For seven months in 1843-1844, a farmhouse in the Town of Harvard served as the home of the Utopian agrarian commune called Fruitlands. Founded by Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane and based on Transcendentalist principles, the experiment was not a success, failing due to the participants‘ inability to grow sufficient food. Alcott soon moved his family, including his daughter, the future author Louisa May Alcott, back to Concord, where he later purchased Orchard House to be the family home.
After the commune broke up, its land was bought by one of its former members, Joseph Palmer, who for 20 years used it as a refuge for reformers called Freelands. Clara Endicott Sears bought the property in 1910 and opened it as a museum in 1914. It is today part of the Fruitlands Museum. The farmhouse is described in its National Register of Historic Places nomination as typical of the late eighteenth-century. The Historic American Buildings Survey documentation describes it as an early 18th century farmhouse. The Fruitlands Museum website describes it as having been built in 1825.
Adjacent to Orchard House (the home of A. Bronson Alcott and his family) is a building, designed and built by Alcott himself in 1880, which was originally called the Hillside Chapel and is known today as the Concord School of Philosophy. This school, which was organized by Alcott and operated from 1879 to 1888, was modeled on Plato’s Academy as series of of summer lectures for adults, with notable speakers and discussions of philosophy. For the first year, the sessions were held in Orchard House, but the following year and thereafter, the school met in Alcott’s Hillside Chapel. The school’s final meeting, in 1888, commemorated Alcott, who had died that year. Today, the building is part of the Orchard House museum. Read More
The house at 20 Pinckney Street on Boston’s Beacon Hill is listed in some online sources as having been built in 1860, but it must have been built sometime before 1852, because from 1852 to 1855, it was the home of Bronson Alcott and his family. Louisa May Alcott’s room was on the house‘s third floor. While living here, Louisa’s first story was published, “The Rival Painters: a Tale of Rome” in 1852 and her first book, Flower Fables (1854). Later, after Louisa May Alcott became a successful writer, she lived in nearby Louisburg Square, looking after her father.
Located in the middle of Boston’s exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood, Louisburg Square, planned in 1826, consists of a narrow park between Pinckney and Mt. Vernon Streets, which is now the last private square in Boston. By 1844, most of the Greek Revival-style row houses facing the square had been built and the Louisburg Square Proprietors formed the first homeowners association in the country. This was one of the last areas of Beacon Hill to be developed, but these new buildings honored the spirit of the Federal-style houses built elsewhere in the neighborhood earlier in the century. Those on the west side are mainly bow-fronted houses and have had a number of notable residents. It is still an exclusive neighborhood today. Read on for more about Louisa May Alcott, William Dean Howells and Jenny Lind.
Orchard House is a home that many visitors feel they know before they even visit it. In 1857-8, Bronson Alcott, the Transcendentalist reformer and educator, purchased and combined two early eighteenth century houses, adding the smaller of the two to the rear of the main house and making many alterations to his new home. He named it “Orchard House” due to the property’s 12 acres of apple orchards. Alcott and his family made Orchard House their permanent home from 1858 to 1877. The house owes its greatest fame to fact that it was here, in 1868, that Bronson’s daughter, Louisa May Alcott, wrote the classic Little Women, loosely based on her own family. The house is now a museum, where visitors can learn about Alcott and see the room where Louisa wrote the famous book.