The Alcotts in Boston: Come visit 20 Pinckney Street

The year is 1853, a critical year in the lives of several members of the Alcott family. Since 1848 when the family moved from their beloved Hillside home in Concord, the family had lived like gypsies, moving from place to place. Some of these places were dreary basement apartments in poorer sections of the cities, and often during the summers, the family would move into homes of relatives while those same relatives summered somewhere else. All the while Abba was trying to keep the family afloat with her pioneering social work.

October 2003 20 Pinkney Street, Boston where the Alcotts lived in 1853 Photos by Kim Wells, October 2003, editor Domestic Goddesses http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess

October 2003 20 Pinkney Street, Boston where the Alcotts lived in 1853
Photos by Kim Wells, October 2003, editor Domestic Goddesses http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess

The Historic Buildings of Massachusetts website contains the following description of the significance of 20 Pinckney Street:

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.

http://mass.historicbuildingsct.com/?p=152 Historic Buildings of Massachusetts

http://mass.historicbuildingsct.com/?p=152
Historic Buildings of Massachusetts

I’m sure many of us can identify with Kim West of the Domestic Goddesses website when she saw this house:

When I finally made it to this house, trudging up hills carrying my trusty 2% latte, there was construction going on across the street. The guys working on the house there seemed puzzled at my odd behavior– stopping to take pictures of what, to them, was probably an ordinary house. I took several photos, and stood there and smiled for a few minutes, imagining Louisa stomping about the hills nearby, peering out of the window at me, maybe even waving. The lady who lives nextdoor came out to walk her Golden Lab and asked me, very politely, what I was looking for. I told her, and she smiled, and said the Alcott’s hadn’t lived there very long and were even “evicted.” She told me I ought to go to Concord– and I told her I planned to, but still, this place was important too.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Boston looking at other historic sites– but most of them didn’t draw me the way this one did.

Kim Wells 10/03

October 2003 20 Pinkney Street, Boston where the Alcotts lived in 1853Photos by Kim Wells, October 2003, editor Domestic Goddesses http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess

October 2003 20 Pinkney Street, Boston where the Alcotts lived in 1853
Photos by Kim Wells, October 2003, editor Domestic Goddesses http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess

Remember this letter from Lizzie, written from this address?

Dearest father,
I suppose the letters should not go without a word from me, as I promised I would write, We were all so happy this morning to get your beautiful letter, telling how pleasantly you were living, and of your success. We live along here without you, but I am sure miss you very much. Annie is very good about writing and so we get her pleasant letters every week, and I wish we heard as often from the dear father; but I suppose you are very busy, tho am sure, do not forget us. Your loving Lizzie.
(Houghton Alcott family additional papers, 1724-1927 MS Am 2745 (71)

This is one pilgrimage I will have to make!  Anyone want to come along?

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4 thoughts on “The Alcotts in Boston: Come visit 20 Pinckney Street

  1. K. Martin says:

    I visited a few years ago. It is definitely worth doing! My experience was similar to Ms. West’s, though no one asked me why I was there.

  2. Jillian22 says:

    I’ll come! I’ve never been out East- I must remedy that!

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