“Jo’s book was the pride of her heart, and was regarded by her family as a literary sprout of great promise. It was only half a dozen little fairy tales, but Jo had worked over them patiently, putting her whole heart into her work, hoping to make them good enough to print.”–about Jo March of Little Women
New England is a boon for literary enthusiasts. So many famous authors and poets have lived there! When I realized that my husband and I would have opportunity to stop there, I immediately scouted out author sites. Concord, Massachusetts in particular was home to four great authors–including Louisa May Alcott, most famous for her book Little Women.
SLEEPY HOLLOW CEMETERY
The earliest to open, Author’s Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery takes less than fifteen minutes to walk. When my husband and I first arrived, we had no idea where to go. Driving around we came across what appeared to be an information center but turned out to be someone’s home. Fortunately, some helpful workers at Sleepy Hollow provided us with a map. We trekked up a hill to see graves of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and of course Louisa May Alcott. At all of them, visitors had left pens, coins, and messages. Along the edge of the cemetery, we also had the fortune to see a swamp!
All day, rain and closures plagued our literary stops. Thankfully, the Orchard House was open. After snapping quick photos outside, my husband and I hurried inside, just in time for a tour.
It starts with an educational video that is shown in the Alcott studio. Then our guide took our large group from room to room, providing further explanation along the way about the Alcotts. For example, the father was a leader of educational reform. The mother was a social worker. As for the four girls, I found of most interest the room of Louisa, for this is where she wrote her beloved classic, Little Women in 1868 at a “shelf desk” her father built for her. Of equal fascination were the drawings on the walls, which were created by the youngest sister.
Open throughout the year except on major holidays, the Orchard House looks much the same as it did in the Alcotts’ day. Care has been taken to keep structural preservation work invisible. The rooms are supposed to look the same as when the Alcotts were in residence. Moreover, the furniture is original to the mid-nineteenth century, with seventy-five percent belonging to the family.
After moving twenty-two times in nearly thirty years, the Alcotts finally found their most permanent home at Orchard House. Alcott’s father originally purchased two houses set upon twelve acres of land on the Lexington Road. He then moved the smaller tenant farmhouse to adjoin the rear of the larger manor house, making a single larger structure. The grounds also contained an orchard of forty apple trees. Hence, the name “Orchard House”.
Flash photography is not allowed, but you can click below for virtual tours: