This very old Concord Massachusetts dwelling named Orchard House has a literary history indeed. The widely beloved book Little Women was written here!
The fictional characters of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March were partly based on author Louisa May Alcott’s real-life family and the setting was based on Orchard House, her family home.
In 1857, Lousia May Albott’s father Bronson Alcott purchased 12 acres of land with a manor house and a smaller tenant farmhouse that had been on the property since the 1660’s for $945. Bronson and his family moved the small tenant farmhouse and joined it to the rear of the larger manor. The grounds of the estate contained an orchard of 40 apple trees which was a boon to the vegetarian Alcotts and they thus named the home “Orchard House.”
The Alcott’s had lived a nomadic lifestyle up until they found Orchard House, having moved more than 20 times including a stint in an agrarian commune. Orchard House was finally a place where they could set down some roots.
Today, the home is an old house museum which has been exquisitely preserved to the time period when the Alcott’s lived here.
Ironically, the Alcott’s had lived in the Concord area several times before. In fact, they sold one of their former homes to none other than Nathaniel Hawthorne who was their elusive neighbor for many years.
Orchard House and the Hawthorne house are part of what literary scholars call the “American Mile”, a stretch of roadway which also features the former home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, where Henry David Thoreau and the Alcotts were frequent visitors.
The Dining Room
The dining room is said to have been a meeting place where many visitors conversed and debated the hot-button issues of the day: social reform, abolition, and women’s rights.
House Crazy Sarah included some historic photos of the interior of Orchard house to give you a sense of how little it has changed over the years.
Orchard House is fully furnished with antiques original to the mid-nineteenth century and it is estimated that about 80% of those furnishings actually belonged to the Alcott family.
Interestingly, Little Women was not the only book written in this literary house. Louisa’s father Bronson wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson (1865; published 1882), Tablets (1868), Concord Days (1872), and Table Talk (1877) in this very study.
Louisa wrote Little Women in her bedroom – on a half-circle desk that her father built for her between two windows. It remains there today.
Since the home is now a museum, you can go and stand in the very room where Louisa created her beloved characters.
Orchard House (c. 1650) has a rich history stretching back two centuries before the Alcott’s even landed there, and has been a public museum for over 100 years.
What a stunner!
Another one to add to the tour of authors’ homes!