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On the road to Louisa May Alcott’s *Orchard House*

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!

26 comments to On the road to Louisa May Alcott’s *Orchard House*

  • Terrific post. And, it’s really funny but I just read a middle grade book called THE SISTERS CLUB: RULE OF THREE and the youngest sister was obsessed with LITTLE WOMEN and was dying to visit Alcott’s house!

  • Sadly, I have not read anything by LMA. I’m shamed! But I’m fascinated with historical sites like this. If I knew I were going to have the opportunity to see it, I would for sure read one of her works first!

  • Nicole

    Little Women is a classic story. It’s great to have such history in your backyard.

  • Oh, this sounds so fascinating! Great post. Thanks for allowing us to travel to your (and Louisa’s) neighborhood.

  • Oh, how I would love to visit Orchard House. Little Women is one of my favorite books – I like to re-read it every few years.

  • When I was 11 or so, my family made a weekend trip to Boston. I was deep in my LMA phase at the time and begged for us to go and see Orchard House, and they were nice enough to indulge me. I’ve never forgotten it. Thanks for taking me back!

  • I miss living in the northeast – where so much of our history has been preserved for all to visit. I never made a visit to the Orchard House while there, but I did visit Mystic Seaport and Plimoth Plantation and just loved it.

    In the midwest we can visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home where she wrote the Little House on the Prairie books. This has been on my list of things to see and do for years, but so far no luck. Maybe when I have granddaughters?

  • Kim

    Lucky, lucky you to have such historical sites in your backyard. When people come here to visit we just take them to the waterfront in downtown Seattle and sometimes a ferry ride. If they are here for an extended visit we might go for a drive to Mt. Ranier. Well known historical sites in our area–pretty much non-existent. ;)
    Thanks for sharing with us and giving us the pictures as well!
    *smiles*
    Kim

  • Thank you for sharing that with us! I’m totally jealous that you get to have that so close to where you live :o ) The only thing we had here in AZ was Zane Grey’s cabin, but that burned down about ten years ago. *pouts*.

  • I love Concord. I’ve gone through all the houses and to Waldon Pond. My husband and I tried to do all the literary things. In the LMA house, I love the drawings on the walls — not too many parents would allow their kids to sketch on the wall. Great post.

    As you tell your kids, Greg and I kept looking at each other saying stuff like, Emerson could have put his foot down right here! And don’t forget a trip to Sleepy Hollow cemetery!

  • What an interesting post! I read several of her books when I was young, and I think I have the English version of Little Women somewhere on my shelves (don´t know where because my daughters tend to borrow my English reading stuff).

  • I just realized I need to come visit you!

  • Dar

    What a terrific post! It’s great to see where she grew up and looks like such a great place to visit. It would be awesome to walk in the same woods as Louisa May Alcott-what history!

  • Julie – I’ll have to introduce my girls to THE SISTERS CLUB, sounds like a good series. Has your daughter read LITTLE WOMEN?

    Sandy – yes, I always feel better prepped for a trip when I read about the area, or pick up some fiction based there.

    Nicole – The movies I’ve seen do a good job staying true to the story, too.

    Betty and Boo – it’s incredible that we can walk in the rooms (with guide, of course). They’re not cordoned off with rope … interesting museum.

    Kathy – Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys are the only books of hers I’ve read. My “she is too fond of books” is taken from one of her novels, but I haven’t read it! :(

    Florinda – Oh, I’m glad your family took you to visit; I bet it meant a lot to you!

    Molly – The Little House books remain some of my favorites from childhood – how far is the house from you? Maybe a summer trip?

    Kim – there are highlights to every area – I’ve never been to Seattle, but imagine I would enjoy it. the entire northwest sounds like a great place to visit (or live) with lots to do.

    I Heart Monster – but you get to avoid the snow in the winter! I’m happy I could give you a peek into the Orchard House (well, the exterior, anyway)

    Beth – I plan a future post about Author’s Ridge at Sleepy Hollow. That’s where the cannons were going off back in November (they were so loud and so close I thought our heating system was malfunctioning!)

    Dorte – the Little Women stories seem to have universal appeal, don’t they?!? Do you shelve your English language books separately?

    Amy – you *just* realized?!? :)

  • I love visiting author’s homes. It was such a thrill to visit Jane Austen’s and Charlotte Bronte’s homes-gave me goosebumps!

  • wow…this is such a great post with fab pics. Thanks for posting them. And to think that you can stroll at this location is awesome.

  • Thanks for this mini-tour of the house of one of my favorite authors. Some day I hope to do this in person.

  • Ti

    This would definitely be on my “must see” list as well. Little Women holds a special place in my heart. I read it just over a year ago and adored it.

  • Ali

    Thanks for this post! We visit that area every couple of years because my sister lives near there–there is so much to see but this is definitely worth a stop next time. The house looks just like I pictured it!

  • I have no t been here in ages…wow…great shots…I may have to come up and visit this soon…maybe this month while visiting my parents before BEA.

  • Orchard House is one of twenty-five Boston-area landmarks competing for a $100K restoration grant funded in part by American Express in the “Partners in Preservation” initiative. Anyone can vote once each day from now until May 17.

    Thanks for this great post! And please vote!

  • Ravenous Reader – wow! Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte! I understand the goosebumps!

    Violet – I think it’s pretty cool; I’m not sure my kids yet appreciate it. They will.

    Margot – I’ll have you for a cup of tea (at the least!) if you make it here in your travels.

    Ti – I think I’m due for a re-read!

    Ali – it’s on a busy road, but I tried to take the pics so you don’t see all that. Imagine it was just a little dirt road back when LMA lived there.

    Serena – each time I take the tour I learn something new!

    Kelly – thanks for the reminder. There’s a link from http://www.louisamayalcott.org (the Orchard House website) to the voting site.

  • Wow, I’d love to visit. Thank you for sharing these photos!

    I took a trek out to visit the Bronte Parsonage a couple weeks back where all the Brontes lived and it just inspired me so much that I want to visit more author’s homes! We visited Charles Dickens’ birthplace last year and I do live nearish to Jane Austen country, so there’s one of our plans for the summer :) A couple years ago we took a walk through Pooh Country where AA Milne drew inspiration for the Winnie the Pooh books. I’m hoping we can bring my boys there this summer as well, I’d love to share that with them.

  • This was a wonderful post and your photos were the best! Thanks

  • Oh! I would love to visit there! Little Women is one of my favorite books of all time :)

  • Michelle – it never occurred to me that folks can visit the area that inspired A A Milne with his Pooh stories – how fun!

    Diane – I’m glad you enjoyed them.

    Ladytink – I think I’m due for a re-reading of this classic.

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