Happy Birthday, Orchard House!

Today marks the official 100th birthday of Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House as a museum. On May 17th, Carrie Hoyle (my maiden name, not sure if we’re related), secretary of the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association sent a letter to John Alcott Pratt, son of Anna and adopted heir of Louisa, inviting him to Orchard House for its official opening.

Authentic homestead

As noted on the Orchard House website, no major structural changes were made to the house after the Alcotts vacated it, and approximately 80% of the furnishings are theirs. It makes for a very authentic tour experience, especially with different drawings and paintings on walls throughout the house by artist sister May.

Birthday activities

If you’re lucky enough to live near Concord, there are festivities taking place all weekend long at the museum including vintage dancers, 19th century children’s toys and games, silhouette artist, apple press/cider making, thematic tours, 1912 living history portrayers, birthday cake and popular 1912 refreshments. May27 activities also include a Centennial Legislative Proclamation and Postal Stamp Cancellation Ceremony.

Take a tour

If you can’t make it to Orchard House, you can take a virtual tour of each room!

The celebration continues

There are other events taking place in June including an exhibit of Annie Leibovitz’s photos from her book, Pilgrimage . Be sure and visit the Orchard House website to download a complete calendar of events.

My first visit and the aunt who changed my life

Here’s a picture of my first visit to Orchard House in 1963 when I was 7 (I’m the kid with the pigtails). My Aunt Petty (in the back row) gave me the children’s bio, The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard which started this whole love affair with Louisa. 🙂 Thanks Aunt Petty!

Front row: My brother Tommy, me, my sister Chris
Back row: cousin Diane, Aunt Petty, Uncle Harold, my mom

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Promo film for Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House centennial celebration

The time is drawing near for Orchard House’s Centennial! Here’s a promo film they just released – lots of interesting pictures!

Visit the Orchard House website for more information on centennial celebrations this spring.

Are you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
Send an email to louisamayalcottismypassion@gmail.com
to subscribe, and never miss a post!
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The countdown begins! Orchard House celebrates its centennial

The official Louisa May Alcott website has started its own blog with updates on the Orchard House centennial. Here’s their first installment detailing the history of the acquisition of Orchard House.

This looks like a great blog and I suggest following it so that you won’t miss a minute of the centennial celebration. There are videos on it as well as great information and lots of pictures.

What makes Orchard House such a compelling historical site?

Here’s a great essay by Klara Stephanie Szlezák where she concludes that staging is critical to the success of an historical homestead. Kudos to Orchard House for the brilliance of its staging which so beautifully captures not just the era Louisa May Alcott lived in, but her home, her family and her classic, Little Women.

The first few paragraphs are here for you to read; there is a link at the end to the rest of the article.

“Welcome to Our Home!”: Staging Practices at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

Klara Stephanie Szlezák

1. 399 Lexington Road, Concord, MA: Historic House, Writer’s Abode, Tourist Site1

In March 2009, the popular travel guide series Lonely Planet published a volume called New England Trips providing a broad range of themed itineraries through the six New England states. One of these itineraries is called “Literary New England,” leading the traveler on a three- to four-day trip with stops at libraries, inns and tearooms named for famous writers, as well as at houses where New England writers used to live, thus taking into account the long tradition and central role of literary tourism in New England. One of the writers’ houses that the guide suggests for a stop is the Alcott family’s house in Concord, Massachusetts. With over 50,000 visitors per year (Orchard House Website), the Alcotts’ former house, officially called Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House,2 is one of the most popular and successful literary sites. The Lonely Planet invites the traveler to visit there with the following comment: “Louisa May Alcott wrote her famous semiautobiographical Little Women in her home Orchard House, which is now part of a small estate of historical buildings called Louisa May Alcott Homes” (New England Trips 53). This short note establishes two major facts about Orchard House: one, that it is a house where a famous writer wrote a famous book;3 and two, that it is a historical building and thus of general interest.

What the guidebook text does not say about Orchard House, and what seems much more noteworthy for the purposes of a cultural analysis, is that one of the house’s major functions is that of a stage. When it comes to determining the cultural significance of the house and the ways in which it functions in a twenty-first-century tourist landscape I would argue that both its literary association and its historicity are mere prerequisites and preconditions for the staging of traditions. I argue that the staging of traditions is a central characteristic of the house and lies at the heart of present-day interest in the house and thus its survival in times when many comparable sites struggle severely to stay open.4

Click here to finish the article

More information about Orchard House’s centennial celebration

Here’s an article from Boston.com about the upcoming celebration of Orchard House’s 100th birthday as a moment to the Alcott family:

By Sarah Thomas, Town Correspondent

The Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association is celebrating its centennial anniversary, marking 100 years since the group formed to purchase and restore the beloved Concord author’s home of Orchard House.

Celebrations will kick off this July, with a weeklong conversation series featuring local authors, and continue to the official 100th anniversary next year of the grand opening of Orchard House, according to a release from the association . . .

Continue reading by clicking this link

The picture is just a thumbnail of the much bigger picture on the site. One of these people is directly related to Louisa. Check out the picture on the site and see if you can guess which one . . .

Orchard House will soon be 100 years old

The Boston Globe’s “Globe West” section featured a front page article on Orchard House’s 100th year celebration (see the official Orchard House site for details).

When Louisa May Alcott’s hyacinth bloomed pink one spring day in 1868, she considered the flower a “true prophet’’ of good things to come. That same day she received $100 to write an advice column, and she would soon begin to write “Little Women,’’ a novel that would bring her even more fortune and fame.

This spring, the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association might be looking for its own “pink hyacinth’’ as it plans its 100th year as stewards of the Alcott family’s home in Concord.

Click here to continue reading . . .

ALA Alcott Programs to feature Daniel Shealy, Harriet Reisen and Nancy Porter, and Jan Turnquist

And I have been invited to attend! I will be able to take pictures and will take extensive notes so that you can ‘virtually’ go there too.

Harriet Reisen was kind enough to invite me to participate and I am very much looking forward to hearing from Daniel Shealy who helped to edit Louisa May Alcott’s journals and letters along with Joel Myerson and the late Madeleine Stern (The Journals of Louisa May Alcott, The Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott). He has also compiled and edited Louisa’s and May Alcott Nieriker’s correspondences during their grand tour of Europe (Little Women Abroad) and published Alcott in Her Own Time as well.

Harriet Reisen and Nancy Porter will make a presentation regarding their documentary and biography on Louisa (see links below).

Jan Turnquist, the director of the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association (aka Orchard House) will also be speaking.

Here is what appears on Harriet’s website:

Daniel Shealy, noted Alcott scholar, to Guide ALA Library Programmers

Professor Daniel Shealy of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte will lead the thirty scholars advising librarians in the ALA Alcott programs in a discussion of the project themes, topics, and related reading at the national workshop in Boston on March 4.  Dr. Shealy’s areas of expertise include 19th-century American literature, the American Transcendentalists and the Concord Authors, and children’s literature. An advisor to the Alcott documentary, he can be seen in extended interviews on this website at Extended Scholar Interviews.

This forum was put together for the different libraries which were extended grants by the ALA to present programs on Louisa May Alcott featuring Porter and Reisen’s DVD (Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women (DVD)), plus Reisen’s book (Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women).

All this takes place this Friday. I will be posting soon after. Should be very exciting!