In the mid-nineteenth century, American literature blossomed in New England, and Brahmin, Transcendentalist, and abolitionist writers in the area helped to create the literary tradition of the nation. One member of this group, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was the most widely read American poet in the world during his lifetime, and modern-day visitors can walk through the rooms where he lived and wrote at the Longfellow National Historic Site.
©National Park Service
The beautiful Longfellow National Historic Site is where
Longfellow did most of his writing and raised his children.
In 1837, Longfellow's new father-in-law gave the newlyweds a house in Cambridge, now maintained and operated by the Park Service as Longfellow National Historic Site. Before Longfellow lived there, the historic house served as General George Washington's headquarters during the siege of Boston. Longfellow wrote most of his best-known works at this house, using Washington's former office as his study. On the far side of the room is the armchair Longfellow pulled up to the fire to write "Evangeline" in 1847. This was Longfellow's first long narrative poem and remained one of his best-known works. Longfellow lived in the house until he died here in 1882.
The Longfellows also raised their five children in this Georgian mansion and entertained literary friends, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The house is furnished as it was in Longfellow's time and contains many of the writer's personal belongings. A sentimental favorite is the armchair given to Longfellow by Cambridge schoolchildren on his seventy-second birthday. The chair is made from the wood of the "spreading chestnut tree," which Longfellow referred to in his poem, "The Village Blacksmith."
The house also features some reminders of the former occupant. Facing the entrance door is a bust of George Washington, and beside it is the Washington family coat-of-arms, whose stars and stripes are said to have influenced the American flag.
Though not as widely read today, Longfellow was immensely popular in his time. His admirers ranged from President Lincoln and Queen Victoria to all the schoolchildren who grew up reciting "The Song of Hiawatha."
The site includes a beautiful formal garden where outdoor concerts and poetry readings are held.
The village smithy stands;
The smith a mighty man is he
With large and sinewy hands."
-- from "The Village Blacksmith"
Longfellow National Historic Site Information
Address: 105 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA
Hours of Operation:
- In June: Wednesday - Friday, 12:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., and Saturday - Sunday, 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
- July - October: Wednesday - Sunday, 10:00 - 4:30
- Closed November - May
Admission: $3 for adults; free for children under 16
Learn more about these other national historic sites:
To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Boston City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit Boston.
- Massachusetts State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Massachusetts as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.