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Meet Hawthorne and Friends

See Salem and New England as Nathaniel Hawthorne did. Go where Hawthorne went as he absorbed the feel of a city and a region that flavored his iconic novels and short stories, and established him as one of America’s great writers. Along the way, meet a few of his friends and contemporaries — the Peabody sisters including his talented wife Sophia Peabody, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Photo courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.

The House of the Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birthplace

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born July 4, 1804, on the second floor of this two-story house first located at 27 Union St. in Salem. Now at 115 Derby St., Hawthorne’s birthplace is one of seven structures on the National Historic District campus. Visitors can take a self-guided tour to see some of his furnishings and highlights of his life. Like many families in Salem, Hawthorne’s was tied to the sea for better and for worse. His father, a captain who was away for long stretches of time, kept ship logs that his son later read, copied and even illustrated. His father famously wrote, when sailing home with the first elephant to come to this country: “Elephant on Board.” Tracing his father’s words was one of the most intimate ways he’d experience him, since Nathaniel Hawthorne Sr. died of yellow fever in Surinam before the boy was 4. For those taking a guided tour of The Gables, across the campus from the Birthplace, be sure to check out the Cent Shop that Hawthorne humorously wrote about in his bestselling novel. And don’t miss the game room where Hawthorne and cousin Susanna Ingersoll chatted, and, some say, where the idea of his bestselling novel, “The House of the Seven Gables,” first took hold. 

115 Derby St.

Richard Manning House sign
Courtesy of The House of the Seven Gables

The Manning Family Home

Fans of Hawthorne will enjoy the ten-minute walk from The Gables to 10 ½ Herbert St., where Hawthorne’s mother, Elizabeth, moved her 4-year-old boy and his two sisters after their father died. This neighborhood right off Salem’s harbor is old and picturesque. Elizabeth’s large family gave them a loving home here. The Mannings ran a coach service that allowed the Hawthornes to travel. The boy spent happy days in the family’s Raymond, Maine, home (currently being renovated), “savaging,” or exploring the forest as he romped, unfettered and unafraid. In those dark woods he may have imagined scenes he would later use in “Young Goodman Brown,” his famous story describing an evil that lurked in Salem’s woods. After he graduated Bowdoin College, Hawthorne returned to his third-floor chamber on Herbert Street. He isolated and wrote steadily for several years. Hawthorne called the Manning house “Castle Dismal” but this was where he found his voice and first fame as a writer. 

10 ½ Herbert Street

Look for a small plaque on the side of the house. The plaque is located closest to where Hawthorne lived. The house is a private residence, less than a block from the Hawthorne Hotel, Hawthorne Boulevard and a life-size statue of Hawthorne.

A 10-minute walk from The Gables.

Photo courtesy of The House of the Seven Gables.

Handsome Hawthorne: Three views

Nathaniel Hawthorne started out with remarkable good looks. As a boy he had attractive features — lots of dark hair, luminous gray/blue eyes, broad shoulders and a wry tilt of the head. He was quite opinionated about aesthetics. To view Hawthorne as a mature and critically acclaimed author, go to Hawthorne Boulevard, adjacent to the Hawthorne Hotel, where Bela Lyon Pratt’s larger-than-life statue was erected in 1925. The most fetching view of Hawthorne is Charles Osgood’s 1840 portrait at the Peabody Essex Museum. Osgood depicts a sensitive man with drop-dead good looks and a gaze that begs interpretation. And a well-known photograph of Hawthorne, published close to his death in 1864, can be found online, in the Mathew Brady-Handy Library of Congress collection. 

  • Bela Lyon Pratt statue: Hawthorne Boulevard, adjacent to the Hawthorne Hotel and a 11-minute walk from The Gables.
  • Charles Osgood painting: The Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St. You can park in the nearby parking garage or take the 13-minute walk from The Gables.
  • Photograph: Brady-Handy collection, Library of Congress
Photo courtesy of The House of the Seven Gables.

The Peabody House, also known as the Grimshawe House

Just a block away from Hawthorne’s statue on Hawthorne Boulevard is the house where the Peabody sisters grew up. These three sisters — “true Renaissance women” — made significant contributions to America’s intellectual and cultural legacy. While their handsome Federal-style home is now in great disrepair, it is a proud part of America’s history. It abuts the Old Burying Point where Hawthorne’s great great-grandfather and witch trial judge, John Hathorne, is buried. Sophia, the youngest of the sisters, married Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1842. Elizabeth, the oldest sister, was an author, activist and owner of a noted Boston bookstore. A passionate reformer and thinker, she had a powerful influence on Hawthorne, Thoreau and Emerson. She and her sister Mary started the first kindergarten in America. Mary married Horace Mann, a tireless advocate for free and universal education in America, and she published books on topics ranging from cooking to children’s literature. Sophia was a talented writer and painter who edited and published her husband’s and her own journals. To learn more about the Peabody sisters, dip into the highly acclaimed book, “The Peabody Sisters” by Megan Marshall, a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

53 Charter St.

Adjacent to the Old Burying Point or Charter Street Cemetery

14-minute walk from The House of the Seven Gables.

Concord Authors stone
Courtesy Town of Concord, MA

The Concord Writers

No exploration of Nathaniel Hawthorne would be complete without at least one visit to beautiful and historic Concord, Massachusetts, once home to what are often called The Concord Writers — Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the mid-19th century these writers were friends, neighbors and sometime-collaborators in the shaping of America’s ideas, values and literary heritage. Classics like “Little Women,” “Walden,” “Nature” and “Mosses from an Old Manse” could not have happened without Concord. Be sure to allow time to stroll through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and Author’s Ledge. Before visiting any of the historic houses listed here, check websites for tour availability and hours of operation.

For more information, including Concord historic house locations:

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Photo courtesy of the town of Concord.

Ralph Waldo Emerson House

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “a man of radical ideas and personal grace,” began his journals while a senior at Harvard University at the age of 16 and did not stop writing poetry, lectures, essays and books for the next 60 years. His elegant home was a gathering place for writers and thinkers attracted to his American voice that spoke of democratic ideals, reliance on one’s intuition, inclusiveness, pragmatism, curiosity and tolerance — foundations of the Transcendentalism movement he spearheaded. Visitors taking a tour of the property will see a house quite unchanged by time, much as friends like Hawthorne and Thoreau would have experienced it. 

28 Cambridge Turnpike

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Photo courtesy of the town of Concord.

Walden Pond

Some know Walden Pond as the local swimming hole. And, on a hot summer’s day, that’s likely to be one’s first impression. In the mid-19th century, however, Henry David Thoreau frequently walked here with his parents, with his mentor and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson and, sometimes, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Walden Pond drew out thoughtful conversation as well as Thoreau’s masterpiece, “Walden.” Thoreau used his considerable carpentry skills to build a small cabin big enough for one person on property Emerson owned. It had a broom but no lock. One observer wrote that the cabin “belonged to nature as much as to man.” Thoreau was a principled man, much like Emerson, who went to great lengths to adhere to his beliefs. He moved into his cabin on July Fourth, 1845, and moved out two years later. Today, visitors to Walden Pond will find a replica of that cabin onsite. 

915 Walden St.

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Photo courtesy of the town of Concord.

The Old Manse

The Old Manse was a happy place for Nathaniel Hawthorne and his bride Sophia. They married in 1842 and moved right into the Old Manse. Three years later they moved back to Salem. Built for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather in 1769, the house stands today virtually unchanged. Most of the furnishings are original, as visitors to the 9-acre property on the Concord River will learn. Ralph Waldo Emerson lived here, also, and wrote his groundbreaking essay, “Nature,” in the same upstairs room that Hawthorne used for his study. “Nature” is said to be the birth of the American Transcendentalism movement propelled by Emerson, Margaret Fuller and Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson. The house overlooks the North Bridge and Concord’s legendary battlefield where, wrote Emerson, the “shot heard round the world” was fired. Hawthorne’s novel, “Mosses from an Old Manse,” was inspired by his time in this Georgian home. And Thoreau planted a vegetable garden here as a wedding present to the Hawthornes.

269 Monument Street

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Photo courtesy of the town of Concord.

The Orchard House

Fans of “Little Women” cherish their visits to this legendary house. Louisa May Alcott and her impoverished family moved more than 20 times in 30 years. In 1857 they bought the 1650 Orchard House, with its grove of apple trees and a setting that would inspire Louisa. She worked as a seamstress, governess, teacher, nurse and, always as a writer, to help pay the family’s bills. Thanks to Louisa’s writings, the family was able to remain at The Orchard House for 20 years. Her father built her a small shelf desk where she sat and wrote “Little Women” in 1668, bringing financial stability to the family at last. Those touring the house today will note that the majority of the furnishings belonged to the family. Visitors say they feel as if they are touring through pages of the beloved novel when they walk through the rooms of The Orchard House.

399 Lexington Road

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Photo courtesy of the Town of Concord.

The Wayside

The Wayside is an old house with a long and noble history. From 1845 to 1852, the Alcott family lived in this 1717 structure, though their name for it then was Hillside. The Hawthornes owned the house next, from 1852 to 1869, and renamed it Wayside. They lived here briefly, returning in 1860. Hawthorne traveled to meet President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., and visited Virginia Civil War battlefields. Back home at The Wayside, he wrote and published “Chiefly About War Matters” in the Atlantic Monthly in July, 1862. Because the Alcotts sheltered at least one person seeking freedom from enslavement at The Wayside, it is now a site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

The Wayside is part of the Minuteman National Historic Park and just a few steps from The Orchard at 455 Lexington Road.

Call for information:  978-318-7825

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Photo courtesy of the Town of Concord.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

All four of the authors listed here are buried at Sleepy Hollow. In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson served on the committee that planned and executed the construction of this rural cemetery. It is a beautiful place to walk, with its gentle hills, curving paths and indigenous plantings that replicate the natural environment and foster a sense of serenity and peace. This was a place where Emerson and his literary friends frequently strolled. At the cemetery’s dedication, Emerson said: “In this quiet valley, as in the palm of Nature’s hand, we shall sleep well when have finished our day.” To view the burial sites of Hawthorne and his wife Sophia, Emerson, Thoreau and the Alcotts, go to that section of the cemetery called Author’s Ledge.

24 Court Lane and Bedford Street

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