In my recent business trips to Burlington, Massachusetts, I have explored the nearby towns of Lexington and Concord. Just saying “Lexington and Concord” causes most Americans to immediately think of our Revolutionary War where we fought for independence from the British. That war began within the geography of these two towns. I have been through both towns on numerous occasions, and my thoughts have always drifted to those early battles, the men and women who fought in that war and the many historic sites that have been maintained in those towns.
However, there is more.
The Old Manse is a single-family home that sits on a farm near the North Bridge, where the opening battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. The house was constructed in 1770 for the Rev. William Emerson. His son, also a minister and also named William Emerson, was the father of Ralph Waldo Emerson. If you say that name in the same group of Americans, they will either sigh and mumble “transcendentalism,” or they will talk about how much they admire his writing. I struggled through American Literature, so I might be in the first group.
There’s still more.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of many short stories and the novels “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables” also lived in the Old Manse. In fact, he and his wife Sophie began their married life in that house. If you want to either utter another deep “aww” or shudder at the thought of another American Lit term paper, you should know that the heirloom vegetable garden, which has been recreated on the property, was originally planted by Henry David Thoreau in honor of the Hawthornes’ wedding. Now that we’ve covered three out of four American authors who had me struggling for a good grade in American Literature 201 (the fourth being Benjamin Franklin), let’s get back to the Revolution.
Rev. William Emerson, the elder, witnessed the battle at the North Bridge, in 1774 from the fields near his house. His wife and children observed the battle from the upstairs windows of their house. You can still see the (recreated) North Bridge from the property of the Old Manse.
During my last visit to Concord, I walked around the property of the Old Manse. I walked down to the boathouse (which was flooded), out onto the dock, and looked across the Concord River at the North Bridge. My thoughts were of the battle, not the literary works generated inside the house. The house was closed the day I was there, or I would have toured. I have my diploma; those guys can’t hurt me now. There are other literary doors in Concord, and other important doors in close proximity to the Old Manse, but I’ve decided to let this house and its property stand alone. For those of you who enjoy reading about the architectural details, this is from the National Registry of Historic Places nomination form:
“The Old Manse was built c. 1769 for the Rev. William Emerson and has remained relatively unaltered since that date. It is a 2 1/2 story frame and clapboard structure on a low stone foundation, with a gambrel roof broken by two interior chimneys. Windows are 12/12 double-hung sash topped by molded lintels and flanked by louvered blinds. Entrances are located at the center of the east (front), south, and west (rear) elevations. Those on the east and south are flanked by pilasters; all three are topped by triangular pediments. On the rear of the house, the southern two bays project to form a leanto, to which is attached a 1-story gable-roofed ell. To the south of the ell and attached to it at right angles is a 1-story gable-roofed shed. The gabled dormer at the center of the forward roof slope and the bay window at the side of the house on the southeast corner were added c. 1880.”
And, if you’re interested in the name, also from the NRHP form:
“…After the death of Ezra Ripley, his son Samuel, also a minister, rented the furnished house from 1842 to 1846 to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his bride, the former Sophia Peabody. Hawthorne gave the house its name and wrote much of the “Mosses From an Old Manse” (1846).”
This post is part of the wonderful blogfest that is Thursday Doors. Each week, Norm Frampton presents us with the opportunity to share door photos, door stories and door history with an international community of door enthusiasts. If you want to participate, either to share a door or to see doors from others, wind your way up the river to Norm’s place. Check out his doors (always worth a visit from anywhere) and follow his instructions. But, finish that term paper first – 2,000 words, double-spaced in ink and in a blue book.