Literary landmarks


Places where famous writers were born. Or where they lived. Or places they wrote about. Or where they’re buried.
Not listed here: the houses of famous writers who are still living as of this writing, such as novelist Stephen King or New England’s greatest living poet, Richard Wilbur.

Edwin Arlington Robinson Birthplace, Head Tide, ME A two-story Federal-style house (built 1835) overlooking the Sheepscot River. Privately owned.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Brunswick, ME  Stowe lived here in the 1850s with her husband, who was a professor at Bowdoin College. It was here that she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, after an inspirational (and allegedly visionary) experience at nearby First Parish Church.

Ragged Island, Harpswell, ME  The summer home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay from 1933 to 1950, immortalized in her poem of the same name (“Ragged Island”) as a place where “thought unbraids itself, and the mind becomes single.”

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, ME  The childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Now owned by the Maine Historical Society.

Sarah Orne Jewett House, South Berwick, ME  Built in 1774, this two-story hip-roofed house is where Jewett, the author of Country of the Pointed Firs, was born in 1849. Operated as a museum by Historic New England.

Appledore Island, ME  Poet Celia Thaxter lived out on Appledore for years. Neither the hotel that her father owned there, nor the cottage she lived in in later life is still standing, but visitors can still see her beloved flower garden. (She also spent part of her girlhood out on White Island, a mile and a half to the southwest, where her father was the lighthouse keeper.)

Robert Frost Farm, Derry, NH  This is the modest little farmhouse that Frost’s grandfather bought for him to settle down and raise a family in, and where he wrote many of his best-loved poems. Beautifully maintained as a museum. Website here.

MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH  One of the oldest and most prestigious artists’ colonies in the United States, MacDowell was founded in 1907 and has hosted countless top-flight artists, composers, and writers, including James Baldwin, Willa Cather, E.L. Doctorow, and Thornton Wilder. Website here.

Robert Frost Farm, Franconia, NH Frost bought this farmhouse after returning from England in 1915. He and his family lived here until 1920. It’s open as a museum, and it has a nice walking path through the woods. Website here.

Homer Noble Farm, Ripton, VT This was Robert Frost’s summer home from 1939 until his death in 1963. (Except for his meals, he lived and worked not in the farmhouse but in a little cabin up the hill.) Now owned by Middlebury College.  Website here.

Old Bennington Churchyard, Bennington, VT  Site of Robert Frost’s grave. He’s bured here along with most of his family, under a stone bearing an epitaph from his poem “The Lesson for Today”: I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.

Arrowhead, Pittsfield, MA  This yellow farmhouse, built in 1783, was home to Herman Melville from 1850 to 1863. During this time he wrote Moby-Dick, inspired (so the story goes) by the pale whalelike bulk of Mount Greylock rising above the wooded hills to the north. The house is operated as a museum by the Berkshire County Historical Society. Website here.

The Mount, Lenox, MA  A large and elegant mansion built in 1902 by Edith Wharton, the well-heeled author of Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, and The House of Mirth. She designed the house and gardens herself. Operated as a museum and as a venue for weddings and other large parties. Website here.

Dr. Seuss House, Springfield, MA  The childhood home of Theodor Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, is at 74 Fairfield St. It’s a private home, not open to the public, but elsewhere in Springfield avid Seuss fans can find the actual Mulberry Street and the Yertle Garden, a small sculpture park next to the art museum.

John Greenleaf Whittier Birthplace, Haverhill, MA  A large but plain two-story center-chimney farmhouse, where John Greenleaf Whittier (the author of “Snow-Bound”)was born in 1807. The oldest parts of the building date to 1688. Operated as a museum; website here.

Whittier Home, Amesbury, MA  The in-town house (built 1829) that Whittier bought in 1836 and where he lived until 1892.  Maintained as a museum; website here.

John Turner House (“House of the Seven Gables”), Salem, MA  This 1668 house inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel The House of the Seven Gables. Meticulously restored, it’s now run as a museum along with the house Hawthorne was born in, which originally stood a few blocks away but was moved here in 1958.

William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington, MA  A picturesque farmhouse where Bryant, the first internationally-famous American poet, spent his childhood from the age of two, and where he summered from 1865 to his death in 1878.  Operated as a museum by the Trustees of Reservations; website here.

The Homestead, Amherst, MA Emily Dickinson was born here and lived here for most of her life. Operated as a museum along with her brother’s house next door; website here.

Fort Juniper, Amherst, MA  A very small house built by poet Robert Francis, who lived here from 1940 to his death in 1987.

Jack Kerouac Birthplace, Lowell, MA  An undistinguished brown two-family house on Lupine Rd.

Walden Pond, Concord, MA Known worldwide as the site of the cabin that Henry David Thoreau built and lived in for two years. It’s been preserved as a state park, and the swimming beach gets mobbed on hot summer days, the pond’s beauty remains, mostly unaffected by the crowds. Thoreau’s cabin is long-since gone (its site is marked by a cairn of pebbles dropped by well-wishers), but there’s a replica of it right next to the parking lot.  Website here.

The Old Manse, Concord, MA  Built in 1770, this lovely house was home to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and then (a few years later) to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who immortalized it in his book Mosses from an Old Manse.  Operated as a museum by the Trustees of Reservations; website here.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA Founded in 1855; site of the graves of Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel HAwthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge/Watertown, MA Founded in 1831, it promptly became greater Boston’s most prestigious place to be buried. It’s also a lovely place to visit, with gorgeous landscaping, huge trees, and great birdwatching opportunities. Among the intellectual luminaries buried here are Nathaniel Bowditch (author of Bowditch’s Practical Navigator), Philips Brooks (author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”), William Ellery Channing, John Ciardi (translator of Dante), Robert Creeley, Mary Baker Eddy, Frances Merritt “Fanny” Farmer (author of the Boston Cooking School Cookbook), publisher James Fields and his wife Annie, architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller, botanist Asa Gray, poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Winslow Homer, Julia Ward Howe (author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”), author and escaped slave Harriet Jacobs, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poets James Russell Lowell and Amy Lowell, novelist Bernard Malamud, historian Francis Parkman, behaviorist psychologist B. F. Skinner, and lexicographer Joseph Worcester.

Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, MA Founded in 1848, it’s quite comparable to Mount Auburn in general prettiness. Bured here are E.  E. Cummings, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Edward Everett Hale (author of “The Man Without a Country”), Eugene O’Neill, and Anne Sexton, among many others.

Craigie-Longfellow House, Cambridge, MA  A beautiful Georgian mansion that served as George Washington’s headquarters during the siege of Boston in 1775-6, this house was given to poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as a wedding present in 1843, and he lived here until his death in 1882.  Operated as a historic site by the National Park Service. Website here.

Ticknor and Fields Building (“Old Corner Bookstore”), Boston, MA Built in 1712, this building was the home of the publishers Ticknor and Fields from 1832 to 1865, during the “Boston Renaissance” when this city was the literary capital of the nation. Longfellow, Emerson, Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.), and James Russell Lowell were frequent visitors. As of this writing, it’s now home to a burrito shop.

Old South Meeting House, Boston, MA  In addition to being the church where Benjamin Franklin was baptized and the site of the public meeting at which the Boston Tea Party was fomented, it was also the church Phyllis Wheatley attended.

Robert Frost apartment, Louisburg Square, Boston, MA  Frost lived briefly here in an apartment at 88 Mt. Vernon Street in the latre 1930s and early 1940s.

Robert Gould Shaw memorial, Boston, MA  This monument commemorating the heroism of Colonel Shaw and his men, with a striking high-relief sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, bears a quotation from James Russell Lowell’s 1863 poem “Memoriae Positum.” The memorial’s best-known literary association, however, comes from its appearance in the poem “For the Union Dead” by Robert Lowell–James Russell Lowell’s great-great nephew.

Beacon Street Walk, Boston Common, Boston, MA  It was on a stroll along the Beacon Street side of the Common that Ralph Waldo Emerson expostulated with Walt Whitman, hoping to persuade him to expunge the racier parts of Leaves of Grass. Needless to say, Emerson’s efforts were unsuccessful.

Lowell-Hardwick Residence, Boston, MA The Back Bay townhouse where poet Robert Lowell lived with his wife, novelist Elizabeth Hardwick.

Edgar Allan Poe Birth Site, Boston, MA  Poe, who disliked Boston, was born in a house just off Tremont Street, near what’s now the Public Garden. A plaque marks the approximate location.

Brook Farm Site, West Roxbury, MA The site of a short-lived but famous utopian commune, whose most famous inhabitant was the young Nathaniel Hawthorne. (He later fictionalized his experiences there in his novel The Blithedale Romance.) Fields, woods, foundations, and old paths, abutting a large cemetery. Website here.

Fruitlands, Harvard, MA Possibly the most ill-conceived utopian experiment of them all, Fruitlands lasted less than a year, from May 1843 to January 1844. Its members included the Alcott family, including Louisa May Alcott, who was ten years old at the time.  It’s now operated as a museum; website here.

Seamen’s Bethel, New Bedford, MA  The whaler’s chapel that Melville described in Chapter 7 (“The Chapel”) of Moby-Dick. Built in 1831, and later retrofitted with a pulpit in the shape of a ship’s bow. Now a part of the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park.

Friends Burying Ground, Nantucket, MA  At the corner of Quaker Rd. and Madaket Rd., this cemetery is immortalized in Robert Lowell’s poem “The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket.”

Jewish Cemetery, Newport, RI  The churchyard abutting the old synagogue in Newport was vividly described in Longfellow’s poem “The Jewish Cemetry at Newport.”

Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT  Twain isn’t usually thought of as a New Englander, but he lived in this comfortable Victorian mansion from 1874 to 1891. Operated as a museum; website here.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Hartford, CT  Stowe lived in this house from 1873 until her death in 1896. Operated as a museum; website here.

Wallace Stevens House, Hartford, CT A comfortable but unremarkable house, befitting an insurance executive. Stevens lived here for many years and wrote lots of his best-known poems here. Not open to the public; it’s a private residence.


About Peter Chipman

I'm a lexicographer, an editor, and a lover of language and literature. Also a proud father of two, an occasional bell-ringer, a thirteenth-generation New England Yankee, a former owner of a one-room schoolhouse, and the current owner of a 220-year-old farmhouse.
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