When out-of-town friends come to visit for the first time, one of the places on the “must see” list is Orchard House. This is where Louisa May Alcott’s family lived for about 20 years in the mid- to late-1800s.
Her father, Amos Bronson Alcott, named the house for the 12 acres of apple orchards on their property. It was at Orchard House that LMA wrote Little Women. The house is, in fact, the setting for the story, and will be recognized by readers of the novel.
Guided tours are given daily (except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the first two weeks in January). Tour guides are very knowledgeable about the Alcott family and their friends, the transcendental movement, and the written work of LMA.
About 75% of the furnishings in the house are original to the Alcott family. Visitors can see art made by LMA’s sister, May Alcott. May was an early teacher of Daniel Chester French, who went on to create the Minute Man statue which stands near the North Bridge in Concord; he is perhaps more well-known as the sculptor of Abraham Lincoln we see at the Lincoln Memorial.
Back to the Orchard House … another building on the grounds is the School of Philosophy, which operated as a lyceum of sorts for about 10 years from 1879 – 1888. Activities centered around the Transcendental movement and discussions about philosophy.
In addition to regular guided tours, Orchard House offers special events throughout the year. There are programs tailored to Scouts and school groups of all ages, programs for parents and children, and continuing education for teachers. During school breaks and summer vacation, there are half-day programs for drama, writing workshops, and other “living history” opportunities.
I often tell my kids, as we walk through the town woods, that “Louisa May Alcott walked this land! And Emerson! And Thoreau! And Hawthorne!” If you’re in the area, take a trip to Orchard House and you can walk in their footsteps, too!