Fans of 19th-century American literature should put the lovely New England town of Concord on their list of must-see places. This was a center of literary greats and social reformers in the 1800s—the Alcotts, Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau all lived here, and it inspired many of their works we cherish today.
Concord Museum, a AAA GEM® attraction, displays an array of historical items, but literary buffs’ favorites are sure to be Ralph Waldo Emerson’s study and the Henry David Thoreau collection. The original items and furniture from Emerson’s study at Emerson House (see description below) have been at the museum for decades, revealing the atmosphere in which he created so many of his enduring works. The Thoreau collection features more than 250 pieces—art, books, documents, furniture and other household items belonging to Thoreau and his relatives. A highlight is his desk from Walden Pond on which he wrote “Civil Disobedience” and “Walden.”
Concord’s Colonial Inn
This AAA Three Diamond property consists of several buildings, but book a room in the 1716 main inn to stay where Henry David Thoreau lived 1835-37 while he studied at Harvard. His quarters are now the Thoreau Suite, which includes a kitchen and living/dining area. The inn’s two restaurants have two dining rooms, a tap room and a tavern, ensuring you’ll have a variety of experiences during your stay. Looking for some evening entertainment? Check out the tavern’s live music acts.
Ralph Waldo Emerson lived here from the time of his marriage to Lidian in 1835 until his death in 1882. Not only is this house remarkable for the works he penned while in residence, but just think of the important conversations that occurred between RWE and guests like Bronson Alcott (Louisa May Alcott’s father), Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody and Henry David Thoreau. The home features many of his belongings and Emerson family furniture.
The Hawthorne Inn
At this AAA Three Diamond bed and breakfast, room names reflect local history. For this literary-themed trip, consider the Alcott, Emerson, Sleepy Hollow or Walden rooms. While the décor is eclectic and not necessarily related to each author, the entire inn offers a nod to Concord’s history. Get to know fellow boarders at this 1870 building during the daily breakfast—maybe break the ice by discussing your favorite writers and books!
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House
Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women” in 1868 at Orchard House, where she lived with her parents and sisters 1858-77—they inspired her beloved March family characters. Guides take you on a tour of the house, which remains much as it did during the Alcott’s residency; the majority of household items you’ll see belonged to the family. Louisa’s small desk, built by her father, sits between two windows in her bedroom.
The Old Manse
Built in 1770, this Georgian house was home to Ralph Waldo Emerson for a short time in the 1830s and also Nathaniel Hawthorne 1842-45. In this home Emerson drafted “Nature,” and Hawthorne wrote “Mosses from an Old Manse.” Perhaps the most endearing part is reading the brief but sweet phrases Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia, etched in a window pane. A visitor center is being planned, so you can look forward to future visits being even better.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Take time to wander the paths among the 10,000 graves of Sleepy Hollow, the largest of Concord’s three cemeteries, but Authors Ridge is your ultimate destination. This section contains the family plots of Bronson Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau. Most of these authors’ headstones are fairly modest, but Emerson’s epitaph adorns a massive rose-colored boulder.
Walden Pond State Reservation
When Henry David Thoreau declared his intention to move to the woods to be alone with nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson offered his friend part of his land near Walden Pond. Thoreau accepted, built a one-room cabin and made it his home 1845-47. He filled his days studying, gardening and enjoying the natural beauty of Walden Woods—all of which he chronicled in his journal, which led to “Walden.” Sadly, only a few foundational stones remain from his cabin, but a replica has been built nearby. You can experience the author’s much-loved Walden with interpretive programs and guided walks as well as recreational activities, including boating, hiking and swimming.
Among the home’s occupants over the years were Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne and their families. Louisa May Alcott spent several years of her childhood here; her memories served as abundant inspiration years later when she wrote “Little Women.” Louisa’s parents aided a runaway slave at one point, so the house is commemorated as part of the Underground Railroad. In 1860 Hawthorne added the three-story tower, which became his study.