Friday, 20 October 2017

USA 2017 - Laura and Florence at Concord

The day after arriving in Massachusetts in early August, Laura and Florence went on a pilgrimage to Concord to discover the story of Louisa May Alcott, the famous author of  'Little Women' and 'An Old Fashioned Girl'.  Florence wore her 'Dress a Sasha' outfit for Polly from 'An Old Fashioned Girl'. First they visited Orchard House, where Louisa wrote 'Little Women'.

The sign for Orchard House, Concord
The house is open to the public but no photos are allowed to be taken inside the house, which meant that Laura and Florence could gaze at every room, the window-sill writing desk Bronson Alcott made for Louisa where she wrote Little Women, peer at the dolls and games played with by Louisa's nephews and niece, admire the wonderful artworks by May (Amy) including paintings and drawings on her own bedroom walls but could not take photos to share with the other Sasha dolls.  You can see a bit of a tour of the interior on the Orchard House website.

Orchard House was not the home where Louisa and her sisters grew up, it is where the family moved after sister Beth had died and apparently Louisa was never fond of Orchard House, unlike the place next door where she had spent the happiest years of her girl hood and where 'Little Women' was set.

Laura and Florence stood on the front door step of Orchard House after seeing inside

Laura and Florence (as Polly) on the Orchard House doorstep

Laura and Florence in the sunshine on the steps of Orchard House

Orchard House on 3 August

After leaving Orchard House Laura and Florence made their way to the house next door, Louisa's earlier home
Louisa May Alcott lived in many different places in her childhood years however one of her favourite homes was when the Alcott family lived in 'Hillside' in Concord (later called The Wayside by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne who lived there after the Alcotts moved out).

Approaching The Wayside

The Wayside sign

The Wayside sheltered fugitive slaves who were finding their way to freedom during the time that Louisa May Alcott lived there.
The Wayside is open to the public and photographs inside are permitted.  So Laura was able to take some photos to share with the others.  The house has been altered quite a lot since Louisa lived there.

A life size marble of Bronson Alcott, the philosopher and teacher who was Louisa's father

A picture of Hawthorne with the Alcott children

The stairs which featured in Little Women when they played Pilgrim's Progress

The Little Women Pilgrim's Progress stairs (the wallpaper is later)
 When Louisa was 13 her father altered the house to make her a bedroom of her own, which she had wished for so long.  Here she was able to spend time on her own writing stories and dreaming.  Her view through the window was of the terraces her father had built into the hillside and she had the freedom to go outside up the terraces when she chose.  The bedroom doesn't exist now as later alterations to the house have placed a staircase across part of the space.

View of the terraces from where Lousia's room would have been

Information about the terraces

Upstairs is the later tower room, built by Nathaniel Hawthorne, where he wrote his romantic, gothic books.  The tower room is reached by a steep staircase and the ceiling is decorated with paintings.

The decoration commemorating Hawthorne

A life size marble of Hawthorne at his writing desk

Some of the paintings on the tower ceiling in The Wayside


The terrace behind The Wayside (also showing the tower room)

The Wayside.  The covered porch / piazza around this end of the house was a later addition by yet another author resident, Margaret Sidney (Lothrop)
After leaving Louisa's homes, Laura and Florence went to Sleepy Hollow, the beautiful wooded graveyard in the edges of Concord where several famous 19th century authors are buried.

Sleepy Hollow gatepost

The sign to author's ridge, where Thoreau, Hawthornes, Alcotts and Emersons are buried
The Alcott plot, with Abby May (Marmee) and Bronson Alcott's grave markers

John Sewall Pratt Alcott's grave (Louisa adopted her younger nephew to keep her money in the family)

Bronson Alcott's grave

Beth Alcott's grave, Louisa's beloved sister who died so young

A grave marker for Louisa's sister May (Amy) who died and was buried in Europe after giving birth to Lulu

Florence (as Polly) with Louisa May Alcott's grave

Laura and Florence with Louisa May Alcott's grave, Laura was feeling pensive

Louisa's grave is one of those at Sleepy Hollow which is commemorated with the USA Flag

Many people have laid pencils on Louisa's grave in tribute to her skill as a writer
Laura and Florence started to learn about the start of the USA as an independent nation as they explored the start of the American Revolutionary War of Independence in 1775 - the first shots were fired in Concord on 19 April 1775 and the Minute Man National Park has a wealth of information about the unfolding story.  They visited the Minute Man Visitor Centre in the park where a short film about how the war started was shown.

Approaching the Minute Man Visitor Centre near Lexington

A sign in the visitor centre about the 19 April 1775

A painting of Battle Road

The film was in a room setting with dramatized audio and light effects on the different parts of the room as the story was told

The animated map of the route of the battle starting with Paul Revere's and William Dawes's famous ride from Boston to warn to settlers the British Soldiers were coming

Laura and Florence visited Hartwell Tavern, a restored 18th century inn and farm whose occupants at the time witnessed the running battles on the road between Lexington and Concord.  The interior of the Tavern is furnished as it would have been in 1775.

In Hartwell Tavern was one of the re-enactor society members, dressed in clothes of 1775.  Laura and Florence were fascinated to discover that her bodice was adjusted and fastened using pins not buttons, which made it easier for women (who were often pregnant or nursing mothers) to continue using the same clothes.

The Battle Road near Hartwell Tavern

The remains of the Samuel Hartwell house was fascinating because the basic framework of the house has been reconstructed around what remains of the complex brick chimney system, showing how New England houses of the period were built.

The brick chimney and hearth places for the different rooms are built over a large stone and brick basement foundation

Laura read about the young witness of the battle who lived in Samuel Hartwell house
Next Laura and Florence went to the North Bridge, Concord where the first shot was fired in the American Revolutionary War of Independence.

Sign about 'the shot heard round the world'

The North Bridge, Concord

The grave of the British Soldiers killed in that first battle, alongside the bridge

A sign placed at the battle site in 1836 commemorating that historic day in 1775

Inscription on the side of the Minute Man statue by Daniel Chester French about the first shot

Laura contemplated the Minute Man statue
Close by to the North Bridge, Concord is the Old Manse, whose occupants (the Emerson family, headed at the time by Rev William Emerson) witnessed the battle.

Sign about the Old Manse and the battle at North Bridge

The Old Manse, home of the Emerson family

The Old Manse beside the North Bridge, Concord

As Laura and Florence left the North Bridge they saw the words later written by Ralph Waldo Emerson about 19 April 1775 'the thunderbolt falls on an inch of ground but the light of it fills the horizon' as the shot which started the war had reverberations all around the world.
It had been a very interesting day of literary and historical pilgrimage for Laura and Florence - it was wonderful to see two of the homes of the author of 'Little Women' and visit some of the places closely connected with the beginnings of a new independent United States of America. Laura had Boston to explore next but first we enjoyed an evening of relaxing, good food and conversation with our friends at their home.