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Historic author houses are among the best places to get a fix of nostalgic holiday cheer. Here are some literary sites where you can enjoy the seasonal festivities:

The Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, comes alive with thousands of lights during “Poe’s Christmas Illumination” on December 1 from 5-9 p.m. Along with free admission, enjoy mulled wine and take a holiday-themed tour with the museum’s curator.

A visit to Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, is like stepping into the pages of Little Women. It’s only fitting then that this year’s December theme is “A Little Women Christmas” since the novel opens during the holiday season. Meet Louisa and other costumed figures and participate in Victorian-era activities and caroling. The program takes place on weekends in December, and advance reservations are strongly recommended.

The Pearl S. Buck House in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, hosts the annual “Festival of Trees,” with 29 artists, organizations, and community groups decorating the author’s home. Not only is the holiday finery lush and imaginative, some of it conveys a message, too, carrying on Buck’s legacy as a social activist. Through December 30.

Step back in time at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, which is adorned in the style of a late-19th-century Christmas. The author’s abode is one of several sites participating in the “Friends of the Mark Twain House & Museum’s Holiday House Tour” on December 3.

In Monterey, California, 22 historic homes are open to visitors during “Christmas in the Adobes,” including rare access to the Lara-Soto Adobe once owned by John Steinbeck. At the Robert Louis Stevenson House—now a museum devoted to the Scottish scribe, who lived for a time in the seaside city—shortbread will be served and bagpipes will be playing. December 8 and 9.

The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, is celebrating the poet’s birthday on December 9 from 1-4 p.m. with homemade coconut made from Dickinson’s own recipe. Admission is free during the event, and a special guided tour, “Christmas with the Dickinsons,” is on offer.

The Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is hosting a Holiday Open House on December 15 and Holiday House Tours on December 16. Along with touring the poet’s lovely home (previously General George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War), take a stroll through the illuminated gardens and listen to Christmas carols.

In a nod to his debut novel Look Homeward, Angel, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, North Carolina, is putting on “An Angel Christmas” on December 16. Festivities include an exhibition of angel wreaths on the doors and angel figurines displayed throughout the historic 29-room home, where Wolfe’s mother once ran a boardinghouse.

In Salem, Massachusetts, the House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s inspiration for his gothic novel), is presenting “Four Centuries of Christmas Tours.” Walks the halls of the seaside mansion that has stood since 1668, as guides share the history of Christmas in New England. Through December 31.

[Photos © Pearl S. Buck International, Poe Museum, and Orchard House.]

 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had quite the life, at least judging by the Cambridge, Massachusetts, home where he lived for 40 years in the 1800s. Marble busts, chandeliers, and oil paintings in gilded frames adorn the house, along with 10,000 books that belonged to the poet.

Among the illustrious visitors to cross the threshold were Charles Dickens, invited for breakfast during his first tour of America, and playwright Oscar Wilde, who said of his host, “Longfellow was himself a beautiful poem.”

The house remains much as it did in Longfellow’s day, now maintained by the National Park Service, and it’s one of the more elegant author homes I’ve seen in my literary travels—more along the lines of Edith Wharton’s The Mount, albeit with a city setting, than the stark residences in Baltimore and New York City where Edgar Allan Poe lived a hardscrabble life. Hardship did find Longfellow here, though, when his wife, Fanny, died after her dress caught fire.

Longfellow wasn’t the only famous figure who lived at 105 Brattle Street. Less than a century before the poet took up residence, the house served as the headquarters of General George Washington during the Siege of Boston in 1775. When strangers knocked, asking to see “Washington’s headquarters,” Longfellow graciously showed them around.

Further north in the seaport town of Portland, Maine, is the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, where the writer lived for the first fourteen years of his life. Three generations of his family resided in the abode, the oldest standing structure on the Portland peninsula. Among the mementos on display is evidence of Longfellow’s wanderlust: a leather traveling trunk he took with him during a European grand tour in the late 1820s. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Some author houses are open seasonally during warmer months. Others greet visitors year-round but often hold special events during the summer and fall. If you have a literary site in your area, check to see what festivities they might be hosting. Here are a few highlights:

Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, MA – Young bibliophiles and their parents can take part in “Family Sundays Art in the Park” from 1 to 4 p.m. on the grounds of Longfellow’s historic Cambridge house (it was once the headquarters of General George Washington during the Siege of Boston in 1775). Activities include painting, drawing, playing 19th century games, and reading Longfellow’s poetry aloud. 

The Mount, Lenox, MA – Every Wednesday at 5 p.m. in July and August at Edith Wharton’s gorgeous mansion in the Berkshires, a live reading of her works takes place on the terrace. If you can’t make it to “Wharton on Wednesdays,” visit The Mount for “Some Enchanted Evenings.” On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in July and August the Terrace Cafe is open from 5 to 8 p.m. After a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres, you can enjoy a stroll through the Mount’s Italianate-style gardens, which were designed by Edith Wharton.

Old Manse, Concord, MA – Once home to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather and home to Nathaniel Hawthorne for a time, this farmhouse has expansive and beautiful grounds that border the Concord River and adjoin Minuteman National Historical Park. On Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. through August 24th it’s the site of a Summer Concert Series. Or embark on the excursion “Paddling Back in Time” (offered several times throughout the summer), a guided trip down the Concord River and a chance to experience the landscape that inspired Emerson, Hawthorne, and fellow Concord resident and naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

The Steinbeck House, Salinas, CA – The house where John Steinbeck grew up is a perfect place for Victorian Tea, served on the following Saturdays: August 9th, September 13th, October 11th, November 8th and December 13th with two seatings each day. In the Victorian-era abode’s elegant ambience you can sample specially blended teas, tea sandwiches, scones, quiche, fruit, and desserts. The extensive Best Cellar gift shop is located on the property, and down the street is the National Stienbeck Center.

Do you have a favorite special event you like to attend at a literary site? If so, please share it in the comments section.

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#WanderlustWednesday A conversation earlier this week with @shapedbystoriesdiane about our literary travel bucket lists has my wanderlust going wild. As much as I dream of making it to a far-flung locale like Guernsey for a tour of Victor Hugo’s house or to Samoa to see Robert Louis Stevenson’s last abode, this year my exploring will be closer to home. A day trip to revisit Washington Irving’s lovely estate, Sunnyside, overlooking the Hudson River in Tarryrown, NY, and hopefully a weekend excursion to the intriguing Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA (finally!). And perhaps a trip to Chicago for the American Writers Museum and Hemingway’s birthplace in nearby Oak Park. What literary locales will you be exploring this year? And if not in person then on the page. #noveldestinations #literarytravel #booksandtravel #travelguide #travelguides #bookstagram #wanderlust #instabooks #igreads #travel @emilydickinson.museum @washingtonirvingsunnyside @americanwritersmuseum #guidebook #travelguidebook #travelgram #passport #booksbooksbooks
Seeing the terrific new movie adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN has me thinking about a road trip to revisit sites related to the story. Surprisingly, this is the first screen version of Louisa May Alcott’s tale to use Massachusetts, her lifelong home, as a primary filming location. “To shoot in Concord, in Massachusetts, in this area, in this environment, was really essential in how I wanted to build this movie,” explained director Greta Gerwig in an interview. “It’s significant. The place matters as much as anything.” ... The Alcott family home and also the most significant locale in the lives of the March sisters, Orchard House, was temporarily recreated on a property in Concord. Louisa May Alcott drew so heavily on real-life details, like the trunk of costumes the March sisters used to stage their plays, that visiting the actual abode is a true delight for fans. Of all the literary locales I’ve visited, this is the place where I most felt like I had stepped into a novel. ... #noveldestinations #travelguide #littlewomen #littlewomenmovie #louisamayalcott #orchardhouse #literarytravel #literarylandmarks #classicliterature #concordma #bookstagram
If I had selected a 7th top title of 2019, it would have been this one. Which surprises me. I didn’t feel as if I completely connected with the story while reading it, but it’s one that I think about a lot—what draws us to romantic partners and friends, especially ones who seemingly are vastly different from us, and how our backgrounds influence the adults we become. I found particularly interesting the aspect of the storyline that deals with autism and the early days of diagnosis and treatment. Plus it’s primarily set in New York City, which is always a plus for me. #thedearlybeloved #booksofig #bookstagram #greatreads #igreads #booksandcocktails

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