October 04, 2003

Concord, MA

The StromgrensToday we bid adieu to Ann and Jeannie and John. And I keep forgetting Spencer!Spencer lamenting the mass exodus

We're starting to reach the end of this trip. We're running out of time, but we're also running out of energy. It's been a lot of time on the road and hunting lodging every day and seeing cool sites (and sights), and we're tired.

So we looked at our map and evaluated where we might get the best bang for our spiritual buck. The answer: Concord, Massachusetts.

Concord must be some kind of historical harmonic convergence zone.

We started at the Concord Museum. Here we learned about the various events and personages that distinguish the area.

The first is the Old North Bridge, the site of one of the first skirmishes of the Revolutionary War. It was this bridge that witnessed the first colonial victory in that war. The British were in Lexington and Concord to search for a supposed cache of weapons of mass... well, they thought there were weapons and supplies to support the colonial rebellion. They didn't find the weapons, but they did find some pissed off colonists. War never really changes all that much, you know?

Concord's other main claim to fame is that it was home to The Transcendentalists. Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, all lived and worked there. Walden Pond is a mile from town.

Replica of Thoreau's Walden Pond CabinThe museum has a replica of Thoreau's cabin on the grounds. I paced off 14 feet by 9 feet with a door in one short wall and a fireplace on the other, and windows in the long walls. Pretty nice, actually.

The other thing at the museum while we were there was an exhibit called "Degrees of Latitude" consisting of a bunch of maps from the collection of Colonial Williamsburg showing the progression of the mapping of the new world. I was especially amused by a couple of maps that showed the eastern colonies with their north and south borders extended in a straight line off the western side of the page as if to say "we don't know what's out there, but it's all ours."

Becky contemplating the Alcott homeFrom the museum we went to Orchard House, the home of the Alcott family. Patriarch of the family was Bronson, Transcendentalist and educator, but the most famous was to be his daughter Louisa whose memoir thinly veiled as novel, Little Women was a huge success as soon as it was published in 1868. The girls in the novel correspond to the Alcott girls with eldest Anna being Meg in the book, Louisa herself being Jo, Elizabeth as Beth, and May as Amy.

The house is open for tours and has a gift shop. The tour begins with a video giving background on the family and the book, pointing out all the places where art diverged from life. After the video, the tour moved from kitchen to dining room to parlor to Louisa's room to May's room to the parents' room and finished in Bronson's study. The house is furnished in the style it must have been back when the Alcotts lived there, and contains numerous items that were actually owned by the family.

Many of the more visible touches left by the Alcott family were those left by May. May was the visual artist in the family and drew on the walls and windowsills and breadboards. When Louisa made a fortune with her book, she spent part of it sending May to Europe to study art, and much of the work she did there has found its way back to the house and is on display in the tour. My favorite piece is a kind of mural painted on the beam from which Louisa's original writing desk is cantilevered. The painting shows calla lilies and nasturtiums twining up the column lending an air of summer to the room where Louisa did her writing.

One of the more interesting divergences between the book and the Alcotts' lives is that their father was not the one to serve in the Civil War. That duty actually fell to Louisa herself who served as a nurse in that conflict.

From Orchard House we went to Sleepy Hollow cemetery where we viewed the graves of all these people. Didn't see any headless horsemen.

the Thoreau family plot.  Henry's has the stuff on it the Alcott family plot.  Louisa's is the one with the flag recognizing her service in the Civli War. Emerson is planted under that big old rock.  The lettering on the plaque is worn away to illegibility. Writer Hill at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

A whole busload of tourists on the old north bridgeThen on to the Old North Bridge where the residents of Concord have placed a number of memorials to that skirmish, the most conspicuous of which is the statue of a minuteman sculpted by Daniel Chester French (famous also for the Lincoln Memorial in DC).French's statue of a Concord Minuteman French actually has a link back to the Alcott family: his first art lessons came from May Alcott, Louisa's artistic sister!

Finally we took a spin past Walden Pond. We probably would have stopped, but they wanted $5 to park and we could see from the road that it was, indeed, a pond, and it was getting on towards 5pm so we skipped town without even stopping in to the Walden Pond gift shop, though we did snicker about the existence of such a thing. What would Henry have thought?

From Concord we headed west on 2, south on 495, south on 290, west on 20, west on 84, and south on 10 passing through Worcester, MA and Hartford, CT before ending up in Cheshire, CT at the Welcome Inn. We ate the salads that we got at the Hannaford grocery store salad bar in Portsmouth this morning and finished our day with two pieces of carrot cake from the kitchen of Jeannie, Ann, and John. Yum!

Posted by jeffy at October 4, 2003 10:29 PM