Old Manse, Home to Smart People

Built on the banks of the Concord River, the Old Manse was the focal point in literary, political and social movements in Concord, Mass.

Constructed in 1770 for patriot minister (and grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson) William Emerson, this Georgian clapboard home had a front-row seat for the beginnings of the American Revolution. The upstairs windows overlook the North Bridge, where a famous battle — one of the precursors to the war — took place on April 19, 1775.

In later years, it provided a home for some of New England’s prominent thinkers. Ralph Waldo Emerson lived here for a time, as well as Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), author of the classic 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter.

It was here that transcendentalist Emerson drafted his essay, Nature.

Hawthorne began his married life at the Old Manse with wife, Sophia, renting the house from 1844-1847. Fun fact: Henry David Thoreau planted the heirloom vegetable garden as a wedding gift to the Hawthornes.

Hawthorne wrote Mosses from an Old Manse here, and became a first-time parent to daughter, Una, as well.

Another brilliant resident, Sarah Alden Ripley, lived here, too. Although she was largely responsible for caring for her six siblings at age 14, she learned Latin with her brothers and taught herself Greek.

Soon, she began reading in French and Italian as well, and added physics, chemistry and botany to her skillset. As her brothers attended Harvard, she read their books to further educate herself, as women were still denied college entrance at that time. She tutored the younger members of her family.

She married and had nine children of her own. Sarah became a well-respected teacher at a boarding school, while her husband was a church minister. The school had 14 students as well as four of her younger siblings.

“President Edward Everett of Harvard said that she could have filled any faculty chair at the college, had women been permitted such a position,” according to an article on Sarah and her husband, Samuel, and the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography website.

The Old Manse contains antiques and memorabilia that represents its residents over the years. Poems that the Hawthornes wrote to each other are still etched upon the window panes.

The area is alongside Minute Man National Historic Park, and there are loads of gorgeous places for walking and exploring. The Old Manse has been open to the public since 1934, and is maintained by The Trustees.

The Robbins House is about a five minute walk away.

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