The Boathouse

Located in Concord, Mass., the Boathouse at the back of the Old Manse property, right on the Concord River. Nestled on the river banks, it’s a popular subject for both amateur and pro photographers.

In the mid-1800s, canoes were a popular method of river travel, but also became a popular recreational activity.

Naturalist, essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau was a big fan, and wrote A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, about a canoeing adventure he had with his brother.

Thoreau also taught his friend and fellow writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne (who lived in the Old Manse from 1844-1847) how to canoe, in a spot very close to the Boathouse.

View of The Boathouse from the historic North Bridge.

In 1842, Hawthorne — author of classic novel The Scarlet Letter — described his lesson with Thoreau:

“Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Thoreau arrived with the boat. The adjacent meadow being overflowed by the rise of the stream, he had rowed directly to the foot of the orchard, and landed at the bars, after floating forty or fifty yards of water where people were lately making hay.

I entered the boat with him, in order to have the benefit of a lesson in rowing and paddling… I managed, indeed, to propel the boat by rowing with two oars, but the use of a single paddle is quite beyond my present skill. Mr. Thoreau had assured me that it was only necessary to will the boat to go in any particular direction, and she would immediately take that course, as if imbued with the spirit of the steersman. It may be so with him, but it is certainly not so with me…”

Head to the back of the Old Manse and you can walk up this dock directly to the boathouse.

Built in 2001, the current Boathouse is laid upon the foundation of a 19th century boathouse that was constructed after Hawthorne and Thoreau’s experiences here.

Signage near the site hints at the original boathouse’s possible timeline. “Rebecca Ames Adams, who lived at the Manse in the 1880s, recalled it as ‘our old picturesque boathouse,’ suggesting it had been built by then,” it says.

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