Tourism for Weirdos: Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

Let me apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. When I headed to Orchard House, I was so ready to take photos. I was wearing a sweater that makes me look skinny and I had my hair in a bun that gave me a headache, but also made me look cool and artsy. Dressed to impress. Sadly, though, we had taken two steps into the Alcott kitchen when our tour guide, the amazing and lovely Iman(!) told us no photos or videos. So I only got a shot of the outside of the house. Here’s that photo.
 photo orchardhouse_zpsb2551948.jpg

Aaah, Orchard House. Just like with Lizzie Borden’s house, I’ve been to Orchard House before, many years ago, by myself, but recently I went with a friend of mine. I actually didn’t think was that weird of a place to want to visit, but it’s in Concord, MA, which is also the home of Emerson and Thoreau and Revolutionary War things and just a bunch of White Man stuff, so Louisa can get kind of forgotten about. Over the summer, I went with a couple of lady friends to Concord, just to get out of the city, you know how it is. We did lunch and looked at expensive boutique clothing and took a stroll around Walden Pond. And I was like, “Oh, obviously, we can stop at Orchard House, too.” And my friends were like *blinkblink*. And I was like, “Home of Louisa May Alcott?” More blinks. And I was like, “You know. Little Women? The tale of the March sisters? Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy? Laurie, their hunky neighbor? You know, played by Christian Bale? Beth dies? REMEMBER BETH DIES?” And they were both like, “I guess I know what you’re talking about.” So on the way out of town we stopped at Orchard House, which was closed for the day, and I did a photoshoot where I pretended I was knocking on the door, and I asked my friends–who are smart, amazing women–if they too wanted a picture. And they were like, “No.” WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE????? So I guess that’s when I realized I was a big Louisa May Alcott groupie and that maybe I was a weirdo for wanting to visit her house.  Multiple times.

I’m going to operate on the assumption that you guys are big nerds, too, and spent many an afternoon in middle school building with Legos in your basement while watching a VHS of Little Women starring Brunette Hall Of Famer Winona Ryder like I did. And if you did, oh boy, will you love Orchard House because it looks basically exactly like the set. I don’t know if they actually filmed there. I can’t imagine that they did because the house is literally older than America, but it looks just like the movie. (Update: They did not film there.) The front room where Jo is helping Laurie pick out books to take with him to Harvard? Those arched bookshelves? Yep, those are real.

This whole vista?

Yep yep yep, basically, except the kitchen is quite a bit smaller.

For those of you who were not me in middle school, Little Women is the story of a family of four girls during the Civil War learning to love themselves, each other, and a hunky nextdoor neighbor and his tutor.  Jo, the main character, is based on Louisa herself, and she’s generally thought of as the protoype for the new All-American Girl.  She’s a bit of a tomboy, a bit rough-around-the-edges, but ultimately very loving and caring.  (And like all literary heroines of the era she wants to be a writer but is told “write what you know” by the man she loves.  I’m looking your way, Gilbert Blythe.  Don’t get me started on “write what you know” in girls’ literature.  DON’T.)

I know that we as a group are super into haunted houses. Well, there was definitely a spirit present in Orchard House–the spirit of creativity and warmth! I’m sorry to get so earnest and cheesy on what is a once-removed trampoline accident blog, but you can really tell how much the Alcotts cared for each other and what an amazing bunch of people they were. May (aka Amy) drew all over the walls and her more polished artwork hangs in every room. And their father’s school house, which drew criticism from the community for being too inclusive and progressive, is steps from the back door. Anna (aka Meg) was an actress in the local community theater, and her programs are posted up feet from where she got married in the front room.  Of course the draw is Louisa and Little Women, and but there’s surprisingly not a lot of her stuff to see. The desk where she wrote her masterpiece is built-in, so that’s exciting, but otherwise the Alcotts as a whole take center stage. Which is great, honestly. Since the book which is about a whole family, it seems right.

Concord is a lovely place to spend an unseasonably warm late winter day, and I’m not saying you should skip over the Dead White Man sites, but hit up Orchard House, too.

Orchard House is at 399 Lexington Road in Concord, Massachusetts, because every address in Massachusetts sounds very historical. Tours go regularly and are $10, and parking is on-site and free!! Free like the house’s most famous resident, “the free spinster who paddled her own canoe.”

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About flanny

Flanny was born and raised in a Detroit suburb, but tells people she's from Detroit without clarification because it makes her sound tough. She is not tough. Her favorite member of One Direction is Louis Tomlinson, and her favorite Agatha Christie detectives are Tommy and Tuppence.
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28 Responses to Tourism for Weirdos: Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

  1. Wait, what? Who hasn’t watched Little Women a bazillion times?? Who hasn’t cringed each time Laurie transforms into Baron Von Creepystache and gets all, “Oh, well, if Jo’s still not available, I’ll take the blonde one, I guess.” WHO DOESN’T SOB EACH TIME BETH DIES. (Claire Danes is so good at dying!)

    Ahem. Anyway, yes, good choice of house to visit. PBS did a great documentary about LMA’s life a few years ago, and she was such a delightful sasspot.

  2. Kate says:

    Flanny you really do look skinny in that picture! And I love the bun.

  3. old man fatima says:

    This seems like as good a place as any to post this, but have you guys seen “Stiff Upper Lips”? I was bummed out about the shitty weather and being poor so I googled for good lol comedies and it showed me this perfect, perfect spoof of British period pieces from the 90s. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on the youtubes here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQyr-EXRJsQ , which is where I watched it. And if you haven’t seen it, may I suggest seeing it immediately? I think it would be right up our collective alleys, girls. I’d write a review of it, but I’m lazy. Just know it is Really Fucking Good and I laughed out loud many times EVEN THOUGH I started watching it in a really bad mood.

  4. hotspur says:

    Can someone confirm or correct a longstanding suspicion for me? In my fifth grade classroom there was a book on the shelf right next to Little Women, and I never read either one but based on their proximity and the better title versus the dumb title, I have always suspected that Little Women has its very own cheap knockoff in the form of Five Little Peppers And How They Grew. Like 5Pep was its era’s Divergent, which is transparently Katniss Everdeen + The Sorting Hat = Money. True?

    • flanny says:

      OMG, maybe! Although I think the Peppers had boys in their family. And maybe they were a different era? But, as is tradition for many heroines in girls’ literature, the main girl’s name was, like, Mary Fred or something? MARY FRED? Come on.

      • hotspur says:

        Mary Fred is a beautiful name. Every girl should be named Mary Fred.

        • flanny says:

          Further update: I am thinking, it seems, of “Meet the Malones,” which must have been on the same bookshelf as 5 Little Peppers in my house. Along with Mary Fred, there was a character named Beany Malone, which is great. And according to every website, it’s basically just Catholic propaganda from the 1940s, so, yes, we for sure had these books.
          Sorry I have no other info about the Peppers, hotspur.

        • hotspur says:

          That’s okay, flanny. You gave me Mary Fred, and I will treasure her.

        • taoreader says:

          Mary Fred definitely sounds like a nun’s name. Sister Mary Fred.

        • flanny says:

          I didn’t want to say this to Hotspur while he was in the throws of love, but I have a feeling that either Mary Fred or Beany heads into the convent.

      • flanny says:

        Well, I just looked it up and there is no one named Mary Fred or even Mary in that family. What book am I thinking of?

  5. I HAVE BEEN HERE. Because when you grow up in Massachusetts eventually you run out of places to bring out-of-town family members. But also Concord is an adorable town, so #worthit.

  6. Sota says:

    How does anyone NOT know about Beth dying???

  7. Wallflower says:

    OK, I have seen that movie but I didn’t love it and here’s why:
    Kirsten Dunst (little Amy) is such a freaking brat and when she throws the manuscript in the fire!?!?! Hell NO! And she ends up with Laurie? So much wrong with that.
    Actually, I thought there was more but that’s pretty much it.
    Also, I’ve never read the book even though I have tried. It seems like it would be right up my alley but just isn’t. Oh well. Also, isn’t there like a fake Beth dying before she actually dies? Because I was thinking she gets really sick and then they show an empty bed so you think she’s dead but she isn’t. Am I wrong?

    • flanny says:

      Oh, there is a Beth-death fake-out. We see her bed and then she comes down to the parlor and there’s a piano and we as a world get our first shot of the crying face we’ve all come to know and love.
      LW was published in bits, I guess, and everyone was pressuring LMA to hook up Laurie and Jo, and she was basically like, “Oh hell no.” (I have what I think are probably controversial opinions about the Laurie/Jo relationship, because I don’t like it when friends become lovers in books, so I actually really liked that he had to go with his tail between his legs to a “lesser” March sister. And I love Prof Bhaer. I have a lot of opinions about Little Women!!)
      I also really wanted to ask Iman if Amy really had thrown the book in the fire, because COME ON. But I got scared. Ugg, it still makes me SO MAD. Okay, I’ll shut up now.

      • Oh, I also like that Laurie and Jo don’t end up together, because I think it’s way more realistic. I just think Laurie/Amy always comes across as super lackluster. I wish they both could have met new people.

        • flanny says:

          Yeah, I don’t think they love each other. I think Laurie just wants to marry a March, and I think Amy is trying to make Jo jealous. I’m a little sister; I get where she’s coming from. But I don’t think they particularly love each other. Uggg, I want to reread this so bad now!

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