Aldo Leopold was born in his grandparents house at 101 Clay St. His mother, Clara Starker, had married Carl Leopold and they moved in with her parents in the big house. After the first three children were born, "Opa" Starker decided he needed a little quiet time and asked daughter Clara if she would like a house built in the cow pasture? This house became 111 Clay St., and the Leopold family lived there from about 1890 until the grandparents died in 1900. Now with a fourth child in the family, (Aldo, Marie, Carl and Frederic) the new house was beginning to show its limits, so the Leopold's moved back into 101 Clay St. Marie Lord, Aldo's sister, resided in 101 Clay until about 1983. 111 Clay stayed in the family as brother Frederic's home until his passing in 1989.
The Starker grandparents referred to the home compound in German as "Lug-ins-Land", roughly translated as "looking to the land," In 1912 daughter Clara Starker Leopold wrote home to her husband, Carl, while visiting Aldo in the Southwest. Toward the end of the exciting trip, she wrote,
" I don't see just how I can catch my breath until once more at Lug-ins-Land."
The grounds immediately surrounding the houses and along the bluffline are a part of the original naturalistic development by Charles Starker in the 1870's. The properties were eventually divided into distinct ownerships, but the lawn areas have remained open with many mature trees.
The 1894 local newspaper called the grounds a bird's paradise", saying that this was an 'effort to preserve some of the gifts of nature. Birds that were daily visitors in the long ago, and now but rarely seen, are found nesting on this idyllic spot."
The Leopold grounds, neighboring bluffs & ravines and river edges were the settings of AIdo's earliest discoveries in nature. Grandparents and parents helped stimulate the children's imagination by connecting the humanities to nature - using art, music, literature, gardening and practical agriculture as ways to help understand their environment.
"Very few people realize that the embryonic seeds of ecosystem management that we know today began when the love of wild things was imprinted in the mind of the young Aldo Leopold at his home on the bluffs above the Mississippi. A unique and fleeting opportunity exists to acquire the homes where Aldo grew up, and to turn them into a retreat area to advance the study of the inter-relationships between humans and their wildlife legacy." -- Edward Whitmore, Retired, Acting Deputy Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service and Leopold Landscape Alliance Advisor.
The Leopold Houses and grounds were awarded National Register of Historic Places status in 1983. It was the first National Register nomination in Iowa with a conservation theme.
The Rev. Dr. Richard Thomas, Chair of the Cornell College History Department and State National Register Review Board Member, said at the time,
"Burlington is so fortunate to have the home place of this giant in conservation history."
The Houses will serve as the local centerpiece for interpreting the Leopold family legacy. The Alliance has purchased the Leopold Boyhood Home and is raising funds to purchase the Leopold Birthplace next door to serve as a hub of interest that can further conservation projects in Leopold's home ground of Iowa and Illinois. Conservationists from across the country recognize the significance of Leopold's Burlington roots and are enthusiastic about the project.
The Starker-Leopold values evident at the family compound give conservationists and environmental historians a direct connection with the beginnings of the new conservation era Leopold helped develop in the early 20th century. Buying the Leopold boyhood homes is the first step toward larger landscape scale conservation projects.