Nathanial Hawthorne is generally considered the first truly great writer of literature in America. His novels such as The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables, The Blithesdale Romance, and The Marble Faun set the bar for 19th century literature. Born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4, 1804, Hawthorne lived most of his life in Massachusetts, and thankfully for the “literary tourist,” four of the homes that Hawthorne lived in are today house museums open to the public.
Nathaniel Hawthorne House
Hawthorne was born in this modest Georgian styled home that dates to 1750. He lived here for only five years however as a result of the death of his father at sea. Captain Hawthorne was what we would today call an upwardly mobile sea captain but when his ship went down in a storm, he lost not only his life, but all of his and his family’s wealth. In an era before life insurance, Mrs. Hawthorne and her two children were left with nothing and became dependent upon relatives for financial support. The house was moved from its original location on Union Street to its present location in the House of Seven Gables Historic District in 1958.
House of the Seven Gables
Yes, there really is a house called the House of Seven Gables. Made famous by Hawthorne’s classic novel House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne was in fact a frequent visitor to this house during his days in Salem and drew upon his “insider” knowledge of the house when creating his novel. Dating to 1668, the House of Seven Gables is considered the oldest extant mansion in New England. Visitors to the house will learn the inspiration for the ghost of the House of Seven Gables from the novel. The house was a stop along the Underground Railroad that smuggled slaves to freedom, and as a result, it is filled with secret passageways. So, yes people would appear and disappear, and yes, there were noises coming from behind those walls. The House of the Seven Gables is open to the public for guided tours. It is located at 57 Turner Street, Salem, Massachusetts. Admission to the House of Seven Gables and the Nathaniel Hawthorne House is $12.
After Hawthorne had married, he and his wife Sofia, upon the invitation of Ralph Waldo Emerson, moved to the town Concord in 1842. Hawthorne rented a house from Emerson called the Old Manse. It was here that Hawthorne wrote the stories that would be included in his collection entitled Mosses from an Old Manse. The house was originally built in 1770 by Emerson’s grandfather, William Emerson and is located near the North Bridge where the British and American colonists fought on April 19, 1775, the day that Emerson would later say was the day that a “shot heard round the world” was heard. In the back of the house, there is a vegetable garden that was planted by Henry David Thoreau. The Old Manse is open to the public and is located at 269 Monument Street, Concord, Massachusetts. Admission is $7.50.
This is the only home that Hawthorne would ever own. And interestingly enough, he purchased it from Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott. Hawthorne and his family moved into the Wayside in 1852 and he would live there till his death in 1864. Hawthorne built a study at the top of an eccentric tower he had constructed, which today can be seen by the public much as it was at the time of Hawthorne’s death. The Wayside is open to the public and is located at 455 Lexington Road, Concord, Massachusetts. Admission is $4.