National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for Teachers
Living and Writing Deliberately:
The Concord Landscapes and Legacy of Henry Thoreau
Concord InformationHome base for the workshop will be Concord, Massachusetts, a beautiful country town twenty miles west of Boston. Concord is renowned for its associations with both the American Revolution and the later intellectual revolution represented by Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne and the Alcotts. The Concord Museum is the host institution for the workshop, and a gateway to the exploration of Concord’s rich history.
You will be within walking distance of an almost unbelievable number of historical and natural sites of great significance. Click to link to the extensive Visitor Information section of the Concord Chamber of Commerce website.
Concord is accessible by public transportation from Boston’s Logan International Airport via subway from Logan to North Station, and train to Concord. You will be riding the same line that Thoreau writes about in Walden, slicing through the woods by the Pond to reach the station!
Participants for the second (national audience) week will be housed at the historic 18th-century Colonial Inn (part of which was once the home of Thoreau’s aunts) on the town square in Concord, within easy walking distance of historic sites, restaurants, a superb public library, and Concord’s three rivers. The room price will be approximately $160/night plus tax, and the teachers will have a choice of doubles (with an option of sharing the cost) or singles. All rooms have WiFi access and are air-conditioned.
For both weeks, a Sunday night welcome dessert at the Colonial Inn and a Thursday evening dinner and dramatic program at the Concord Museum’s new Wright Tavern site will be incorporated into the schedule and budget, as well as a box supper for the trip back from New York City on Wednesday. Other meals will be “on your own” for participants; a choice of box lunches will be available on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, when we are at sites that are not close to restaurants.
Transportation will be available for those unable to walk to the locations near the Colonial Inn or Concord Museum base. With the exception of the trip to the Morgan Library on Wednesday, all the sites to be visited are within a six-mile radius. A bus will be provided for Tuesday and Friday to locations beyond comfortable walking distance. Participants will be encouraged to use unstructured time during the week to collect images and impressions; doing what they could only do by being in Concord, not what they could just as easily do at home.
Henry Thoreau was a walker – a “saunterer.” Accordingly, we will be doing a good bit of walking throughout the workshop. We will be using the outdoors as a classroom, even in the summer; this is an essential component of our program. We will of course accommodate those with mobility issues.
THE NATURAL AND HISTORICAL LANDMARKS WE WILL SEE
(SITES in order of appearance during our weeklong workshop)
The 1716 Colonial Inn has long been a gathering place in the center of the village of Concord, and part of it was once the home of Thoreau’s aunts (and his whole family during Thoreau’s last two years at Harvard). It will also serve as our gathering place, and as lodging for participants in our second (residential) week.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery contains the graves of Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts, and their families and neighbors. Dedicated by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1855, it was designed to reflect the harmony of man and nature – a spot of great beauty and serenity.
The Concord Museum holds the largest collection of Thoreau-related objects in the world. Founded in 1886, the Museum contains a nationally significant collection of more than 35,000 objects spanning Native American settlement to the present. From the nineteenth century, this includes such treasures as the original contents of Thoreau’s house at Walden Pond and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s study.
At Minute Man National Historical Park, the opening battle of the Revolution is brought to life as you explore the battlefields and structures associated with April 19, 1775, and witness the American revolutionary spirit through the writings of the Concord authors.
Adjacent to the North Bridge, The Old Manse was the home of Reverend William Emerson at the beginning of the American Revolution. Sixty years later, his grandson Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote about “the shot heard round the world” in 1775, created the first draft of “Nature” in this same home, thus launching his own “shot” from his pen. Later, Nathaniel Hawthorne spent three years here, writing in the same study overlooking the Concord River.
The Robbins House belonged to the descendants of an enslaved Revolutionary War veteran. His granddaughter, who grew up in the house, taught newly-freed slaves in the South after the Civil War and was a civil rights activist who deliberately tested out the legality of segregated accommodations a full century before Rosa Parks.
Walden Pond State Reservation is centered on the place made famous for Thoreau’s sojourn of 1845-7: his experiment in “living deliberately.” Shoreline and woodland trails, and a brand new Visitor Center will make our approaches to the Pond and the Book a truly remarkable and exhilarating experience. “Earth’s eye” is what Thoreau called this place, and you will discover here why it so reflected his own nature and vice-versa.
The Thoreau Institute, on the hill above Walden, is the research facility of The Walden Woods Project, an organization which works to preserves the land, literature, and legacy of Henry David Thoreau to foster an ethic of environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
The Morgan Library, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, holds the bulk of Thoreau’s journal as well as significant manuscripts, personal letters, field notes, and rare books. The exhibition ‘This Ever New Self’: Thoreau and his Journal, a collaboration with the Concord Museum, will be the focus of our visit to the Big Apple, which we call “Greater Concord.”
The Ralph Waldo Emerson House was the author’s home from 1835 until his death in 1882. Emerson was at the very center of the literary and intellectual fervor which drew people from near and far to Concord for spirited and deeply probing conversations with the philosopher-poet.
The Alcotts’ Orchard House was home to a family of intensely creative and reform-minded individuals whose lives were made world-famous through their fictional portrayal in Louisa May Alcotts’ Little Women.
The Concord Free Public Library, also dedicated by Emerson, holds outstanding Special Collections related to the Concord authors and their times. We will visit these holdings as well as a special bicentennial exhibit on Thoreau.
Concord Center Historic District includes the site of the jail where Thoreau spent the night that inspired “Civil Disobedience”. It also incorporates the Town House where John Brown spoke, and the First Parish Church, where Thoreau first delivered his “Plea for Captain John Brown.” The Wright Tavern, currently being used for programming by the Concord Museum, was a meeting place for early resisters to British authority, and it will serve as a meeting place for us as well.
The Calf Pasture Conservation Area abuts the confluence of the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers, which form the Concord River. The rivers were a vital part of Concord’s landscape and Thoreau’s personal geography: he was constantly beside them, on them, and in them.
The Historic Farming Fields of Minute Man National Historical Park harken back to the days of the first Concord farmers. Thoreau studied these long-cultivated areas, recording the balance between human activity and the forces of nature, and noting the rapid changes in the landscape during his own lifetime.
We end where Thoreau began: at the recently-restored farmhouse where he was born exactly two hundred years ago. The Thoreau Farm now houses both the offices of the Thoreau Farm Trust, which preserves and interprets the site for the public, and the Thoreau Society, with members all over the world.