Day 10: October 8, 2015--Concord, MA

Don't miss today's Gallery!

The Fitchburg Line to Concord.
(click to enlarge)

This morning we returned to the Orange Line that brought us home last night, this time going one stop past Haymarket to North Station. There we transferred to the Fitchburg Line--a commuter train--out to Concord. We would visit homes and graves of illustrious writers; see where the Revolutionary War started; and soak up the thrills of a deciduous forest in autumn.

Incidentally, the Gallery page has a street map of all the sites mentioned below.

The Fitchburg is the same line that Thoreau mentioned in Chapter One of Walden, where he wrote in 1854:
One says to me, "I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see the country." But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day's wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day. And so, if the railroad reached round the world, I think that I should keep ahead of you.
The train runs along the shore of the pond today, as it did then. We spotted the pond out the window, not knowing what a hike--literally--it would be to get there.

We were off the train by 9:30 and, having provisioned at a Dunkin' Donuts, set off to find the Visitor Center on Main Street. (It would not be a great day for eating.)

An extremely pleasant man in the Visitor Center set us up with maps, pamphlets, and good advice, and we planned our campaign.

Graves of Illustrious Writers

Homage to Hemerson
(Photo by Lila)
With only a slight wrong turn here and there, we headed up Bedford Street to our first stop: Authors' Ridge in the eerily named Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. No connection with the New York village of Washington Irving's Legend, mind you; the place was called "Sleepy Hollow" twenty years before the cemetery was placed there, and Wikipedia lists a total of nine places by this name in the U.S. In fact, the "Sleepy Hollow" of Irving's story was called North Tarrytown until 1996, when it officially changed its name to the traditional nickname.

We saw the markers of Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Those we missed included the poet William Ellery Channing and sculptor Daniel Chester French (dang! those people loved using three names). We did see a sculpture by French on our way in, though, and would see another very famous one later in the trip. (Spoiler in the Gallery.)

Coming back down Bedford, we turned right and right again and walked up Monument Street, ogling more amazing houses and gardens as we went. The town would almost be worth a visit just for the "everyday" homes!

The Old Manse, the Robbins House, and the Old North Bridge

At last we reached the Old Manse, a place dripping with literary history. Emerson's grandfather built it in 1770 (before the Revolution); he witnessed the battle at the North Bridge from his upstairs window. Ralph Waldo was born in Boston (where he attended the Boston Latin School) and, after moving around quite a bit, boarded at the Old Manse in 1834-1835 (in his early 30s) where his grandmother's second husband still lived. He wrote the essay "Nature" while living there, and only moved (to a house we'll see later today) after marrying his second wife, Lydia (his first had died of tuberculosis).

The Old Manse. Hawthorne wrote, "The glimmering shadows that lay half asleep between
the door of the house and the public highway were a kind of spiritual medium, seen
through which the edifice had not quite the aspect of belonging to the material world."

In 1842, the newlywed Nathaniel Hawthorne paid the reasonable rent of $100 a year to Emerson's step-uncle (his step-grandfather had passed in 1841) to live in the Manse. Thoreau planted a vegetable garden for the couple before they arrived. During their three-year stay, the Hawthornes hosted guests including future U. S. President Franklin Pierce, and Hawthorne wrote "Rappaccini's Daughter" (among twenty or so sketches and tales) which would later be included later in his book Mosses from an Old Manse. (After living a few years in Salem, the Hawthornes returned to Concord and lived in "The Wayside" on the east side of town, where the Alcotts had also lived. We did not have time to visit, and the Alcott's nearby Orchard House was closed for renovations.)

The Old Manse was used by the Emersons and Ripleys until 1939, when it was given to trustees with all of its furnishings. Unfortunately, we would have lost over an hour waiting for the next tour, and so regretfully we pushed on. (As the day stretched on, we were grateful for that extra hour!)

Near the Old Manse was a small, lovely house called the Robbins House. Peter Robbins, who built the house some time around 1823, was the son of Caesar Robbins, who had once been enslaved, and had served in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. Today the house is an interpretive center focusing on the history of African Americans in Concord. Sadly, it was closed the day we were there.

Behind the Old Manse is a bridge--the Old North Bridge, in fact--where the American Revolution started. A marker on an obelisk reads, "Here, on the 19th of April 1775, was made the first forcible resistance to British aggression. On the opposite Bank stood the American Militia. Here stood the Invading army and on this spot the first of the Enemy fell in the War of that Revolution which gave Independence to these United States."

The monument was dedicated in 1837. Emerson wrote his "Concord Hymn" for the dedication. It begins:
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The current bridge, by the way, is a 2005 restoration of a replacement bridge built in 1956. The "Battle Bridge" was removed in 1788. As Emerson wrote in "Concord Hymn": "... Time the ruined bridge has swept/ Down the dark stream which seaward creeps."

Daniel Chester Fench's "Minute Man" in silhouette; the battlefield lies behind

The battlefield is on the other side of the Concord River. A statue of a "Minute Man" by Daniel Chester French, cast from melted down cannons used in the Civil War, was placed at the bridge's far end in 1875.

Another marker is titled "Grave of British Soldiers" and bears part of James Russell Lowell's "Lines Suggested by the Graves of Two English Soldiers on Concord Battle-ground":
They came three thousand miles, and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne;
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan.
A Park Service website confirms that the grave actually does contain two "Redcoats," though which of three is unknown; one more has a marker out on Monument Street.

The Concord Museum and the Emerson House

So back down Monument Street we went, turning left on Lexington Road and heading for the Concord Museum; see the Gallery for some of what we saw inside. (Here's another yuge page about the Museum.)

From the Museum, we crossed the street and toured the one-time home of Ralph Waldo Emerson. As no pictures were allowed inside, we appreciated the fact that the contents of one entire room--Emerson's study--had been transferred to the Museum, where pictures were allowed. (We also saw Thoreau's desk in the Museum.) Most of Emerson's writings were produced in that study. Thoreau lived in the house for a while, too, "for what labor he chooses to do... he is an indefatigable and very skillful laborer."

It is still owned by the Emerson family.

The Emerson-Thoreau Amble and Walden Pond

Saying goodbye to the Emersons, we pulled out a many-times-photocopied map that we had picked up in the Museum and found the "Emerson-Thoreau Amble," a 1.7-mile hike through the delicious autumn woods. It allegedly follows Thoreau's path in getting back and forth to Walden Pond (which Emerson owned).

The Emerson-Thoreau Amble
(click to enlarge)
We saw many things on this trip: the Grand Canyon, a balloon "mass ascension," iconic American paintings, the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, Monticello, a jazz performance at Preservation Hall--but I never saw Lila light up like she did in walking through these woods. Who knew that such a simple pleasure could pay such dividends? (Well, Thoreau did!)

The path skirted a field of corn, and took us past Fairyland Pond and Brister's Spring before finally crossing Route 2 and heading back into the woods near Walden Pond.

Having approached from that direction, we were very close to the cabin site. I say "site," because the cabin is long gone. In fact, it wasn't until 1945 that self-taught archaeologist Roland Robbins rediscovered exactly where the cabin had been, as it had been torn down shortly after Thoreau left. The cabin near the parking area that many visitors recall having seen is but a replica.

By the time we got down to the pond, the sun was sinking over the hills, and we had miles to go before we slept. Tired, hungry, and starting to get cold--and discovering that there was no transportation to whiz us back to the train station--we started the two-mile slog back into town. Fortunately, I surmised that one street could be a short-cut, and indeed it was, saving us over half a mile compared to simply retracing our steps (albeit along the road, not through the woods in the dark!)

We were more grateful than one would imagine to discover a Starbucks near the station, with enough food choices to satisfy us. We were back on the train at--I'm guessing--7:48 PM, arriving North Station 40 minutes later and working our way back home.

Don't miss today's Gallery!

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