Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Orchard House and Louisa May Alcott

When we visited Boston in September one of the places that I wanted to go to most of all was Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts.  I explained to my hubby over and over and over and over, well, you get the point, that it wasn't far from Boston and that I really wanted to go.

Now, I turns out that there is also a Concord in New Hampshire.  I was totally unaware of this.  Hubby kept saying, no we can't go, it is too far away, I said, no, it isn't, it really isn't, yes it is replied he.  Eventually I got the map out and showed him!  We of course fell about with laughing at the situation and he agreed that yes, we could go.

So, on the appointed day off we set to visit Orchard House, the home of Louisa May Alcott.  Hubby had no idea who she was, or why I wanted to visit her home.  Despite the fact that I had told him countless times - and so had my Mother - that I was named after one of the characters in her book, Little Women.  That character is of course Amy!  My mother wanted me to grow up to be graceful and artistic as she felt that the Amy in the book was.  I'm not sure that I have lived up to that, but there you go!


The house was just as I had pictured it in my mind and was more perfect than I could describe.  I was so excited, I may have done a little happy dance when we got out of the car - just a small dance you understand!!


No photos were allowed in the house.  There were however a selection of postcards of the different rooms for sale, so I bought some and have photographed those to share with you here.

Above you can see Louisa as a young woman, it was taken circa 1858.  Below is Louisa as an older woman.


Her most famous book is of course Little Women, and the sequel Good Wives is also very well known.  She wrote many other books of course.  Although I have read a lot of her books, including Little Women and Good Wives, I gave away my childhood copies many years ago, so it seemed like a good opportunity to buy some new copies to read again.


The house can only be visited by guided tour and is usually started with the watching of a film about the family, but due to the time we arrived, we did the tour first and watched the film afterwards.  Both the tour and the film were excellent and I really did enjoy the visit so very much.  I think in fact that it was the highlight of our holiday for me!

Being a tour guide myself, I always find it interesting to see how others give tours as you can always pick up ideas from them as to how they talk, deal with questions and so on.  It can be a bit of a busmans holiday in a way, but I enjoy it!

Usually therefore I don't say anything or ask any questions if I am on a tour, preferring just to listen and observe.  However, for some reason on this tour my mouth just wouldn't stay shut!!  No idea why, but there you go!

First of all I announced to everyone that I was named after Amy in Little Women and then told them all that I would rather have been Jo - which was as I said it true.  Now though, after my visit, I am happy to be Amy!

Then, when we were in Louisa's parents bedroom later on, there was a yarn swift set up on a table, and people were asking about it.  The tour guide wasn't familiar with what it was or how it worked, and I found myself stepping in and giving an explanation.  Not my usual style at all, and I was so embarrassed both times that I turned a rather odd purple colour according to hubby!  The tour guide didn't seem to mind at all and was very lovely about it.  Indeed, afterwards when I was in the shop she kept introducing me to people saying that I was named after Amy.  Not sure if she liked what I had said, or if she was getting her own back!  I think she liked it though!!


So, onwards with the tour!  First of all was the kitchen.  This is quite a small room, but you can just imagine the bustle of family life and the cooking and caring for the family that went on here.

Below you can see the Parlour and beyond is the Dining Room.  The orange cushion that you can see on the sofa is a replica of Jo's Mood Cushion.  Depending on whether it was stood up - as it is here - or lying down depended on whether or not Jo - in the books - was willing to accept company of the sofa with her.  This is also the room that Louisa's older sister married in.



Above is Lousia's fathers study.  Her father was called Bronson Alcott. 

Below is Louisa's own bedroom.  If you look carefully you will see to the left of the picture, between the two windows, a small half round table.  That is where Louisa sat, looking out of the window and writing her books.  This is the room where I made my untimely revelation about being named after Amy!



The next room to visit was Louisa's sister May's bedroom.  May was Amy in the books.  I felt rather overcome to actually be in May's bedroom.  I have never felt this way about any house that I have ever visited before.  It was so wonderful to be there.  I could have spent ages in this room alone if there had been time.

May had drawn on the walls of her bedroom various classical scenes  - have tried to zoom in on the postcards in the pictures below so that you can might perhaps be able to make out some of the drawings.  These are preserved today.

May did indeed grow up to be a very artistic and talented lady.  She became the leading Turner copyist of her day and was very well known and respected for her art and painting.

I don't think that I will ever forget standing in this room, it was even more wonderful than being in Louisa's room for me.



If you ever visit there is an excellent book about the story of the house which I have enjoyed reading.  I really would recommend a visit to the house for any fans of either Louisa's work or houses of this period.  In fact, I would recommend it to anyone passing by!



As you know I have visited and do visit a lot of different places, but this really is my all time favourite I think and I would definitely return.  I have a cross stitch - yet to be made - of the house and I am sure that I will treasure it for a very long time.  It is odd being named after someone in a book, and then getting to visit the house of the author and stand in the bedroom of the very person who inspired that character.  If you are named after someone and can go and visit their house, I thoroughly recommend it!

Amy

52 comments:

  1. Hi Amy. Yes, I am still here, just not blogged or commented for a while. As yiu kniw, we go to Maine frequently and that always involves a visit to our temple in the Bodton area. I have always wanted to visit Orchard house and my husband has always wanted to visit the civil war sites around Concord, so thid year we finally did both and thoroughly enjoyed them! I have always loved "little women" and thoroughly loved the house. The Alcott's way of life also fascinated me. They definitely were ahead of their time.

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  2. Great blog posting. I read "Little Women" many times as a child and always cried at the same places. Her house is a lot more stunning than Charlotte Bronte's house in Yorkshire which is quite plain in comparison.

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  3. How wonderful that you got to visit. It sounds as though it was well worth the trip, an experience which will always stay with you.

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  4. This is lovely, Amy. I would really enjoy visiting such a house as I enjoy seeing these very old and historic homes to see how life was then. I am embarrassed to say that I have never read Little Women but have watched the movie and love it. Maybe I should pick up a copy of the book and have a good read! Great post! Have a super day. Pamela

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  5. What a great story. It was good you managed to visit the house, not sure I'm amed after anyone in paticular

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  6. What a great visit! This is a home I would also like to visit one day. We can drive to Massachusetts in one day, so really ... what am I waiting for?! Have you ever watched the movie Little Women with Winona Rider? I find it's very close to the book, and quite enjoyed it. Maybe some day I'll visit my namesake's house ... do you know where Peter Pan's friend Wendy's house is? ;) Wendy x

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  7. Loved this post and learned several things I did not know. First of all I haven't read Good Wives and I didn't know Louisa's sister was named May and Amy was her character in the books. I also did not know where the Alcott home was.

    My heart was warmed by your happiness visiting there and what it meant to you.
    Now, I want to reread all her books and especially Good Wives. A great post to share. Thanks.

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    1. Just popping in to say there were four books altogether - after Good Wives there was Jo's Boys, then Little men.

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  8. I would love to be there and see it in person, she was an influential writer of my formative years. I just re read little women last year and enjoyed visiting old friends :)

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  9. Incredible pictures and so happy you shared with us.

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  10. What a shame I'm not named after anyone! Not even someone else in my family. This looks like a great place to visit. You really made me laugh - my mother made sure I read Little Women when I was a child and I'm sure she was hoping I'd turn out like a lady! I wouldn't normally ask questions or say much at all if I was on this sort of tour but sometimes something just blurts out and then I'm really embarassed and wish I hadn't said anything. The longer it goes on the redder I get and more tongue-tied and nervous. So silly of me.

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  11. What a great play to visit! I love Little Women and it's one of my daughter's top all time favorite books. Was the furniture compatible with that era? Just wondering. We have The Brown House here, where Sherman slept. It is a museum but I have found that everything in the house is more late 1800s. Sound like fun!

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  12. Hello Amy,

    A wonderful post. It must have been so strange yet exciting and unbelievable to actually be in the house and rooms of the Alcott family, truly a dream come true. I love May's room, and she had such a wonderful talent.
    I've read Little Women, but not too sure about Good Wives. I love the idea of Jo's mood cushion.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing visit to Orchard House.

    luv
    irene
    xxxx

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  13. What a wonderful experience. :) x

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  14. Hi dear Amy! I love this post! I went through a Louisa May Alcott phase in my own personal reading/research and learned so much about the family and their lives. I REALLY want to go to Orchard House now! Thank you for sharing your delightful tour with us! I have three pretty copies of Little Women and I like to watch the Winona Ryder film, too. Thanks and more thanks!

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  15. What a wonderful place! You will always remember your wonderful visit to Orchard House especially as it has so much meaning for you. Thank you for taking us with you on your tour:)

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  16. What a lovely post Amy :) I loved Little Women. I was very much a "Jo" though, did not want to do what I was told, always had to find out for myself even if it led to lots of upset,. Thanks for sharing your memories with us :)
    Jillxo

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  17. Amy, what a lovely tour, and you did so much work to get us shots of the interior from the postcards. Great job, and glad you were so happy with the visit. Looks like a charming place to visit, and so glad someone cared enough to preserve it. I'll have to put it on my bucket list when we are out east again.

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  18. Great post, very enjoyable thank you for the tour. My mother insisted that my second name was to be Luella, she had read of a character in a book too, but alas never actually told me which book! xcx

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  19. I've been there too, it's such a nice place to visit. How interesting to be named after the character in Little Women. I have always loved the book and others of the era, and I concentrated in 19th-century American literature when I earned my degree in English.

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  20. What a lovely place for you to visit! Such a lovely tour too xx

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  21. You took us on a wonderful tour, what a great place to visit.

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  22. Wow that's pretty fantastic being named after a character on a book and then being able to visit the authors home! Pretty special! What a wonderful day and a great trip you had.

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  23. That must have been such an emotive visit. I grew up with the two books and still have my childhood copies.

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  24. Your blogpost reminds me how long it has been since I last read Little Women. And decided it's high time to re-read it !! Thé perfect literature during the festive season !
    About the house, wow... I think I would even like to live in that house... It just looks so cosy, a house where you would feel at home instantly... (Well, not everybody maybe, but I surely would...)

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  25. A wonderful post Amy, I still remember reading little women as a child and subsequently read Good Wives but I actually can't remember the latter in detail after so many years. I will put it on wish list.
    The house looks big but little at the same time.
    A fabulous opportunity for you to visit and thank goodness it is preserved.
    Helen

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  26. Hi Amy, thanks so much for all your visits. I'm sorry I have been so busy with my crochet/knit sale at our church that I'm involved in. It is this weekend. I have never been to Boston and want to visit someday! Thanks for showing us this beautiful house! Enjoy the rest of the week.
    Julie

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  27. Love it! I'll bet you must be a wonderful tour guide. It's never better than when one gets a tour guide who truly enjoys their subject. When we were recently visiting Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, B.C., the handouts were completely worthless and the self-guided tour wasn't really that interesting, but we finally had the good fortune to meet one of the volunteers who helped with the restoration. He finally made the house come alive for us and made the visit completely worthwhile.

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  28. Such a wonderful place to visit I'd love to go there one day, how I love those books, so great that you did some tour guiding while there, Jo was always my favourite think I might have to re read the books thanks for sharing
    Clare xx

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  29. How lovely to visit the home of a famous author. I've also read the Little Women series, but I don't think any of her other titles. Another childhood favourite of mine was LM Montgomery and I think that would be another nice one to visit. Love the bit about your narration on the yarn swift. Take care.

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  30. It is now on my list dear friend!! I had no idea that you were named after Amy from Little Women!!! How lovely and fantastic is that!!! And you had me cracking up when you were speaking up and sharing on the tour!! Something I would have done but only my face would have turned bright red!!! That home is gorgeous! I love everything about it and now it is my mission to go!!! Thanks for sharing sweet friend!! Nicole xo

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  31. I haven't yet read Little Women but it on my (very long!) list! It must have been a treat to visit the house.

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  32. Really interesting post - I can quite understand why you would want to visit the house. Thanks for sharing
    Caz

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  33. I think this is your best post yet. I can well understand why you got goosebumps, what a special thing to experience. I absolutely love Little Women and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the house. Thanks so much for doing a post on it- wonderful! xx

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  34. Amy, I love little woman, and your post has really made my day. thank you. I can just imagine them in the kitchen.xx

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  35. How fascinating, Amy. I can definitely understand your excitement about being in the house - and the bedroom! - of your namesake! :o)

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  36. Fascinating Amy. Thank you for taking us with you on that wonderful tour. I love the Little Women books. Have you read Little Men and Jo's Boys too? Not perhaps as entrancing as the first two but lovely to read. X

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  37. What a wonderful post, Amy, and quite thrilling to see Orchard House at last. I received Little Women for my 10th birthday and read it many, many times, as well as the sequels. Quite obsessive, really. When we visited Boston I wanted to go to Concord too, but for some reason we were unable to organise it. Now you have inspired me - I'll have to figure out a way to get there :))

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  38. What a wonderful tour! I'm so glad you shared it with us. I never knew about her home being open for tours, it's somewhere I would enjoy visiting one day.

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  39. Wow...I'm a fan for sure, and simply loved this post. Wish I could have seen the property.xx

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  40. I'm so glad you were able to visit. It's a beautiful home and I know I would enjoy it too.

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  41. Hi Amy, I really enjoyed taking this tour with you! The house is lovely and I did get a giggle out of your being a bit of a spokesperson for the tour and turning purple. So funny. It is wonderful that you were able to see the bedroom of the person you were named for. It is a lovely room. I was in Boston for a wedding right before you and I regret not being able to 'get away', but next time I go, I will be sure to visit this beautiful house. Robert Frost's farm is another destination I want to see just over the border an hour into New Hampshire. I just found a vintage (1960's) copy of 'Little Women' a few weeks ago and want to re-read it this winter. I will think of you as I read it....xo Karen

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  42. Cracking post. I have the pleasure of being a Jo: not directly named after but definitely happy to share the name with the sister I feel most affinity with! Time for a reread, methinks!

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  43. Wow! I'm a big Little Women fan, this must have been thrilling! I love things like this in general and hubby and I often visit National Trust properties and sites of famous people. I can fully understand the photography rule as the flash often fades and damages things, but don't you just wish you could :-) xx

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  44. Oh I loved that book! What a fantastic visit this must have been for you! And what a lovely homely house. Thank you so much for sharing Amy! xx

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  45. hello amy,
    lovely post!!! I love that book and the movie!! The house is lovely !
    Thanks for this wonderful tour!!
    Have a wonderful evening,
    love regina

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  46. This post is such a great read, Amy! I loved reading Little Women years ago, and I loved seeing all the pictures here of Orchard House and hearing about your visit and some of the history of the Alcott family....... How lovely that you were named after that particular Amy!! Btw, I am sure the tour guide was pleased at your contributions and will now be able to answer people's questions about the yarn swift :)
    Helen xox

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  47. The house is much more fancy than I would have imagined.

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  48. I have never read any of her work (I think I was more into Ian Fleming), but don't see how anyone, but especially you, could have possibly avoided visiting this place! It looks a wonderful house, very warm and homely; I particularly liked dad's study. And you obviously had a wonderful, memorable time - which is something to smile about.

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  49. Love these books and have read all 4 several times. What a wonderful visit! Thank you for sharing xxx

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  50. In all the time we lived in Boston that is somewhere I never visited. Looks lovely.

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