at 14. He wrote some 1500 songs for Broadway productions, movies, and television. Cole died in 1964, and is buried in Peru’s Mount Hope Cemetery.
Stop in to the Miami County Museum in downtown Peru to see a curated stash of Cole Porter memorabilia, including his elegant black 1955 Cadillac.
The town celebrates its favorite son with an annual festival centered on his life and music. This year’s event is June 6 through 9, 2019.
(Photos by Susan McKee, who was the guest of the Cole Porter Inn and the Miami County Tourism Office)