LOUISA MAY ALCOTT and CALVIN COOLIDGE – 30 July and 1 August 2015

There are some things I never tire of doing, seeing, experiencing, and each time I repeat something it is always from a different light or perspective. And, as you know there are themes to my adventures – fun and learning.

In discussions with friends for ideas to increase attendance at The Walpole Historical Society, one friend suggested that we explore the idea of having an annual Louisa May Alcott event(s). Louisa May Alcott lived in Walpole the summers of 1855, 56 and 57, performed in theatricals here, was inspired by a lilac hedge in town (UNDER THE LILACS) and, on and on. Great Idea, but where do you begin? Road Trip! I planned a route, places I had been, but needed to repeat. Fruitlands, Orchard House, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, finishing with dinner at The Wayside Inn. I had a fully open day on Thursday, so off Kathy, Tara, Carolyn and I went at 8:30 returning over 12 hours later.

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The Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts, was the site of a Utopian experiment of Bronson Alcott in 1843. It failed in seven months, and the family moved on. The property was purchased by Clara Endicott Sears in 1914 and restoration on the original farmhouse begun as a museum to Alcotts. (click the image below to enlarge and read)

History Timeline of FRUITLANDS - Harvard, Massachusetts

History Timeline of FRUITLANDS – Harvard, Massachusetts

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Sears’ interpretation of the site attempted to show the house as the Alcotts would have inhabited it, moving in after it had been vacant for five years. Some “license” was taken, but some original Alcott items were acquired, along with items of friends. (remember, click on any image to open gallery and read images easier)

A wonderful piece of original window glass. Well, wonderful for my purposes.

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The Fruitlands has an identity problem, largely due to Sears’ collecting interests. The Alcott “hook” is there and small because the property she purchased had the house on it. Her interests included the Shakers (one house moved there) and Native Americans and American Art. Currently around the property are modern sculptures. There is a wonderful tea room for lunch, and concerts on the sloping fields. I need not go back for another visit, unless stopping for lunch or picnicking at a concert.

LMA-13But, although now having been at Orchard House in Concord twice, I am ready for another, and another visit. Amos Bronson Alcott purchased the home and property in 1858, after they left Walpole. It remained the family’s permanent home until 1877.  Bronson and Louisa died in 1888. Bronson died 4 March 1888, and Louisa passed on two days later on the 6th.

LITTLE WOMEN was written here.

Louisa died in Boston, but I need to find out where she and Bronson had lived subsequent to leaving Orchard House. But the fascinating thing about Orchard House is that it is as it was when the Alcotts lived there, including the furnishings. It has been a museum since 1911. And, is amazing.

My traveling co-conspirators anxious approaching ORCHARD HOUSE. Carolny, Kathy, and Tara.

My traveling co-conspirators anxiously approaching ORCHARD HOUSE. Carolyn, Kathy, and Tara

 

And, then it was onto Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord where they all currently reside.

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The tradition of leaving a coin on a headstone or at the grave site is meant as a mark that someone has visited the grave to pay respect. Thought to be a Jewish tradition, it goes back even further in time. Following the Vietnam conflict the tradition increased at veterans’ graves in honor of their service. Rocks were the other token of a visit, but as you can see, other objects are also left. I saw cigars on Mark Train’s grave – a tradition there, but here we saw pens and pencils. What a tribute for these icons of the word.

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And, here is Louisa’s grave. More coins, stones, writing implements, and a US Veteran flag marking her service as a nurse during the Civil War.

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And, in the Emerson plot, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grave is marked with this rock and plaque.

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The day concluded with dinner at The Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. WOW, were the ladies impressed. My fourth visit, and I am ready to return. Not on the menu posted on their website, but a separate page in the menu we were handed were 3-course dinner specials. $20.95 for soup or salad, the entree, and desert. Wow, great bargain, and probably will be smaller portions (but just right). WRONG – the portions were amazingly large and absolutely delicious. Great food, great setting in The Tap Room, and wonderful company and conversation.

RAY RECOMMENDS:
1] Visit Orchard House in Concord often

2] Visit Authors’ Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
3] Partake in a meal at The Wayside Inn, and tour the inn

Then, on Friday I had so many things I had to accomplish, trip to Keene, then back to BF to pick up CLARION and mail it, deliver Meals on Wheels (I am a substitute), and then a lovely party in the evening on Lake Spofford.  Exhausting day, but worth it because the reward was Old Home Days on Saturday at Plymouth Notch, Vermont. (Did I ever tell you I like, no love, it there?)

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LMA-25What caught my eye (other than just loving the drive, and the bucolic setting) was the lecture on Farm Tools and Implements and the reenactment of Calvin Coolidge’s inauguration by his father, Colonel John. That occurred at 2.47 AM on August 3, 1923, but they wisely had it at 2:47 PM instead.

Sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council, I have attended now about three of their programs. This from the council’s website –  Inventive Vermonters: A Sampling of Farm Tools and Implements. Vermonters have always been inventive, especially when it comes to agricultural innovations. Time- and labor-saving inventions that ease the hard work of farming have always been important in our rural, agricultural state. In this illustrated lecture, retired engineer Paul Wood presents a sampling of farm tools, implements, and artifacts invented or produced in Vermont, examining their use, uniqueness of design.

I found this lecture to be excellent. The presenter wove a story between the farm items used for milk processing, cheese, etc. into the actual processes themselves. Brought to my attention things I had not really thought about, e.g you have to keep cows pregnant to get milk.

Paul Wood presenting Inventive Vermonters.

Paul Wood presenting Inventive Vermonters.

This young man was training his team of oxen.

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And here, the director of the site, William Jenny, is moving a faithful reproduction of the lamp used while Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as our 30th President

William Jenny, site administrator for the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

William Jenny, site administrator for the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

And the inauguration reenactment is about to begin. The President was played by the President’s great-grandson, and Colonel John Coolidge was played by a gentleman who remembered the President and knew his wife Grace.

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Here is the actual site in the homestead where the inauguration took place with all the original furnishings in the exact location.

Site of Calvin Coolidge's inauguration as our 30th President.

Site of Calvin Coolidge’s inauguration as our 30th President.

And then I got to see an interesting demonstration of sheep shearing. The demonstrator is quite a raconteur. He entertained me on 4 July on a wagon ride, and again today.

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Need I say it?
RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont

Well, all for now. Working on another excursion, and you will “read all about it.”

Thank you for visiting, yours, RAY

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6 Responses to LOUISA MAY ALCOTT and CALVIN COOLIDGE – 30 July and 1 August 2015

  1. Betty says:

    I say “Go For It”. Do a Louisa May Alcott Day in Walpole! How interesting that Concord has the graves of so many classic authors.
    A knowledge I gained with this post was that cows need to stay pregnant to give milk. I thought they just had to give birth once to continue the process. Thanks for the info!

  2. Ray Boas says:

    I know, I was shocked, and the look of shock on my face prompted conversation with others. So much still to learn.

  3. Carolyn Norback says:

    Another great and informative day for you and a most lovely and informative day for us. Here’s to shunpiking vicariously!!!

  4. Chris Burchstead says:

    I knew about the pregnant cows, but had never heard of Fruitlands until now. My bucket list grows longer every day!

  5. Jim says:

    Nifty idea, Ray — about an annual “LMA” day at the WHS. Should beef up attendance at the museum, as well. There are a couple of good LMA biographies and studies of the Alcott Family
    and their utopian community idealizations available, Chris, if you’re interested — FRUITLANDS by Richard Francis (Yale University Press, 2010) and John Matteson’s EDEN’S OUTCASTS (W. W. Norton and Co., 2007) Both detail the wild and (often wooly) experiences that Bronson Alcott
    subjected his long-suffering wife and children too. The man was obviously something of a genius, but he must have been an absolute horror with which to live, ‘pace’ LMA’s loving portrait of him
    in her LITTLE WOMEN and LITTLE MEN books…

  6. Carol Crolle says:

    Another informative and interesting travelogue, Ray. Thanks for the ride! Where to next time? Chautauqua is wonderful again this season. Saw Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion Farewell Tour last Friday along with 5,000 plus attendees. You would have enjoyed the performance, too. Carol

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