Marcia Strykowski

Orchard House & Little Women

alcott signAre you one of the more than 50,000 visitors who arrive at Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts each year? This is the very house where Louisa May Alcott penned Little Women. The Alcott family moved there in 1858. Although healthy for many reasons, it’s become almost a fad to minimize, downsize, and unclutter, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is extremely grateful the Alcotts and their ancestors were savers. I certainly wouldn’t call them pack rats, but they had the ability to know what treasures might have great sentimental value someday.
alcott 4For example, we all know that Little Women closely connects to the four Alcott sisters and that Beth’s death scene will forever be in our hearts. At Orchard House, although Lizzie (character Beth) actually died a few weeks before they moved in, you can see the sewing kit given to her by her father on her 21st birthday in 1856, her little melodeon piano, and other mementos of her life. May (character Amy) is a very strong presence in Orchard House from her sculpture studio on the ground floor (frequented by young sculptor Daniel Chester French and where we watched a lovely introduction video) to her etchings and paintings that cover the walls of their home.
alcott 3Unlike many other author residences I’ve visited, Orchard House is filled with about 80 percent of the original furnishings and belongings of the Alcott family including the little half-moon desk Bronson Alcott built for his daughter Louisa’s novel writing. I can’t think of another classic novel where you are able to experience it in this manner 150 years later—to wander through the rooms soaking up actual details and belongings described within the story of the not-so-fictional March family. In the parlor you’ll see where Anna Alcott (character Meg) was married, along with her wedding dress. Although photography is not permitted inside, the Little Women movies stuck pretty close to the true appearance of Orchard House.
Little-Women-movie-house-fireplaceThere are also pictures and panoramas of each room on www.louisamayalcott.org. The building in the below photograph sits just behind Orchard House on the left side of the property. Led by Bronson Alcott, it held the very successful Concord School of Philosophy from 1879 to 1888.
alcott 2
alcott 6On the November day I visited Orchard House, special artifacts (such as etchings and locks of hair) were added to the display for one month only. There was also an event downtown at the Concord Bookshop. 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner John Matteson was there to discuss his new book: The Annotated Little Women. john-matteson-talksAfter he was introduced and just before he began his inspiring talk of how he became connected to the Alcotts, there was a disturbance. Who should appear from behind the rows of books, but Louisa herself!
alcott 5She was quite confused as to what was going on. One of her many humorous comments was how pleased she was to see that her name was printed larger than John’s on his new book. (Rumor has it Louisa’s true identity was the director of Orchard House!)

little womenThere have been many versions of Little Women from musicals and plays to ballet and opera. There have been seven movies produced, as well as animations and a 1958 TV series.

Do you have a favorite?

Another place of interest in Concord pertaining to the Alcotts is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts, among others, are resting in peace in the Authors Ridge section.

A short 20 to 30 minute ride from Concord will bring you to Fruitlands where the Alcotts lived during the early 1840s.

50 Comments

  1. A fascinating insight into a place that of course is on my ‘must visit’ list whilst I am living in Massachusetts this next year or so 🙂

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    • Great, enjoy! Check out their website before you visit, as there are certain times when they have special tours with character actors welcoming you through the home.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this post! I have always wanted to visit Orchard House. I have been to Fruitlands long ago. Jo was my inspiration to be a writer as I first read Little Women when I was 13. Of course I wanted to write in a garret, too!

    My beloved edition is the 1947 Illustrated Junior Library edition and is illustrated by Louis Jambor. Beautiful color plates and many pen and ink sketches make this book one of my childhood treasures. I love the places you take us, Marcia!

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    • You’re welcome, Joyce. So glad you enjoyed the post. Your book sounds beautiful!

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  3. Wonderful tour, Marcia! Thanks so much. I loved this book, totally identifying with Jo. My favorite movie version is the one you’ve pictured with Winona Ryder as Jo.

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    • Thanks, Pierr! It’s interesting how so many people all over the world identify with Jo. Winona was perfectly cast.

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  4. Thanks for this wonderful post. I visited Orchard House many years ago and found it fascinating. It’s one of those pilgrimages every writer should make. I’ve enjoyed the different movie versions and can’t decide on a favorite. I liked Peter Lawford as Laurie and Katharine Hepburn as Jo but they were in two different films. 🙂

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    • Good choices of Peter and Katharine. That happens to me when I analyze which Pride and Prejudice is the best version, too. Colin and Keira would work well…. Although I’m really enjoying Matthew Macfadyen in Little Dorrit (recently catching up with that miniseries). 🙂

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  5. slochman

    Truly awesome post! What a pleasure to read! Thank you!

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  6. This would be an amazing place to visit. Perhaps one day!

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  7. Having enjoyed a trip to PEI in the footsteps of LM Montgomery / Anne of Green Gables, I’m sure I would love this too. No film matches the book, though I recently read a book that came close: March by Geraldine Brooks which imagined the girls’ father’s civil war experiences. It was a book group choice and we all loved it (very rare!)

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  8. Donna Carlino

    Nice read, Marcia. I’ve passed the house numerous times – need to visit. Thanks for the reminder!

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    • Thanks, Donna. How fortunate it’s not out of the way for you—beautiful area!

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  9. Joyce Teal

    Alcott was a favorite author growing up. In 6th grade, I did a report on LM Alcott!! My mom took me to Orchard House and I received a very special tour behind the scenes to help with my report. It was great fun!! Thank you for sharing this very special place!

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    • What a special memory. A great way for a childhood report to come alive. Thanks for sharing, Joyce!

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  10. A gorgeous place. Thank you so much for this post, Marcia. I recently did some research on quiet towns in America, and I think this popped up as well. And I love how Louisa showed up in that pretty dress during your visit!

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    • Concord is a lovely town, filled with history, art, and beautiful old homes. Glad I could help you travel there, Claudine!

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  11. This sounds like a unique exhibit! Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Bobbi Miller

    What a fascinating, interesting discussion!! I love visiting Concord, and the Orchard House. Thank you!

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    • Glad you are able to visit Concord, too, Bobbi. Thanks for your comment!

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  13. Ashley

    This is awesome, I wish I lived closer to all the awesome author houses you visit.

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    • You’ll have to plan a road (flight?) trip one of these years, Ashley!

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  14. One of my favorite novels and movie as well. I must have watched it 10 times with my girls.

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  15. mirkabreen

    I *love* the house tours you take us on, Marcia.

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  16. Some day I’ll have to make a visit. I’ve only seen the pictures online. She’s one of my favorite authors and I’ve loved introducing her to my kids.

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    • Hope you’ll be able to get out to Concord someday, Vijaya. It’s especially pretty in the fall.

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  17. I haven’t been there yet, but one day 🙂

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  18. Orchard House sounds awesome Your wonderful pictures and description really brought it to life.I hope to visit it someday.

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    • That’s great, Sheryl. You’d really like seeing all the family heirlooms.

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  19. Thanks for another informative post, Marcia. I love learning about the history behind the books and authors!

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  20. I had no idea this lovely treasure was only a couple hours away from me. This is now on my list of places to visit one weekend. The Alcott house looks fascinating and I enjoyed learning more about it here. I am so happy you were in town for some added special book treats! Looks like fun. 🙂

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    • That’s great you live nearby, so many interesting places to visit in the Concord area. Thanks for your comment, Stephanie!

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  21. Bette Norton

    I enjoyed your post very much on the Orchard House in Concord. I live very near by and have visited it often. Louisa May Alcott is one of my favorite authors and her homestead is a treasure to visit. At Christmas time The Alcott’s invite you into their home.
    Marmee, Bronson, and Louisa and May and Anna are all there. We watched them do a little play and we all sang Christmas Carols. One feels like you have stepped back into time and have been guests of the Alcott family. I was not aware of John Matteson’s new book, “The Annotated Little Women” and his talk at the Concord Book Shop. What a treat to see Louisa there too! I am sorry that I missed it. Thank you for another wonderful post!.

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    • Wonderful! Thanks for sharing what Christmas is like at Orchard House. I’ve always wanted to attend that event. It was pure coincidence that there was something going on at the Concord Book Shop the same day we randomly decided last minute to visit Orchard House.

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  22. What a fascinating post Marcia!! Putting this on my wish to visit list– So cool that so much of the household is original!! When we were in NYC last summer we took a tour of Greenwich Village and they pointed out a house the Alcott lived in. Is that so? I was excited to see it! Thanks for another interesting post…

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    • Yes, Louisa lived many places and Greenwich Village was one of them. I think it was her uncle’s home and she may have written a small portion of Little Women there, as well. I’d like to visit Greenwich Village sometime, too. Thanks, Rhonda!

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      • Hi Marcia– it was fun fun tour– we popped in to sample dishes from different restaurants and shops along the way and heard stories about lots of Greenwich historic spots. Thanks for the information– I’ll have to do some more reading about her life!!

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        • Sounds like a wonderful tour, good to know!

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          • Hi Marcia– yep- we love to travel and learn about places– just plain old tourists. thanks again for your “tour!”

            Liked by 1 person

  23. Rene

    Awesome blog! Cheers

    Like

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