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Our Visit to Old Manse House

The Old Manse is an historic house famous for its American literary associations. It is located beside the North Bridge over the Concord River in Concord, Massachusetts, and now owned and operated as a nonprofit museum by the Trustees of Reservations.  The most famous home within Concord proper is the home Nathaniel Hawthorne dubbed "The Old Manse."

The Old Manse was built in 1770 by Rev. William Emerson, father of noted minister Rev. William Emerson and grandfather of famous transcendentalist writer and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In 1842, the famous American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne rented the Old Manse. He and his new bride, transcendentalist Sophia Peabody, moved in as newlyweds and lived there for three years. In the upstairs room that Hawthorne used as his study, one can still view affectionate sentiments that the two etched into the window panes.

The house remained in use by the Emerson-Ripley family until 1939, and was donated to the Trustees of Reservations in 1945. The house was donated complete with all its furnishings, and contains a remarkable collection of furniture, books, kitchen implements, dishware, and other items, as well as original wallpaper, woodwork, windows and architectural features.

The North Bridge

The North Bridge is a historical site in the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the first battle day in the Revolutionary War. Here five full companies of Minutemen and five of non-Minuteman militia occupied this hill with groups of other men streaming in, totaling about 400 against the British light infantry companies from the 4th, 10th, and 43rd Regiments of Foot under Captain Laurie, a force totaling about 90-95 men.

There have been many changes to this hallowed site throughout history. The bridge whose timbers reverberated with the famous "shot heard 'round the world" was constructed in 1760; one of a series of bridges that occupied the site since the 1630's. (The first documented bridge was built ca. 1654 though it is widely held that a bridge was located at, or near, the present site shortly after 1635, the year of incorporation of the Town of Concord.) The bridge of 1760 was replaced in 1788 only to be dismantled in 1793 when the river crossing was moved upstream. From 1793 to 1874 no bridge existed at this historic site.

In 1874, construction began on a new bridge to be ready in time for the centennial celebrations of the following year. Floods destroyed this bridge in 1888. A new bridge was constructed in 1889 only to be destroyed once again by floods in 1908.

In an effort to create a sturdier bridge, engineers and architects designed the next bridge in concrete using as their model the original drawings by Amos Doolittle prepared shortly after the battle in 1775. Nature once again proved more powerful and in 1955, damage from Hurricane Diane left the bridge beyond repair. The current bridge, newly restored, was built in 1956 by the State of Massachusetts.

The 1836 Monument

The Minute Man statue

This was the first monument placed at the site of the North Bridge to commemorate the battle that occurred here on April 19, 1775. Though it was constructed in 1836, it wasn’t dedicated until July 4th, 1837. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous “Concord Hymn” was first sung at the dedication ceremony. The monument was placed on the “British side” of the Concord river (meaning the side that the British stood on during the brief battle) because at the time there was no bridge at the old site. 

Minute Man statue adjacent to the North Bridge.

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world."

Grave of British Soldiers

A grave on the Monument St. side of the North Bridge marks the final resting place of two of the three British soldiers who died as a result of the North Bridge fight. In 1910, the town placed a large slate on the site engraved with the last quatrain of James Russell Lowell’s 1849 poem “Lines.”

They  came three thousand miles and died,

To keep the past upon its throne.

Unheard beyond the ocean tide,

Their English mother made her moan.

 

The Muster Field

The Groton Road

Upon this field, across Liberty St. from the North Bridge Visitor Center, colonial militia officers held the first council of war of the Revolution. It was here that they decided to march their companies down the Groton Road to the North Bridge, held by British soldiers. The field, long overgrown, has now been cleared and is a powerful reminder of the many hard choices made that day.

The sandy trail that leads from the North Bridge to North Bridge Visitor Center approximates the alignment of the Groton Road. This old colonial road was one of the earliest built in Concord in the mid 1600’s.  It provided access to Concord Center for residents who lived across the river. It served as a vital link to the nearby towns  then continuing on to the north and west. 

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