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Posts Tagged ‘Writer’

Cambridge, Mass.
Visited: July 28, 2006
NPS Site Visited: 321 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

It Was All Yellow=WHAT IS IT?
The quintessential American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, lived in this yellow Georgian mansion from 1837 to 1882. The house also served as temporary headquarters for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

BEAUTY (2/10)
In the 1800’s painting your house a blandish yellow equated to wealth and success. We are glad that went out of style.

The insides of Longfellow’s mansion represent the worst of Victorian-era excesses: unending clutter, elaborate showiness and more marble busts than we could keep track of. Each room we entered got progressively uglier. “It can’t get any worse than this one,” we kept thinking. Oh yes it can. Our tour guide’s insistence on the room’s absolute beauty only made the situation more comical.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Poet, teacher and creator of American legends through his grand epics Song of Hiawatha, Evangeline and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

Or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Glorified limerick writer, nostalgic, sentimental hack whose ridiculously dumb-downed themes and simplistic rhyme schemes are appropriately read primarily by first graders. We know which judgment we tend towards.

CROWDS (3/10)
Bad news all around. We missed the 11:30 a.m. House tour by 3 minutes and were not allowed to catch up meaning the next tour was at 1:00 p.m. We tried to piggy back onto a special college tour after an invitation from two considerate undergrads. No dice. Their leader ratted us out, told us to leave and we were left to wander the sweltering streets of Cambridge. Oh, if eyes could shoot daggers.

Washington Slept Here...No, ReallyEASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5)
The Site is about a half-mile from the Harvard Square Red Line T (Subway) Station. So that’s where we went. We enjoyed our unexpected lunchtime break on the Harvard University’s library steps and in a few Cambridge book stores. Time well spent.

Park literature recommends the T because street parking can very very difficult and time limited. From the Harvard Square Stop, travel west on either Church and then right onto Brattle. The House is located at 105 Brattle; the pleasant walk will pass Radcliffe College.

The Site is open only Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Six tours leave daily: at 10:30; 11:30; 1; 2; 3; and 4. Harsh Boston weather shuts the Park down from October through the end of May; the Polar Bears and Sabre-toothed Tigers migrate back to Canada around Mother’s Day.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5)
Its literary merits aside, the title of Harold Bloom’s anthology Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages (for sale here) captures the mood of the Longfellow NHS perfectly. Unbearably pompous, condescending and superior despite the fact that its subject matter is meant for children.

The historical fiction novel, The Dante Club, in which Longfellow is a character is on sale here in its best-selling glory as is the more intriguingly-titled Longfellow’s Tattoo’s which examines the body art and physical art Longfellow’s son’s collected while living in Japan in 1871.

COSTS (3/5)
Tours of the house run $3 per person, free with the National Parks Pass.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5)
Six Ranger-led tours a day with a max size of 15 is not bad. Unless you are the 16th and 17th persons that is. Walking around Cambridge at noon was nice, it really was.

TOURS/CLASSES (1/10)
We might have forgotten about our meandering time had the tour been worthwhile. But like the Victorian designs, our lessons got laughably worse as we moved from room to room. We were not the only disappointed ones; we think the husband who dragged his pregnant wife onto the tour is still repaying her for her visible anguish.

Did we learn nothing or was there just nothing to learn? The Site has no intro film and no museum to answer that question.

Side ViewFUN (1/10)
Longfellow NHS successfully completes the trifecta of un-fun Historic Sites: 1) Dubiously distinguished dude; 2) Dreadfully dull discourse; and 3) Disastrously disgusting decor.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (1/10)
The 1:00 p.m. tour was not the first time we had to return to the Longfellow NHS. We came here on a gorgeous April, 2004 afternoon only to find out the Site does not open until May. You, good tourist, don’t have to worry about when the Site is open or not open because there is no need to come here.

TOTAL 25/80

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Flat Rock, N.C.
Visited: October 26, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 270 of 353
NPS Website

Goats!WHAT IS IT?
Longtime home (and goat farm) of Carl Sandburg, famed 20th-century American poet and Abraham Lincoln biographer.

BEAUTY (6/10)
The Sandburg’s whitewashed clapboard house is probably the least impressive home along the streets of Flat Rock. Its interior is equally drab, save for Carl’s thousands and thousands of books. Furniture and wall hangings are sparse, at least that’s what we were told. Much of the home’s items were under plastic wrap during some necessary restoration work on windows and walls.

If we lived in the Sandburg home, we would spend much of our time where Carl did: outside. Connemara’s 245 acres overlooks the rolling pastures dotted with Mrs. Sandburg’s prized goats, a lake stocked with trout and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (5/10)
Carl Sandburg wrote about a 1/3 of his literary output here at Connemara. Sandburg is remembered as singularly American because of his populist poetry, his Illinois prairie roots and his vast and iconic Lincoln biography, often called the best work written about America’s most-written-about hero.

Lovely ConnemaraCROWDS (7/10)
Tours of Connemara max out at 15 people. Our 9 am tour of the house reached capacity and felt even larger since we had to squeeze past several NPS employees already working inside. We were carefully herded through the halls and around the protected belongings of the Sandburgs. Space was tight. This house tour is not for the claustrophobic, especially when there are acres of pasture, forest and a lakefront to enjoy.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)
Flat Rock, NC is just south of Asheville, NC and north of Greenville, NC along I-26. Carl Sandburg Home NHS is reached via exit 22, US-25. Once you are on US-25, turn on to Little River Road which is between the post office and the Flat Rock Playhouse (Flat Rock is a very small town), go just 0.1 mile and the parking lot will be on your left.

The Site’s brochure says just follow the signs to the Sandburg Home NHS, but if you are coming up from Greenville, signs are less prevalent and the exit is easy to miss. We did.

The walk from the parking lot up to the Sandburg home and Park VC is a steady incline which may prove difficult for elderly visitors or those with physical disabilities. Luckily, there is a small information building at the foot of the walk with a phone. You can call up the hill and, if staffing allows, a Ranger will come get you in a little shuttle.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (5/5)
The best bookstores are ones that offer treasures to every budget range. Mr. Sandburg’s writings were available in lovely hardbound editions as well as dollar paperback versions.

COSTS (2/5)
A tour of the Carl Sandburg house runs $5 per person, free with the National Parks Pass. During our tour the House’s star attraction, Sandburg’s vast book collection, was hidden behind dust-resistant covers for cleaning and inventory purposes. If we had paid the $5, we would have been very disappointed.

The SandburgsRANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (4/5)
We found two Rangers at the Goat Barn letting the goats out to graze. After oh so many goat portraits, we wandered back to the house where another Ranger invited us in the basement Visitor Center, gave us our tour tickets and settled us in for the film. We assumed she would be giving the tour. Not so.

A kind, but less than knowledgeable volunteer escorted us through the Sandburg home. With a limited timeframe and a tour group that tended towards tangential questions, we would have appreciated a more dexterous and informed guide.

We were even more frustrated by this bait and switch when we peeked through half-opened doors to find several Rangers engaged in inventory inside Connemara.

TOURS/CLASSES (5/10)
The Park’s introductory film is a must-see whether you are a Sandburg scholar or are just taking a side trip from your Asheville fall-colors vacation. The film is just a rebroadcasted Carl Sandburg interview done by famed journalist Edward R. Murrow. Sandburg sings, recites poetry, speaks philosophy, plays with his goats over the course of 20 minutes. His personality jumps off the screen and pleasantly frames the rest of your visit. You see Sandburg’s quirks and whimsies in his books, his farm, his views, his house and his life.

The volunteer-led tour was not so great. Your experience could be different. Sandburg 14,000 books were covered; you could not even see the titles. Had we known, we would not have taken the tour.

FUN (8/10)
Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats! Goats!

Well, HelloWhat is more fun than running around a stunning Appalachian mountain estate with friendly goats? We say nothing. Well, maybe listening to Gab’s impressions of Carl Sandburg reading his poetry. Maybe she can upload a .wav image, because you cannot capture her mimicry skills in print.

The wonderful thing about Carl Sandburg’s vast estate is that it is now Americas to enjoy. He has given it back to the people. Five miles of trails weave through the mountains and pastures. His views are now our views, his inspiration now ours.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (7/10)
The NPS’s roster of literary-related sites will do nothing to dispel the myth that writers are bonkers. Edgar Allan Poe, Eugene O’Neill and now Carl Sandburg. While Poe and O’Neill’s sites might throw you into a severe depression, Sandburg’s will just make you feel good. He was kooky and lived in a separate planar dimension but he loved life, humanity and America. It is impossible to leave Flat Rock without a warm feeling towards the bard, his wife, his wonderful prize-winning goats and even yourself.

TOTAL 52/80

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Philadelphia, Pa.
Visited: March 24, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 4 of 353
NPS Website, Local Website

Want More? Read About Our Phun Philled Philadelphia Phoray.Click Here for the In-Depth Recount of Our Day.

Poe’s Basement (Blurry for Spooky Intent)WHAT IS IT?
Brick building lived in by American author Edgar Allan Poe in 1843 and 1844.

BEAUTY (2/10)
How nice can an unfurnished house that was rented over 150 years ago by a broke writer be? The house is also situated in a light industrial zone amidst many a factory, union office and warehouse.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (3/10)
Edgar Allan Poe only lived here for a year and a half. And how historically interesting is Poe anyway? But he did live here and the site is evocative of his spirit. The basement in particular seems to have been the setting for his story, The Black Cat.

CROWDS (8/10)
We happened onto a group of 13 or so giddy 5th graders. A park volunteer indicated that the site’s most common constituency is school children. The kids were ecstatic to see the house as they had just read many of Poe’s stories. They were well-behaved, asked superb questions and elicited a few shrieks and eeeews when the Ranger’s story got spooky. This group of kids enhanced our trip.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5)
Parking is free on the streets but not particularly reassuring. Lots of broken glass everywhere. The site off of a major road and clearly marked, but every street is one way and not that easy to navigate. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5)
No food or drink. The bookstore has a great deal of Poe’s works as well as books by other 19th-century authors.

COSTS (4/5)
Free.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (5/5)
There were two Rangers and an extremely helpful volunteer. Our experience was enhanced a tremendous amount by the generosity and knowledge of the staff.

Poe Has Damned Me!TOURS/CLASSES (8/10)
The intro film on Poe’s life was interesting, but it opened up just as many questions as it answered. A bland recreation of Poe’s life and works. But, we piggy-backed onto a Ranger-led tour of a 5th Grade class and it was wonderful. The Ranger told a ghost story in each room that mixed Poe’s stories with a little bit of history and background of both Poe’s life and the room itself. A spooky joy.

FUN (8/10)
We had a lot of fun. And if we had had more time (as well as an inclination to re-read Poe’s works) there was a lovely quiet reading room with all of Poe’s works.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (6/10)
I can’t imagine a museum about an author that could be more fun. And we’re not even big fans of Poe. Still, he only lived here for a year and none of the rooms have any furnishings, just stripped down walls. It is only a short bit north of the Independence NHP site and if you are able to get a Ranger-led tour your stay will be worth the trip to an industrial part of Philly.

TOTAL 49/80

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