According to their website: "A guided tour of Orchard House introduces visitors both to objects which were important to the family and to the family members themselves: Amos Bronson Alcott ("Mr. March" in Little Women), a teacher and Transcendental philosopher; Abigail May Alcott ("Marmee" in Little Women), an independent-minded 19th century woman who was one of the first paid social workers in Massachusetts; Anna Alcott Pratt ("Meg" in Little Women), who had a flair for acting; Louisa May Alcott ("Jo" in Little Women), well-known author and advocate for social reform; Elizabeth Sewall Alcott ("Beth" in Little Women), the "Angel in the House" who died shortly before the family moved to Orchard House; and May Alcott Nieriker, ("Amy" in Little Women), a very talented artist.
That settles it, I'm going to have to go back when I have time to actually tour the house! Luckily for me the house is open even during the winter months so I'm sure that at some point I'll be able to combine a visit to see Amanda with a tour of Orchard House. After all, it's been said that Amanda and Louisa May look somewhat alike!
Even though Little Women was based around the Alcott family, the setting wasn't the Orchard House but a home they referred to as "Hillside" when they lived in it from 1845 to 1852. As it turns out, Hillside, which is now known as The Wayside, is a short walk from Orchard House on the same historic road to Lexington.
Before purchasing the only home that he would ever actually own, the acclaimed author of The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, and Twice-Told Tales, had lived in The Old Manse in Concord with his wife, Sophia, shortly after they were married and then at a rented home in Lenox, Massachusetts. The house that he and Sophia would be moving into along with their three young children, Una, Julian, and Rose was only about two miles away from where they began their married life together.
|The Old Manse|
While the Hawthornes were in Europe after Nathaniel was appointed United States counsel at Liverpool, the house was leased and rented to members of their family, including Sophia's sister, Mary Peabody (Mrs.Horace) Mann. Upon their return, Hawthorne spent the last four years of his life in the house with his family from 1860-1864.
Following several other sales of the home, in 1883 it was bought by Boston publisher Daniel Lothrop and his wife, Harriett, who wrote The Five Little Peppers (another of my favorite childhood books) and other children's books under her pen name Margaret Sidney. The Lothrops greatly admired Hawthorne's writing and wanted to make as few changes as possible to his only home and they even bought some of the Hawthorne's old furniture to put back in the house. After Margaret Sidney's death in 1924, the home was inherited by her daughter, aslo named Margaret, who opened the home to the public in 1927.
In 1963 the house was designated a National Historic Landmark and stayed in the family until 1965 when Margaret Sidney donated it to be part of Minute Man National Historical Park as the very first literary site to be acquired by the National Park Service. After extensive restoration, the house was opened to the public in 1971 and in 1985 it was designated a National Historic Landmark for the second time. Just why it was designated that twice I'm not sure but I'll have to find out if/when I get the chance to tour the house.
Again having a brain of total Swiss cheese, I completely neglected to get any pictures of Ralph Waldo Emerson's home which was just about a half mile up the road from Orchard House and The Wayside but I guess that just gives me yet another reason to get myself back up to Concord at some point. I did, however, remember that the cemetery where Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Alcott are all buried was close by so it was then off to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and Author's Ridge.
Not to be confused with the cemetery of the same name in Tarrytown, New York, Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was dedicated on September 29th, 1855 in a ceremony wherein Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a speech. With that, I guess it's only right that he was buried there after his death in 1882. The land itself had been known as Sleepy Hollow for a good twenty years before it became a cemetery and it was left pretty much as is rather than becoming more park-like as a lot of cemeteries are.
On a northwest hill overlooking the cemetery is Author's Ridge where, after a short climb, one can find the graves of Concord's famous authors, thinkers, and members of the Transcendentalist movement. The graves are very modest as are the tributes that people leave there - mostly pine cones and a few other tokens to show that they were there and paid their respects.
|Individual grave markers of Hawthorne, Thoreau, LM Alcott, and the plague on Emerson's grave which reads|
"The passive master lent his hand, To the vast Soul which o'er him planned."
|The Thoreau Family Gravestone|
|The Hawthorne Family Gravesite|
|The Alcott Family Gravestone|
|Gravestones of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his wife, Lidian|