The Old Manse

The Old Manse A property of The Trustees of Reservations, this National Historic Landmark witnessed the "shot heard round the world," and, less than a century later, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau spawned a revolution in American philosophy from here.
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Built in 1769, adjacent to Concord's Old North Bridge: Witness to Revolution, and home of Hawthorne, Emerson and American Transcendentalism.

Today we celebrate the 215th birthday of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, born in Billerica, MA on May 16, 1804. Her spirit is ...
05/16/2019

Today we celebrate the 215th birthday of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, born in Billerica, MA on May 16, 1804. Her spirit is present at the Old Manse in many ways.
Elizabeth Peabody introduced her sister Sophia to Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1837, sparking a romance that would bring Sophia to marry Nathaniel five years later, in a ceremony performed at Elizabeth’s Boston bookshop. The newlyweds took up residence at the Old Manse that same day.
Even before the Hawthornes’ wedding, Elizabeth was a close colleague of another former Manse resident, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Her bookshop was an incubator for the Transcendentalist movement, a place where Emerson and others found inspiration and conversation, and she assumed the role of publisher for the Transcendentalists’ journal, “The Dial,” in 1841.
Biographer Megan Marshall writes that Peabody was "ready to cast her lot with the defiant." In 1849, she published the first printed appearance of Thoreau’s influential essay “Resistance to Civil Government” (known to modern readers as “Civil Disobedience”).
Respected in her lifetime as an author, editor, publisher, and bookseller, Peabody is now remembered as a pioneering educator. In the 1830s, she provided the academic underpinnings for Bronson Alcott’s experimental Temple School. In 1860, she opened the first kindergarten in the United States, and promoted the establishment of kindergartens nationwide in a book co-authored with her sister Mary Peabody Mann, “Moral Culture of Infancy and Kindergarten Guide.”
When her long and remarkable life came to an end in 1894, she was laid to rest less than half a mile from the Old Manse, in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
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Image: Elizabeth Peabody at mid-life, albumen print from William Taylor Newton’s extra-illustrated copy of James Elliot Cabot’s “A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson” (1887)
Image source: Used by permission of William Munroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library (Newton/Emerson Collection, Gift of Edith Emerson Forbes and Edward Waldo Emerson, 1918.)

We're excited to announce that we are among the 100 institutions across Massachusetts participating in this year's Free ...
05/07/2019

We're excited to announce that we are among the 100 institutions across Massachusetts participating in this year's Free Fund Friday initiative, thanks to our partnership with the Highland Street Foundation! Admission will be free on July 5. We look forward to seeing you! For more info, visit: http://www.highlandstreet.org/programs/free-fun-fridays

On May 6 we celebrate the birthday of the Emerson no one remembers. The younger William Emerson is often overshadowed by...
05/06/2019

On May 6 we celebrate the birthday of the Emerson no one remembers. The younger William Emerson is often overshadowed by his patriot father (also William) and his transcendentalist son, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
But the Emerson in the middle deserves to be remembered as a distinguished minister and scholar. He was born in 1769 at his maternal grandmother’s home—the Block House on Main Street—before his parents’ house, the Old Manse, was completed.
After graduating from Harvard in 1789, he was ordained and served as minister in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts until 1799, when he was recruited to be the minister of the First Church in Boston. His ministry in Boston continued until his death in 1811.
He and his wife Ruth Haskins Emerson had eight children—Ralph Waldo was the fourth. As parents, they “paid careful attention to both the religious and the intellectual development of their children. William, a liberal minister with a taste for literature, encouraged [his children’s] scholarship as well as religious devotion.”*
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Image: Engraved portrait of William Emerson, from the “Polyanthos,” 1812.
*Quote source and image source: William Munroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library, used by permission (https://concordlibrary.org/special-collections/emerson-celebration/Em_Con_4)

May 1 marks the beginning of Rev. Ezra Ripley’s life, and the end of Mary Moody Emerson’s life, 112 years later. The...
05/01/2019

May 1 marks the beginning of Rev. Ezra Ripley’s life, and the end of Mary Moody Emerson’s life, 112 years later. Their stories intersected at the Old Manse, and between them, they witnessed a span of history from the birth of the American nation to the emancipation of its enslaved people.
Ezra Ripley, born in Connecticut on May 1, 1751, came to Concord as a Harvard senior in 1775, and returned when he was called to serve as the town’s minister in 1778. In 1780, he married Phebe Bliss Emerson, the widow of Concord's previous minister, and came to live at the house that Phebe had built with her late husband William Emerson--the house we now call the Old Manse.
Rev. Ripley gave a portion of the Manse property to the town to erect the Battle Monument at the North Bridge site in 1836. He felt some regret that he had not come to Concord in time to witness the battle at the North Bridge, as his wife had done. On April 19, 1775, Phebe had watched the Minute Men rout the Redcoats while holding her 8-month-old daughter Mary Moody Emerson in her arms.
Mary Moody would grow into a wise and proudly independent woman. She had deep spiritual convictions, but had little use for religious orthodoxy. In her own words, she “danced to the music of my own imajanation,” suggesting a sort of proto-transcendentalism that left its mark on young Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, among others.
Nothing seemed to frighten her, not even death. As if taunting the Grim Reaper, she had a burial shroud made and wore it as a dress, even when riding on horseback.
Mary was ready for death long before it was ready for her. She died at the age of 88 on May 1, 1863, just a few months after the Emancipation Proclamation vindicated her abolitionist sentiments.

Spring is here! The Old Manse welcomed 16 new trees this morning as part of our landscape restoration work. The swamp wh...
04/29/2019

Spring is here! The Old Manse welcomed 16 new trees this morning as part of our landscape restoration work. The swamp white oak, crabapples, and a maple have already settled in nicely!

On April 27, 1882, 137 years ago today, Ralph Waldo Emerson died peacefully at his home in Concord, less than a month sh...
04/27/2019

On April 27, 1882, 137 years ago today, Ralph Waldo Emerson died peacefully at his home in Concord, less than a month shy of his 79th birthday. In the last decade of his life, his writing and lecturing had been curtailed by gradually worsening dementia, and friends recalled him saying “I have lost my mental faculties, but am perfectly well.” His family was always present to ensure that he was happy and well cared for.
Ever since he penned his essay “Nature” while living at the Old Manse nearly half a century earlier, he had enjoyed daily walks. In March of 1882, he sauntered out on a cold, rainy day, forgetting his coat, and this led to the pneumonia that brought his life to an end.
At his funeral, his son Edward Emerson read this passage from Waldo’s journal: “I said when I awoke, After some more sleepings and wakings I shall lie on this mattress sick; then dead; and through my gay entry they will carry these bones. Where shall I be then? I lifted my head and beheld the spotless orange light of the morning beaming up from the dark hills into the wide universe.”
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Image: The gravestone of Ralph Waldo Emerson, made from a large piece of rough-hewn rose quartz, at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA.
Photo by Tom Sulcer. Source: Wikimedia Commons

While many Patriot's Day celebrations took place on Monday, we always mark the 19th of April, the date of the battle. Th...
04/19/2019

While many Patriot's Day celebrations took place on Monday, we always mark the 19th of April, the date of the battle. This morning, Minute Man National Historical Park and The Concord Independent Battery commemorated events at the North Bridge with the Dawn Salute. Here is an amazing image from the Concord Independent Battery showing cannons firing this morning at the Old Manse.

On April 19, 1775, Phebe Bliss Emerson stood at the window of the Old Manse with her 8-month-old daughter Mary in her arms and three more children at her side, watching the war for American independence begin in her backyard. Her husband, Rev. William Emerson, was chaplain to the Minute Men, and many historians think he was standing in their ranks when they opened fire on His Majesty’s troops. Imagine how it would have felt for Phebe and her children to witness that moment, knowing their husband and father was in the thick of the battle. Today, visitors to the Old Manse can still see the North Bridge from the upstairs windows and compare it to Amos Doolittle’s 1775 illustration of the battle from the same vantage point.

You can visit the historic North Bridge and still get out of the rain on this wet Patriots’ Day. See the battle site f...
04/15/2019

You can visit the historic North Bridge and still get out of the rain on this wet Patriots’ Day. See the battle site from the same windows where Rev. William Emerson’s family watched the Minutemen fight the Redcoats. We’re open for tours 8:00-5:00 today.
(Image: The desk of Rev. William Emerson, Concord’s “patriot preacher.” Trivia question: Who was the the other Concord patriot who built this desk?)

Your skin isn't the only thing that needs protection from the sun.  Our historic furniture and reproduction wallpapers n...
04/11/2019

Your skin isn't the only thing that needs protection from the sun. Our historic furniture and reproduction wallpapers need protection, too. Thanks to a Community Preservation Act grant, the Old Manse is fitting our windows with custom glass panels that filter out more than 99% of harmful UV light. UV light can bleach or rot fabrics and cause art and wallpaper to fade. These panels will protect the house and its contents as well as helping to control temperatures to keep our visitors comfortable.

The Old Manse is sprucing up for Spring with a fresh coat of paint in the Hawthorne bedroom. Our curator’s research re...
04/06/2019

The Old Manse is sprucing up for Spring with a fresh coat of paint in the Hawthorne bedroom. Our curator’s research revealed that the wood paneling and trim in this room was once this warm reddish color—possibly chosen by Phebe Emerson Ripley (1741-1825).

Say hello to the Old Manse’s mascot, our stuffed owl nicknamed “Longfellow.” He has a glass case to keep his feath...
03/22/2019

Say hello to the Old Manse’s mascot, our stuffed owl nicknamed “Longfellow.” He has a glass case to keep his feathers from getting ruffled, but during our spring cleaning we let him come out for some fresh air.
According to legend, he’s a very wise fellow—a Harvard alum, in fact. During the American Revolution, Harvard's faculty and students temporarily evacuated their Cambridge campus and held classes in Concord, and it’s thought that they brought the owl and left it behind at the Old Manse.
He got his nickname from Nathaniel Hawthorne, who lived at the Old Manse in the 1840s, and thought the owl bore a striking resemblance to his Bowdoin College classmate, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

There’s an apple orchard behind the Old Manse, where long-awaited warm weather is coaxing buds from the trees.The hist...
03/19/2019

There’s an apple orchard behind the Old Manse, where long-awaited warm weather is coaxing buds from the trees.
The historic house is only one of the experiences to enjoy at the Manse. Sunny days are the perfect time to explore our grounds, just a few steps from the Concord River.

Poetry in the Parlor with the New England Poetry Club  returns to the Manse on April 5th! Join us for the FREE event fro...
03/17/2019

Poetry in the Parlor with the New England Poetry Club returns to the Manse on April 5th! Join us for the FREE event from 7-8 to hear Denise Bergman, Eileen Cleary, and Alexander Levering Kern read their work.

It's melting! With warm weather today, the Manse's landscape is starting to emerge from under a blanket of snow. As spri...
03/15/2019

It's melting! With warm weather today, the Manse's landscape is starting to emerge from under a blanket of snow. As spring starts to stir, we hope you'll join us to mark the Spring Equinox (and full moon!) on Wednesday, March 20 from 7-8. Check out the link to our Equinox Mediation and join us!

Thanks to photographer Sue Blanchard for this gorgeous view of a winter sunset over the Concord River, as viewed from th...
03/07/2019

Thanks to photographer Sue Blanchard for this gorgeous view of a winter sunset over the Concord River, as viewed from the Old Manse boathouse.

The first child of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne was born at the Old Manse on March 3, 1844, 175 years ago today. The H...
03/03/2019

The first child of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne was born at the Old Manse on March 3, 1844, 175 years ago today.
The Hawthornes named their daughter Una, after the heroine of “The Faerie Queene,” Edmund Spenser’s epic poem of 1590. They raised her and her younger siblings in a loving home filled with literature and art.
Largely home-schooled, Una also had the benefit of lessons from Sarah Ripley, a respected scholar who had been her parents’ landlady when they lived at Old Manse. Her learning was supplemented by time spent with her aunt Mary Peabody Mann and uncle Horace Mann, both prominent educators.
Una contracted malaria while living in Italy with her parents in 1858. Although she recovered, the damage was lasting, and she was never fully healthy again. She died in England in 1877, at age 33.
Sophia Hawthorne left us an indelible memory of Una at the Old Manse, where she used a diamond to inscribe on a windowpane:
“Una Hawthorne stood on this windowsill January 22, 1845, while the trees were all glass chandeliers. A goodly show, which she liked much, tho only 10 months old.”
[Image: Una Hawthorne, pastel portrait by Henriette Corkran and William Gorman Wills, ca. 1874. Reproduced by permission of William Munroe Special Collections, Concord Free Public Library.]

Sophia Peabody Hawthorne died on February 26, 1871 in London, where she had moved in 1868 after the death of her husband...
02/26/2019

Sophia Peabody Hawthorne died on February 26, 1871 in London, where she had moved in 1868 after the death of her husband Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her health had always been fragile, and doctors attributed her death to "typhoid pneumonia.” She was 61 years old.
She was buried in Kensal Green in London. In 2006, her remains were brought home to America and reinterred alongside Nathaniel’s in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. They now rest together, about 750 yards from the Old Manse, where they spent their wedding night in 1842.
(Their daughter Una also died in London, and her remains were brought to Sleepy Hollow at the same time as Sophia's. More about Una next week.)
Sophia was a respected artist whose work had been exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum in the 1830s. Some scholars believe she was the first American woman to be paid for her work as a painter.
Although she deferred to her husband in literary matters, she was an excellent writer. In her 20s, she lived for a time in Cuba, and kept a journal of her experiences there. Biographer Megan Marshall has written that if Sophia’s Cuba journal "had been published at the time of its writing, Sophia would have been counted among the earliest practitioners of literary Transcendentalism.”
(Image: 19th-Century hearse carrying the remains of Sophia and Una Hawthorne to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in 2006. Image source: Friends of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery)

Phebe Bliss Emerson Ripley died on February 16, 1825. In her long life, she had witnessed enormous changes in her home t...
02/16/2019

Phebe Bliss Emerson Ripley died on February 16, 1825. In her long life, she had witnessed enormous changes in her home town of Concord.
The daughter of the town’s minister, Rev. Daniel Bliss, she married his successor, Rev. William Emerson, in 1766. Together they built the house we know as the Old Manse, completed in 1770, where they raised their growing family. From the windows of that house Phebe and her five children witnessed the battle at the North Bridge in 1775.
No doubt the American Revolution took an emotional toll on Phebe. Her husband William was a leader in the movement for independence, while her brother Daniel was a prominent Loyalist.
In 1775, the Emersons had three enslaved people serving them at their home. Phebe lived to see them emancipated after William’s death in 1776, and to see Massachusetts declare slavery unconstitutional in the 1780s.
After William Emerson’s death, Phebe married again, to Concord’s new minister, Rev. Ezra Ripley. Together they had and raised three more children, whose descendants lived at the Manse and preserved its historic contents until 1939, when the house became a property of the Trustees.
(Photo: The view of the North Bridge from the window where Phebe stood on April 19, 1775)

“It would be in vain for me to pretend by Words to express the Anxiety & Perturbation of my own Brest, presently after...
02/14/2019

“It would be in vain for me to pretend by Words to express the Anxiety & Perturbation of my own Brest, presently after I left you. … And had it not been that I took my leave of you among so large a Company of Gent’n and Ladies I should certainly have repented & turned back. However, this I comforted myself with, that after a few hours absence, my mind would be more composed & I should submit with greater calmness & resignation to my hard fate. Yet I find that neither Time nor Company diverts my Mind from ye Object of its affections…” So wrote William Emerson to Phebe Bliss in May 1766. It seems that in the end, he was able to calm himself enough for them to come to an agreement, and they were married In August of that same year. They moved into the Old Manse a few years later, possibly during its construction. Unfortunately for the two, William died of camp fever while serving at Ft. Ticonderoga during the Revolutionary war in 1776. 📷 Letter from William Emerson to Phebe Walker Bliss, 1776 May 9. Old Manse Manuscript Collection, The Trustees Archives & Research Center.

We are pleased to collaborate with the Concord Museum on “With his saw-horse over his shoulder and his saw on his arm:...
02/12/2019

We are pleased to collaborate with the Concord Museum on “With his saw-horse over his shoulder and his saw on his arm:” The Garrison Men in Images and Objects, a panel discussion that will take a special look at Jack and John Garrison, father and son whose lives as both free and enslaved men are deeply intertwined with the history of the Old Manse and of Concord in the 1800s. John Hannigan, a long-time scholar at The Robbins House will bring to life the story of Jack and John Garrison, whose walking stick and photograph are in the Concord Museum today. L’Merchie Frazier from Museum of African American History - Boston and Nantucket will share why images of African Americans, like the image of Garrison, are so rare, and what we can learn from portraits of men and women like Garrison. The event is TOMORROW, Wednesday, February 13 from 7-8:30Pm at The Concord Museum.
For details on this free event, please visit www.thetrustees.org

This photograph of The Old Manse was taken by Alfred W. Hosmer, 1880 and can be found in The Old Manse Manuscript Collection at The Trustees Archives & Research Center.

Address

269 Monument St
Concord, MA
01742

Commuter Rail, Concord Station.

Opening Hours

Wednesday 12:00 - 16:00
Thursday 12:00 - 16:00
Friday 12:00 - 16:00
Saturday 12:00 - 16:00
Sunday 12:00 - 16:00

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(978) 369-3909

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