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Our Visit to Orchard House

Amos Bronson Alcott originally purchased two houses, both dating to the early 1700’s. He moved the smaller tenant house and joined it to the rear of the main structure, making many improvements to the main house, as he explains in his journal entries of 1857-58. At that time, the site encompassed 12 acres of apple orchards, probably appealing to Mr. Alcott who considered apples the most perfect food. It is not surprising that he should name his home "The Orchard House."

Orchard House was the Alcott family's most permanent home (from 1858 to 1877). Louisa May Alcott wrote her classic work, Little Women, here in 1868 at a "shelf" desk built by her father especially for her. She also set Little Women in this home, causing guests to comment that "a visit to Orchard House is like walking through the book!"  There have been no major structural changes to the site since the Alcotts’ time of residence.  Approximately 75% of the furnishings were owned by the Alcotts, and the rooms look very much as they did when the family lived there.

Tour of Orchard House

Study

Study

 "If in Emerson's study perpetual twilight reigns," wrote a visitor to Orchard House in 1874," in Alcott's it is always noon. The great sun shines in it all day, the great fireplace roars, and the warm crimson hangings temper the sunlight and reflect the firelight. Quaint mottoes and pictures hang on the walls." Mr. Alcott's books fill the shelves and the room is furnished with his library table, chair and desk. The Concord School of Philosophy, an adult, co-educational summer school led by Mr. Alcott, first met in this room until a larger building adjacent to Orchard House was constructed in 1880.

Kitchen

kitchen

"All of the philosophy in our house is not in the study, a good deal is in the kitchen, where a fine old lady thinks high thoughts and does good deeds while she cooks and scrubs." Mrs. Alcott, Louisa, Anna & May prepared and preserved food, and washed and ironed laundry in this room. Original features include the soapstone sink given to Mrs. Alcott by Louisa, a hot water reservoir, a drying rack designed by Mr. Alcott for laundry. Mrs. Alcott's bread board, mortar and pestle, tin spice chest & wooden bowls are displayed on the Hutch & countertops.

Dining Room

dining room

The Alcotts were vegetarians and harvested fruits and vegetables from the gardens and orchards found on the 12 acres of property. Family china, portraits of Elizabeth and Louisa, and paintings by May are displayed along with period furnishings. The Alcotts performed theatricals using the dining room as their stage.

Parlor

Parlor

This formal room is decorated with period wallpaper and a patterned reproduction carpet. Arched niches were built by Mr. Alcott to display busts of his favorite philosophers, Socrates and Plato. Family portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Alcott and watercolors by May Alcott adorn the walls. 

LOUISA'S CHAMBER

louisa's Chamber

A room of her own had always been a priority for Louisa. With her often turbulent emotions, her vivid, romantic imagination, and her constant preoccupation with her family's welfare, she needed a haven in which to escape, where she could find solitude and where she could write. Louisa's father built her a half-moon desk between two windows and a bookcase to hold her favorite books. May painted a panel of Calla lilies beside the desk and an owl on the fireplace.

MAY ALCOTT’S CHAMBER

May's Chamber

May Alcott, the youngest and the model for Amy March, was a talented artist. Her blue and gray bedroom is the most preserved room in the house. It contains sketches of angelic, mythological and biblical figures on the woodwork and doors, original wallpaper, and bracketed shelves to hold flower vases. The room is furnished with a set of painted cottage furniture typical of the mid-Nineteenth Century.

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