nhs-longfellow-house

Where better to read Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” than in the setting that inspired the author to put pen to paper. Or stand in the cozy study in the house (pictured above) where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow conjured “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Song of Hiawatha.” Whether it’s to learn about a slice of American history, gain insight into the artistic process, or simply to appreciate the power and beauty of great verse, here are eight places to celebrate American poets (along with a few bonus literary locales).

Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts
During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson penned some 1,800 poems spanning a wide range of subjects, from spirituality and nature to art and medicine, among them “Because I could not stop for death” and “Success is counted sweetest.” Only a few of her poems were published during her lifetime, while others she shared with family and friends. Much of Dickinson’s verse was penned in secret, recorded in small, handmade booklets discovered after her death. Along with guided tours of two Dickinson family homes, visitors can stroll the grounds where the green-thumbed poet once gardened in her signature white dress (a replica of which is on display in her bedroom). Open March through December.

Robert Frost Farm, Derry, New Hampshire
“To a large extent, the terrain of my poetry is the Derry land­scape,” Robert Frost told a friend. “There was something about the experience at Derry which stayed in my mind, and was tapped for poetry in the years that came after.” Visitors can tour the white clapboard farmhouse, a gift to the newly wed Frost from his grandfather at the turn of the 19th century, where he penned verse late at night in the kitchen cozied up to a wood stove. While hiking a nature trail on the property, keep an out for two particularly notable sites: the stone-wall boundaries evoked in Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” and the stream he immortalized in “Hyla Brook.” Open May through October.

Following Frost: The poet is also commemorated at Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, a farm with views of the White Mountains, where he settled after returning from a stint living in Europe. In Shaftsbury, Vermont, is the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, a hilltop cottage where resided for nearly a decade, and in nearby Ripton is the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, a one-mile wooded hiking loop annotated with excerpts from his poetry.

Langston Hughes House, New York City
Nicknamed “the poet laureate of Harlem,” Langston Hughes lived his last two decades in the northern Manhattan neighborhood that inspired his writing. He resided in a brownstone at 20 E. 127th Street, now a city landmark, where he wrote the jazz-influenced Montage of a Dream Deferred and other works. The building is also home to the I, Too, Arts Collective, a nonprofit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. On display are Hughes’ typewriter and a piano that belonged to his family. Open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons.

Longfellow House, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Plenty of famous figures have crossed the threshold at this yellow-hued house in Cambridge (pictured in the photo above). Before it was home to 19th-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it was General George Washington’s headquarters during the Siege of Boston in 1775–76. Charles Dickens once came to call here on Longfellow, along with scores of other writers, artists, and politicians. The house and its contents remain largely unchanged since the poet’s day. The house is open for tours late May through October; grounds are open year-round.

Looking for Longfellow: Stop by the poet’s family abode, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, in the seaport town of Portland, Maine. Dating from 1786, the neoclassical-style dwell­ing where Longfellow grew up is the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula.

The Poe Museum, Richmond, Virginia
This atmospheric museum has one of the largest collections of Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia, with exhibits housed in four historic buildings surrounding an enclosed garden courtyard. Although he spent much of his life roaming the Eastern seaboard, living in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, Poe thought of himself as a Virginian, having grown up in Richmond with an adoptive family. In the Enchanted Garden, inspired by Poe’s poem “To One in Paradise,” is a shrine to the poet built with bricks and materials from the office of the Southern Literary Messenger, where he worked as an editor. Roaming the garden are two resident black cats, Edgar and Pluto, the latter named after the feline in Poe’s story “The Black Cat.” Open year-round.

More Poe Places: There are three other literary landmarks devoted to Poe, including the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore and the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, where he is believed to have begun writing “The Raven.” He gave the first reading of the dramatic verse in New York City while residing in the Bronx in what is now known as the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage.

Carl Sandburg’s Connemara Farm, Flat Rock, North Carolina
Carl Sandburg moved from the shores of Lake Michigan to a secluded, sprawling farm in North Carolina seeking solitude, space for his large family (not to mention a 15,000-volume book collection), and greener pastures and longer grazing seasons for his wife’s goat-breeding operation—which is still going strong today. Along with house tours, there is a series of hiking trails on the grounds. Visitors can also stop by  the Connemara Farms Goat Dairy to see how it’s run and to interact with the resident animals. Open year-round.

On Sandburg’s Trail: Sandburg hailed from Galesburg, Illinois, born in 1878 to Swedish immigrant parents in a three-room cottage, now the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site.

Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum, Lynchburg, Virginia
A Harlem Renaissance-era poet, civil rights activist, and native Virginian, Anne Spencer lived in this Queen Anne-style house, built by her husband, for more than seven decades beginning in 1903. The purchase of a neighboring lot greatly expanded the size of the garden, where Spencer wrote in a specially constructed, one-room retreat. She was only the second African American poet to have her work included in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. Among the notables Spencer entertained at her Lynchburg home were fellow wordsmiths Langston Hughes and W.E.B. DuBois. The garden is open year-round; house tours are given April through October with two weeks advance notice.

Walt Whitman House, Camden, New Jersey
Whitman’s belated international celebrity as the author of Leaves of Grass allowed the 64-year-old poet to purchase “a little old shanty” in the southern New Jersey town where his brother lived. His final years were spent in this Greek Revival-style row house, where he further refined Leaves of Grass (resulting in the definitive “deathbed edi­tion”). Today, the six-room dwelling contains the death notice that was taped to his door after his passing in 1888, along with many of his letters, personal effects, and furnishings. Open Wednesday through Sunday; phone in advance to confirm hours.

Whitman’s Beginnings: At the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center, a cedar-shingled farmhouse built by Whitman’s father, a Quaker carpenter, observant visitors will spot the flowers featured in “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” which still frame the house’s entrance each spring.