The Wayside in

Show Map

The Wayside is a historic house in Concord, Massachusetts. The earliest part of the home may date to 1717. Later, it successively became the home of the young Louisa May Alcott and her family, author Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family, and children's literature writer Margaret Sidney. It became the first site with literary associations acquired by the National Park Service and is now open to the public as part of Minute Man National Historical Park.

Early history

The first record of the Wayside property occurs in 1717. Minuteman Samuel Whitney was living in this house, which still retained most of its original appearance, on April 19, 1775, when British troops passed by on their way to the Battles of Lexington and Concord at Concord's Old North Bridge. During the years 1775 and 1776 the house was occupied by scientist John Winthrop during the nine months when Harvard College was moved to Concord.

The Alcotts

Shortly after the failure of the Fruitlands experiment, educator and philosopher Amos Bronson Alcott and his family moved to Concord. Beginning in October 1844, the family first lived in the home of a friend named Edmund Hosmer. Alcott's wife Abby May had recently inherited about $2,000 and they intended to use the money to buy a home. Neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson helped the family find the property to buy: a home most recently owned by a wheelwright named Horatio Cogswell. Emerson also loaned the family $500 for their purchase. Bronson took no part in the transaction being, as his wife explained, "dissatisfied with the whole property arrangement" and did not believe he could own any part of the Earth. No one seemed to know much about the history of the home, though Henry David Thoreau told the story that one of its previous owners believed he would never die and his ghost was rumored to haunt it. The Alcotts moved in on April 1, 1845; After buying the house, Hawthorne wrote, "Mr Alcott... had wasted a good deal of money in fitting it up to suit his own taste—all of which improvements I get for little or nothing. Having been much neglected, the place is the raggedest in the world but it will make, sooner or later, a comfortable and sufficiently pleasant home." The Hawthornes had previously lived in Concord at The Old Manse, which they moved to after their July 9, 1842, wedding. Their new home was about two miles from there The Hawthornes' son Julian later went to Sanborn's school. Before returning to the United States, the Hawthornes spent several months in Italy where, in April 1859, Nathaniel grew a mustache.

While the Hawthornes were overseas, the Alcotts had Henry David Thoreau survey the land next door to The Wayside. The site was the former home of a man named John Moore and was surrounded by elms and butternut trees, and included an apple orchard. They purchased the home, which they named Orchard House, for $945 on September 22, 1857. The Hawthornes referred to it as "Apple Slump". While the Orchard House was being renovated, the Alcott family rented a wing of The Wayside. Unlike Bronson Alcott, Nathaniel was not known for socializing with his neighbors. He often used the hilltop in his backyard as a means of escaping social interactions. As Bronson noted, "he feared his neighbor's eyes would catch him as he walked." Louisa was surprised the neighboring families did not become friends. She wrote, "We did all we could to heal the breach between the families but they held off, so we let things rest."

Return to the United States

After the family returned to the United States in 1860, Nathaniel considered moving to Boston, noting "I am really at a loss to imagine how we are to squeeze ourselves into that little old cottage of mine." Next-door neighbor Bronson Alcott cut paths and planted gardens for the Hawthornes, which included fir trees and larches imported from England, and Thoreau surveyed the property for $10. Urged by his friend Horatio Bridge, he took a trip to Washington, D.C., where he met President Abraham Lincoln in the spring of 1862. Nathaniel noted he was "about the homeliest man I ever saw" but that he "liked this sallow, queer, sagacious visage". He visited several sites related to the War and the Army especially in Virginia, where he traveled for a time with writer Nathaniel Parker Willis. He returned to the Wayside on April 10, 1862, and less than a month later sent The Atlantic an essay titled "Chiefly About War Matters by a Peaceable Man". Fields, editor of The Atlantic, had accompanied Nathaniel on the trip at Sophia's request and requested changes. He and publishing partner William Ticknor agreed that comments about President Lincoln's odd features and references to "Uncle Abe" should be omitted. Nathaniel cut the entire section, though he considered it "the only part of the article really worth publishing" and lamented, "What a terrible thing it is to try to let off a little bit of truth into this miserable humbug of a world!" The Atlantic received very "cruel and terrible notes", Fields claimed, after the article was published.<ref name=Miller472/>

In his later years, Nathaniel was especially concerned about the financial situation his family would face after his death. Living at The Wayside cost the family $2,500 a year, despite attempts to live frugally by refusing to hire help to take care of the house and grounds. He noted to his publisher Ticknor that he expected to "die in the alms-house". In the late spring of 1864, Nathaniel took ill and traveled with his friend, the former President of the United States Franklin Pierce. It was on this trip that Nathaniel died on May 19, 1864. On hearing the news, Louisa May Alcott sent the family a bouquet of violets picked from Nathaniel's walking path by the house.<ref name=Matteson299/> Annie Adams Fields, wife of the publisher, noted in her journal after a visit in April 1865, "What an altered household! She [Sophia] feels very lonely, and is like a reed. I fear the children will find small restraint from her... Will God spare her further trial?" Sophia and the three children moved to England shortly after; she sold The Wayside in 1870.<ref name=Wright103/>

The Lothrops

After several intermediate sales, it was again purchased in 1883 by Boston publisher Daniel Lothrop and his wife, Harriett. Harriett was the author of the Five Little Peppers series and other children's books using the pen name Margaret Sidney. The Lothrops added town water in 1883, central heating in 1888, and electric lighting in 1904, as well as a large piazza on the west side in 1887. The room that, after 1860, had served as Julian Hawthorne's bedroom became her dining room.<ref name=Wright106/>

The Lothrops helped oversee a several-day celebration in honor of Nathaniel Hawthorne's centennial in 1904. Speeches were given, letters were read in public, and a tablet was dedicated by Beatrix Hawthorne (daughter of Julian) marking the larch path where the author often walked.

Modern history

After Margaret Sidney's death in 1924, the home was inherited by her daughter; she opened the home to the public in 1927. The home stayed in the family until 1965.

In 1963, The Wayside was designated a National Historic Landmark, and became part of Minute Man National Historical Park on June 15, 1965.<ref name=Wright103/> This designation came with the aid of the Lothrop's daughter Margaret, and it became the first literary site to be acquired by the National Park Service. It is open to the public seasonally for guided tours. Its address is 455 Lexington Road in Concord.

See also

  • House of the Seven Gables
  • Reuben Brown House



  • Felton, R. Todd. A Journey into the Transcendentalists' New England. Berkeley, California: Roaring Forties Press, 2006.
  • Levine, Miriam. A Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Apple-wood Books, 1984.
  • Matteson, John. Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.
  • McFarland, Philip. Hawthorne in Concord. New York: Grove Press, 2004.
  • Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991.
  • Saxton, Martha. Louisa May Alcott: A Modern Biography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Gireaux, 1995 (first published 1977): 158.
  • Schreiner, Samuel A., Jr. The Concord Quartet: Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and the Friendship That Freed the American Mind. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, 2006. 978-0471646631
  • Wilson, Susan. Literary Trail of Greater Boston. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
  • Wineapple Brenda. Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2003.
  • Wright, John Hardy. Hawthorne's Haunts in New England. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008.

External links