Rich with historic colonial homes, a snug down town with charming shops and brick sidewalks, all under a canopy of oak trees in full autumn bloom, Concord, Massachusetts is what people envision when they think of New England. But I wasn't there for architecture, history, or shopping. I was there to visit Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women.
Because almost 80 percent of the furnishings are original to the time period when the Alcotts made their home there, visiting Orchard House was like walking through the pages of the beloved book. One highlight of the tour was seeing the desk in the bedroom at which Louisa wrote Little Women. According to the very informative tour guide, the fact that Louisa had her own desk was radical for its time. Writing was considered an unsuitable job for a woman, yet Bronson Alcott built his daughter's desk himself. It was a smart move. The family was a breath away from poverty when Louisa's book was published and saved the family from financial ruin.
Louisa May Alcott was many things in addition to being a successful author. She was also a Civil War nurse, devoted daughter and sister, traveler, and a bit of a curmudgeon. When besotted fans knocked on the door of Orchard House to meet the beloved author, she'd often pretend to be the maid or gardener in order to avoid talking to them.
I admire many things about Alcott's writing, despite the occasional sentimentality. She was brilliant at characterization. Look at the quotes from the Little Women Garden at Orchard House (above). Reading what Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy planted in their own patch of garden is such an open window into their personalities.
She took chances with her writing and experimented with different styles, including several gothic romances - Pauline's Passion and Punishment, Long, Fatal Love Chase and The Abbott's Ghost. Her work ethic continues to inspire new generations of writers. I added a stop at her grave at Author's Ridge in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to my itinerary and followed the tradition of leaving a pencil in tribute.
Have you visited any author's homes?
Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series and, as Meri Allen, the new Ice Cream Shop Mystery series. Her latest book is MINT CHOCOLATE MURDER.
I love visiting historic homes, and I love visiting sites associated with authors and books. This is a great combination of both!
I recently visited Green Gables, the house associated with Anne.
I've never visited the Alcott home, nor Green Gables. Both are on my list.
I have, however, visited Eudora Welty's home in Jackson, MS (the tour guides called her "Eudora") and Faulkner's home in Oxford MS. Fascinating and different kinds of "homey" in each.
Hi KM, Anne's house is on my list, too. I also love visiting historic houses. One of my friends has visited every US president's home, and that's another bucket list item.
Hi Margaret, You'd love the Alcott home, and Concord. Hawthorne and Thoreau lived there, too - actually they all (including the Alcotts) socialized together.
I did a tour of the Concord, Walden Pond homes and places. Loved it.
I so wanted to be Jo! I was tempted to crawl through your photo and into the attic window.
Been to lots of author's homes, William Carlos Williams practiced medicine (from his house) in my town, his son had taken over the practice by the time I was old enough to know who he was. His dad would sit in his back garden on nice days and write in longhand with a fountain pen. He always had time for children and their questions. I still associate flowing ink pens with authors. Allan Ginsburg lived down the street from a good friend, and Bob Considine was my brother's first father-in-law. I liked the house in Allenhurst best, it had a sauna. Bob would set up several typewriters around the house and go from one to the other typing books, stories, and his column, often while hosting a party. He never missed a deadline from what I was told, and he was a great host. My mom took me to Washington Irving's house and a bunch more. I have not been to the Alcott home. It's on my bucket list!
Hi Susan, I remember swimming in Walden pond long before I realized it was the Walden Pond of Thoreau’s book!
Hi Kait, you have definitely got to do a blog about your author sites! I am so intrigued, especially by your memories of William Carlos Williams And his ink pen! What a wonderful memories!
Shari, I think it’s great fun to visit the homes of authors and imagine them living and working there. I always come away inspired to write. I’m lucky to live in Connecticut where Mark Twain, Harriette Beecher Stowe, William Gillette, Edith Wharton, and many others lived within driving distance. Another favorite is Hemingway’s home in Key West.
Hi Ang, Oh how I love Gillette Castle! Wouldn't that be a great field trip for Sisters in Crime?
Yes, I've been to a ton of author houses over the years. Alcott's is one of the better. Green Gables was also fun. My most recent was Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables in Salem, MA.
Nice post, Shari! I love visiting writer's houses. I've been to James Thurber's, Beatrix Potter's, and the two Williams' houses - Wordsworth and Shakespeare.
I like visiting museums dedicated to writers, too. I've been to the Writers Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland (very cool), and a wonderful museum dedicated to John Steinbeck in Salinas, California. On my wish list to visit - the American Writers Museum in Chicago, Eudora Welty's house, the Anne of Green Gables site, Mark Twain's house, and so many more that I feel greedy.
Just got back from a trip on which we visited Green Gables (from "Anne of..." Our reserved bus tour was cancelled, due to hurricane damage on the island, which closed some roads, but we were able to hire a taxi cab for a few hours to make the trip.
I’ve visited Mark Twain’s Connecticut home, right across from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, which we also toured. I’ve also seen Anne Rice’s house in New Orleans, though it wasn’t open to the public. It’s inspiring to see these homes and to realize these were real, regular people!
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