How would you like to step inside the setting of your favorite book and walk around in it for a while? See where the characters that you have come to know so well lived and breathed. Or get a look at the view the author had while creating those very same characters that you hold near and dear. If you stop for a visit at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House you can do all of that and more.
Ms. Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women, was written in her family’s home in Concord, Massachusetts where she was neighbor to such literary talents as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathanial Hawthorne. She wrote her tale of four sisters coming of age in a small New England town during the Civil War and she set it in her family’s home of Orchard House.
This picturesque home has been preserved to exhibit life as it was when the family lived there and provides insight into the family behind Little Women, which was largely autobiographical. Because this is the Alcott house, visitors learn about the lives of all members of this talented family, not just Louisa.
Throughout your tour, you will see the painting displayed at the Sorbonne in Paris created by youngest sister May (model for character Amy). Her bedroom preserves the drawings she made on the walls and door frames. Young Elizabeth (model for character Beth) died before the family moved to Orchard House but her memory lives on in the small piano. Louisa (model for character Jo) worked as a nurse during the war tending to soldiers and was inspired to write about her experience. The small desk mounted between two windows in her bedroom was where she wrote Little Women in a matter of mere months. Keepsakes from eldest sister Anna’s (model for character Meg) wedding in the parlor are proudly displayed. The kitchen shows some of mother Abigail’s (model for character Marmee) touches and the office was where father Bronson (model for character Mr. March) held court with his girls, surrounding them with books, art and transcendental ideas.
Mr. Alcott was ahead of his time with his thoughts on education and finally saw his life’s dream realized when his School of Philosophy was constructed next to Orchard House and he spent his last years lecturing and exchanging ideas with all of his transcendental neighbors. The school is also preserved and open to guests along with the home.
Orchard House makes the characters of Little Women come alive in your mind and reveals a piece of history through the forward thinking family that lived there. The gift shop is packed with Louisa’s writings, replica toys from the time period and all things Little Women. The tour guides are informative and spin the tales of the family along for you as you wander through the rooms. It is a very welcoming and homey environment and is time well spent when choosing amongst all of the incredible historical and literary options available in Concord.
- COST = Adults = $9, Seniors & Students = $8, Youth (6-17) = $5, Free under Age 6. Coupon for $0.50 off per person can be printed online. Special Family Rate is available for $25 (2 Adults & Up To 4 Youths). Group Rates for 10 or More via Reservation.
- DURATION = Allow an hour.
- HOURS = Monday – Saturday 10AM-4:30PM (except November thru March when Monday – Friday is 11AM-3PM), Sundays 1PM-4:30PM. Delayed opening at Noon on Patriots Day (3rd Monday in April). Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the first few days after New Year.
- ENVIRONMENT = Fans of Little Women and history of late 1800′s New England. Handicap accessible on first floor only. A photo guidebook is available of the second floor. Users of this book during my visit were very appreciative of this and commented that it was excellent.
- ACCESSIBILITY = By Car – free parking on site or in lot across the street. By Commuter Rail – 20 Minute Walk from Concord Depot stop on Metro North Purple Line.
- WEBSITE = http://www.louisamayalcott.org/
- FUN FACTS = Although Louisa gave us a childhood classic novel, her artist sister May gave a young Daniel Chester French his first art lessons at Orchard House and encouraged his pursuit of sculpture. Mr. French grew up to create the Lincoln Memorial. PBS will premier “Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women” on American Masters, 12/28/09.
By Molly G. @ The Bumbles Blog
All photos credited to Molly G. @The Bumbles Blog