Features

A Literary Tour of Concord, Massachusetts

Kate Scott blogs about books at ParchmentGirl.com and is a reviewer for The Vessel Project. Follow her on Twitter @ParchmentGirl37.

There are a lot of great bookish destinations all over the world, but the single greatest literary vacation spot of all time happens to be right next door to my hometown (not that I’m biased or anything). So, where can you find five famous author homes, a bevy of author graves, plus a rockin’ indie bookstore and gorgeous public library all within minutes of a beautiful national park? Concord, MA of course!

Here’s an itinerary that covers the full breadth of Concord’s rich literary history:

Jan09thruApril10 304The Orchard House – Tour the home of Louisa May Alcott from 1858 to 1877 and the place where she wrote Little Women. Also check out the Concord School of Philosophy right next door, founded by Amos Bronson Alcott in 1879.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson House – Still owned by the Emerson family, the house operates as a seasonal museum. The interior remains much the same as it was in Emerson’s time, but the furniture and books from his study have been moved across the street to the Concord Museum, so be sure to visit there as well.

The Wayside – Officially a part of Minuteman National Park, this stately house was home to three famous literary figures–Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Sidney, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who named it.

The Old Manse – This simple home neighboring the Old North Bridge was occupied by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne at different times. It currently operates as a seasonal museum and bookstore.

Walden Pond – The site of Thoreau’s back-to-the-land escapades, Walden Pond is open to swimmers in the summer months (though, frankly, with the sheer number of people flocking to its beaches, I find swimming in it rather disgusting). On the north shore is the site where Thoreau’s one-room cabin once stood and nearby is a replica that visitors can view.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – Sleepy Hollow is the final resting place of the entire Alcott family, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau, among other notables. Leave a stone or writing implement on Thoreau’s tombstone and take a walk in the crisp New England air.

The Concord Bookshop – A charming indie bookstore in the town center, The Concord Bookshop is the perfect place to pick up the works of all the authors whose homes you are visiting while in town.

The Concord Free Public Library – Having been born and raised in the area I may be a bit biased, but I truly believe the Minuteman Library Network is one of the best group of libraries in the country. Even if you are visiting and can’t check out books, the architecturally beautiful Concord Library and all the libraries in the surrounding towns are worth visiting for pure pleasure.

While touring the area, stay at Concord’s Colonial Inn, located conveniently in the town center overlooking Monument Square. Or, if you’re on a budget, stay at the Bedford Motel, located in my hometown and only a few minutes drive to all of the above destinations. (With all that historical goodness happening in Concord, Bedford is usually overlooked, but we have excellent accommodation rates!) Concord is also the site of much Revolutionary War history, so be sure to take advantage of that, and consider renting or bringing a bike to ride the Minuteman Bikeway. The best time to visit is late summer to early autumn when all the museums are open and the weather is still reasonably warm.