>Do you live near or are you visiting a place where a famous author lived? A little off-track, I know. But visiting the homes of famous authors can be a fun and enlightening experience. You may learn a lot of fun things about their habits and hear anecdotes about how they worked. And it can motivate you to get home and write!
I’ve had the chance to visit a few authors’ homes in my region and one abroad. I’ve toured two houses associated with Nathaniel Hawthorne – the House of Seven Gables in Salem, MA, which Hawthorne based his book on of the same name, and the Old Manse in Concord, MA. According to the guide at the Old Manse, Hawthorne’s wife kept him in tow, yelling for him to get back to work if she heard the floorboards creaking above stairs. Even master novelists need a kick in the pants sometimes!
Also in Concord, MA is Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. There you can see the original desk she wrote at (sometimes for 14 hour stretches!) and original drawings on some of the walls done by her sister May.
In Connecticut, the houses of Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe sit side-by-side. They’re quite a contrast. Twain’s home is a fusion of Victorian and Gothic styling. Can’t say I loved his taste but I found the bookshelves that hugged every inch of the inside delightful. And there is a beautiful sun room on one side of the house. The Stowe house is a fairly plain 19th century home but our guide was fantastic.
Out in western Massachusetts I got to see Edith Wharton’s estate, the Mount. She personally oversaw the design of the classical revival house and was very particular about it. It was quite the removal from her New York life. That entire region is beautiful but her estate is quite romantic. Between the airy design of the house and the gardens and lawns it overlooks, I understood why she loved it so.
I also had the chance to visit Charles Dickens’ London residence several years ago. While it’s primarily Victorian, I remember part of the interior was surprisingly modern. But I’m a sucker for black and white tile.
Writers are everywhere. So are their abodes. See who lived in your region and plan a field trip. Or if you’re going away, do a search to see if any writers lived there. It can be quite the experience, taking you into the past and into the heads of some of the most renowned writers. And don’t forget many historic homes need support. By visiting, you make it possible for their homes and legacies to stay open for everyone.
Here’s a short list of some famous writers whose homes are now museums.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Louisa May Alcott
Orchard House, Concord, MA
House of Seven Gables, Salem, MA
The Old Manse, Concord, MA
Arrowhead, Pittsfield, MA
Key West, FL
Henry David Thoreau
Walden Pond, Concord, MA
Birthplace and other homes associated with him, Stratford-upon-Avon