Thursday, April 14, 2011

TAKE A LITERARY PILGRIMAGE

Literary PilgriAs one of the premier destinations of American literature enthusiasts, the Mark Twain House & Museum is not only dedicated to promoting the legacy of Samuel Clemens, but the many other celebrated authors (and their homes) found in New York and New England. From the serenity of Thoreau’s Walden Pond to the quaint garden estate of Emily Dickinson, we offer readers, history buffs and writers a once-in-a-lifetime journey through America’s literary landmarks…all conveniently located between NYC and Boston.

Just a short 45 minute drive from NYC, travelers can begin their literary journey at the Walt Whitman Birthplace in West Hills, NY and over the course of six days (or less, for those who are ambitious), visit the birthplace of Mark Twain’s most famous characters, get inspired by Edith Wharton’s landscape design, and visit the gravesites of Thoreau, Hawthorne, Emerson and Alcott at Author’s Ridge at Sleepy Hollow.

Below, you will find the full itinerary of a New York/New England literary pilgrimage-- offering a unique, inspiring and educational summer vacation. If you should need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit us online at www.marktwainhouse.org.

Literary Pilgrimage Itinerary
Day 1: New York & Environs


Whether you start or end your pilgrimage in New York, there are several literary stops within a short drive of Manhattan.
  • Washington Irving's Sunnyside  Nestled on the banks of the sparkling Hudson River, visitors will find the immaculately restored home of the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.  Located in Tarrytown, NY, you can tour Sunnyside and spend time visiting the sites made famous by Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, including the Old Dutch Church and Sleepy Hollow burying ground.
  • Walt Whitman Birthplace & Interpretive Center  Walt Whitman, “America’s Shakespeare” was born in West Hills, NY in 1819. The newly restored farmhouse is a New York State Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Interpretive Center exhibits: 130 Whitman portraits, original letters, manuscripts, artifacts, Whitman’s voice on tape, and schoolmaster’s desk. On the site you can find, guided tours, an audio-visual show, the museum shop and bookstore, and a picnic area.
  • Edgar Allan Poe Cottage is the only house museum in New York City dedicated to a writer.  A small house located in the bustling Bronx, this historic property is undergoing renovations, so be sure to check their website before visiting.  At the nearby Valentine-Varian House, you can check out a special exhibition entitled Edgar Allan Poe - The New York Years which adds depth to your understanding of Poe's turbulent final years.

Day 2: Hartford, CT

  • Mark Twain House & Museum   As you may know, this is home where Mark Twain lived during the time he created his most famous characters, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. From the infamous billiard room where Twain worked on his writing (and cigar smoking), to unique exhibits in our Museum Center, to educational programs and community events, Twain’s Hartford, CT home is a unique destination for readers and history buffs of all ages.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe House  The famous next door neighbor of Mark Twain and the author of the best-selling, anti-slavery book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe believed that her actions could make a difference and her words changed the world. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center connects Stowe's issues to the contemporary face of race relations, class and gender issues, economic justice and education equality. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House, a charming Victorian Gothic Revival home (1871), and includes Victorian-style gardens, the Katharine Seymour Day House, a grand mansion adjacent to the Stowe House and the Stowe Visitor Center, with changing exhibitions and the museum store.
  • Wallace Stevens Walk  About one-quarter mile away from Stowe and Twain's homes in Nook Farm, you can take a short literary pilgrimage by following the famous walk poet Wallace Stevens took from his job at The Hartford to his home on Westerly Terrace.  Guiding you along the way are 13 granite markers that sequentially offer Stevens' poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."
  • Noah Webster House  A short drive into West Hartford, the Noah Webster House offers visitors the opportunity to discover the man behind the creation of the first American dictionary and the "Blue Backed Speller."  Tour his childhood home and learn about life in 18th Century Connecticut. 

Day 3: Lenox and Pittsfield, MA

  • The Mount Estate & Gardens,  The Mount is both a historic site and a center for culture inspired by the passions and achievements of Edith Wharton. Best known for such works as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, Wharton employed both humor and profound empathy to describe the lives of New York's upper class and the vanishing of their world in the early years of the 20th century. The gorgeous property includes three acres of formal gardens designed by Wharton, who was also an authority on European landscape design. The Mount is a stunning reflection of Wharton’s love of the literary arts, interior design and decoration, garden and landscape design, and the art of living.
  • Herman Melville’s Arrowhead,  Arrowhead is a National Historic Landmark located in western Massachusetts.  Melville purchased this historic farmhouse in 1850. It remained the home of Herman’s large and chaotic family for more than 13 years.  Herman found refuge in the second-floor library where he wrote his most famous novel, Moby Dick.  In the end, he wrote four novels and many short stories in the historic farmhouse.
Day 4: Cummington, MA and Amherst, MA
  • William Cullen Bryant Homestead   As you traverse Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, there are two poetic stops well worth making.  The first, in the hamlet of Cummington, MA, is the summer homestead of poet William Cullen Bryant.  The editor of The Saturday Evening Post for 50 years, Bryant was a passionate environmentalist who celebrated the landscape of America through his words.
  • Emily Dickinson Museum: The Homestead and the Evergreens  The Homestead, where poet Emily Dickinson was born and lived most of her life, and The Evergreens, home of the poet’s brother and his family, share three beautiful acres of the original Dickinson property in the center of Amherst, Massachusetts. The Museum offers guided tours of the houses as well as a self-guided audio tour of the outdoor grounds.  
Day 5: Concord, MA
  • The Wayside: Home to Hawthorne and the Alcott Family  A Historic Landmark, The Wayside was the only home owned by Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, and Twice-Told Tales. Before Hawthorne bought it, the house belonged to the Alcott family, who named it "Hillside." Here, Louisa May Alcott and her sisters lived much of the childhood described in Little Women.
  • Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House Just minutes from Wayside (circa 1690) is most noted for being home to the talented Alcott family, and is where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her beloved classic novel, Little Women, in 1868. 
  • "Authors Ridge at Sleepy Hollow"  Perched on the top-most glacial hill in the cemetery, Authors Ridge gathers together, among others, the graves of Henry Thoreau (1862), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1864), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1882), Louisa May Alcott (1888) and her father, Bronson Alcott (1888). 
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson House  Open to the public, the Emerson House is still furnished with the families’ memorabilia and keepsakes. Emerson lived here most of his adult life, wrote his famous essays "The American Scholar" and "Self Reliance," and died here in 1882.
  • Walden Pond  Situated on 400 acres, Walden Pond is a State Reservation and National Historic Site. Henry David Thoreau lived here from July 1845 to September 1847. His experience at Walden provided the material for the book Walden, which is credited with helping to inspire awareness and respect for the natural environment. Today, visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming and educational and guided tours.

Day 6: Boston, MA
  • Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters  This National Historic Site in Cambridge, MA preserves the home of Henry W. Longfellow, one of the world’s foremost 19th century poets. The house also served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston, July 1775 - April 1776. In addition to its rich history, the site offers unique opportunities to explore 19th century literature and arts. Of course, a visit to Cambridge would be incomplete without visiting Harvard University, home to too many writers to mention.
  • Boston by Foot  Take a walking tour of the homes and haunts of such great American writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Charles Dickens, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
New England welcomes literary pilgrims of all stripes - intrepid readers, history buffs or writers in need of the inspiration you can find when you follow in the footsteps of legends.  For more information about writers' houses, visit http://writershouses.com/