The Old Manse – #ThursdayDoors

Side entrances and root cellar door.

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.


76 thoughts on “The Old Manse – #ThursdayDoors

Add yours

  1. What an impressive home in such a beautiful setting. This is the best history lesson I’ve ever had! And after all these years, it still looks proud and handsome.

    Apparently “Waldo” and “Hawthorne” are quite at home there!

    But Dan, c’mon, taking that shot of the Little Free Library container was a really sneaky way to get a “selfie” in! Lol.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You noticed :) Thanks Ginger. Especially since the library was almost empty. The history in this area is so rich, you can almost feel it as you walk around.

      The house is largely as it was, and has been for almost 250 years. It’s pretty amazing.

      Like

  2. What an entrancing photo journey! Thank you, Dan. Though I lived in Connecticut for ten years and traveled to Massachusetts often, you’ve made Lexington and Concord come alive for me. Wow, so much to think about. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gwen – that’s very nice of you to say. I’ve been there so many times. I’ve stayed overnight in Concord, but I only now made the 15-minute walk up the road to this house and the bridge. I’m glad I did, even if it brought back some bad memories of English 201 :)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the subtle shadows in this post and your reflections, especially the one in the little library photo. Enjoyable as always to see where your Thursdays take us on a discovery mission!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shelley. The sun was so bright (not that I’m complaining) it was hard to figure out what the photos were going to look like. I was thankful for a clear day and a temperature that encouraged walking.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. They must have been wealthy for the house to be so well built and have a bay window, shutters, double paned windows, and two chimneys!

    The river and bridge images are lovely! The house struck me as being close to the river. It never flooded their house? They picked a great spot if not if it hasn’t in all these years.

    Great history and images to tell the story, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deborah. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the land leading up to the house is fairly steep. The river would have to flood in the extreme to reach that level. The Boathouse, however, I’m sure has been underwater at times. You don’t think of ministers as being wealthy. The elder Emerson was a minister in Concord and a Chaplin in the Continental Army. The house is on the outskirts of town, but you’re right, it was a large house for that era.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the fascinating history lesson–great photos always make for better learning :) Visited The North Bridge area long ago and bought the book “Johnny Tremain.” Amazed the children watched the battle from the house window–it looks rather close!–as opposed to say, hiding in the cellar? Glad to see you included a little free library photo, providing a door to more arm chair adventures! They are celebrating their 10th anniversary this Friday (May 17).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I had that same thought about watching the battle on the bridge. One article did say that the Rev. Emerson invited members of his congregation into the house along with some of the wounded. I’m not sure I would have let my child watch from the window.

      Like

  6. Thanks for the history lesson, Dan. The doors are great as are the buildings. The photos bring it all to life.

    I loved literature, so it was pleasant for me. I have toured the House of Seven Gables in Salem, MA. I love history now, but it was not my thing in school. History teachers speaking in monotone kill the desire to listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Maggie. I wasn’t a fan of history in school, but I am now, as well. One of the things I like about my brother is that he taught history the way I think it should be taught. When I visit him, we often run into kids who were his students, and they all seem to like him a lot.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Fantastic history lesson, Dan! Wow! I don’t think the majority of people even stop to contemplate what our history as a nation is. I got goosebumps with some of what you wrote and your pictures too. LOVED your gallery!! I could feel the history just oozing from out of them. Thank you so much for this exceptional post today!! Great job you have done!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. It’s amazing to have the history of our country and our literature so close to each other. That you can walk from the bridge where the war began to the house where these authors lived and hang out with each other makes me shake my head. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This house has a wonderful pedigree, doesn’t it? I like the description of it that reads like something I’d see at a modern home-a-rama [or parade of homes as they’re sometimes call them around here].

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Did I ever love this post, Dan? As a history buff and writer, you hit me with both barrels. Amazing that the house has been kept in its original condition. Also so amazing that the history of such literary persons circle it. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I thought I replied to this earlier. I wasn’t sure where to go with this, so I tried a little history and a little writers. Good to hear that it worked.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Out of those three authors, he was my favorite. I think I could still write a term paper on The Scarlet Letter. I wasn’t an English major, but American Lit was the only course they fit my schedule.

      Like

  10. A lovely structure but I’m kinda partial to those boathouse doors. I seem to have a soft spot lately for bare, faded and weathered wooden doors lately.
    And hey I think we see a partial Danfie in the reflection on the Little Free Library door!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. When walking around a peaceful pastoral property like this it’s hard to imagine the noise, chaos, and horror of battle occurring on those shores. It’s a lovely property, but the boat house is a favourite.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Those early American writers did like to throw in a few phrases which are now archaic – Moby Dick is also a trial to get through unless you’re reading an abridged version. Amazing that old house is still standing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Moby dick – ugh, you hit my all time worst memory. Instead of the abridged version, I had to read the Norton Critical Edition – Moby Dick plus a couple hundred pages of analysis.

      Like

  13. Oh myyyyyyyyy……could you hear my awwwww…..all the way up there? Can you see me smile or read the envy in my 👀? All my favorites. The transcendentalists were my heroes in high school during my American Literature Humanities classes. We have sister courses of American Lit and Amercian History. That was my best high school year by far! I also had Creative writing that year. I still think of Thoreau every time I walk in the woods. I have to see that house. Thanks for sharing it. 👏💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knew you would like this Cheryl. I didn’t know why or how much, but certainly more than I did. I’m truly glad you liked this post. If I ever get there when it’s open, I’ll seld you photos from inside.

      Like

      1. That would be awesome Dan! Thanks. It is so right up my alley. That’s why I love the Oakley Plantation Home in St Francisville, LA. John James Audobon spent years there sketching birds while he tutored Eliza, the Plantation owner’s daughter. There are trails to walk and I love to imagine him walking there and watching the birds he sketched so famously.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Super! My husband did his post-grad thesis on Hawthorne, so I forwarded the post to him. What a wonderful house! I would pay cash money to go on a writing retreat there; maybe some genius would rub off onto me. Nah, prolly not.

    Always happy to see a little free library, especially with a Danfie thrown in for good measure. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “My husband did his post-grad thesis on Hawthorne” – I am in awe. I would hide under the covers until school was over. I don’t know what programs they have there. You would think it would be popular.

      Like

  15. Wow, Dan. I think this is probably your most fascinating “history” post. I very much enjoyed hearing the history of this remarkable and beautiful house.
    It seems we need to add a battle to that history — the Battle of American Lit 201! You slayed me with “I have my diploma; those guys can’t hurt me now.”
    I’ve really got to buckle down and write the rest of Chapter 4. I’ve had a lot of challenges this week. This is fair warning that it might post a day late.
    Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. I struggled with their literature, but that was then. Now I can share their story. That house is beautiful and the history is so important to this country.

      Your story runs on your schedule, if you need a day, you odn’t need to warn us.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This is a great post. Excellent pictures and although I’m busy this week but I had to come, read and comment on this post. I liked the boathouse of all.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I for one read every word of this post. I still can’t get my head wrapped around the fact that The Old Manse housed three of the most well-known writers of American literature. I’ve been there a few times, and it’s well worth a visit. I must admit that I wasn’t as taken by the doors as the windows. 12 over 12 is always a treat to see. Sophia carved in one of the upstairs windows that looks over to the bridge. Thank you for a wonderful post, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve mentioned the 12 over 12 before, Jennie and I knew you would like those. They are remarkable windows. I hope to get back up there at some point when it’s open. I’d love to see the inside.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Dan – I was there in 1976 … but wasn’t interested in history, knew nothing about Americans, was in a high state of anxiety in staying in Concord with cousins, whom I didn’t know … so I missed out; another trip is due sometime …

    I think it was there when I was looking round an historic property when my English accent came through and the family said to their children you must listen to this ‘girl’ … and raved about my voice … then commented on how old the place was – I had difficulty biting my tongue and keeping quiet about England’s green and pleasant land that has properties somewhat more ancient … ah well …

    Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hilary. I did have the privilege to visit England, and it is remarkable to see structures still standing from hundreds of years before any of these “historic” buildings were built. Honestly, there are times I wish we hadn’t fought that war.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I know Waldo …from my kids, and I’ve “heard” of Waldo Emerson, but I would have to see a piece of his writings to remember I I read something of him in the past. What did you do with your images – for a few weeks now the colors and edges are much clearer, and a little bigger than I’m used to – do you have a different camera, or another blog theme? I like the change, by the way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I have another Emerson house coming up in a week or so. I’ll include a snippet with that.

      I haven’t done anything different with my photos. Maybe they updated the theme.

      Like

Add your thoughts. Start or join the discussion. Sadly, multiple links require moderation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: