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.
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.
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.”