Massachusett’s Literary Sites

Story Land
Escaping to Story Land. Story Land NH photo

Take a Page Out of New England: Famous literary sites

By Jamie Kimmel

Massachusetts has been home to many well-known writers pretty much since it was first colonized in the early 1600s. This is something people can often overlook when visiting this great state but it is not to be unnoticed.

There are many bright minds attracted to Massachusetts because of the thriving intellectual community as a result of too many to count institutions of higher education in the area. Here is a look at some sites paying homage to these native authors.

I snapped this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sculpture at Du Bois library. It's worth mentioning TMNT creator Kevin Eastman once lived in Northampton, MA. Jamie Kimmel photo.
I snapped this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sculpture at Du Bois Library. It’s worth mentioning TMNT creator Kevin Eastman once lived in Northampton, MA. Jamie Kimmel photo.

W. E. B. Du Bois

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. His childhood homesite (the house has long since been demolished) is a historic landmark.

Visitors can take self-guided tours–by foot or motor–of trails leading through the site and 16 other places significant to Du Bois.

W. E. B. Du Bois was the first African American to earn a doctorate degree (from Harvard) and co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During his life, Du Bois wrote a handful of works (some novels) rebutting the ingrained American belief of African inferiority and showcasing their genius capabilities.

Although in his youth he was part of the New England Congregational Church, he abandoned organized religion while still in college and spoke out against it.

Du Bois claimed that American churches were the most discriminatory of institutions and noted the links between African American Christianity and indigenous African beliefs.

In addition to his childhood home site is a landmark, one of the libraries at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst is named after him. It was renamed in his honor in 1994 after large movement on campus. This library is home to the memoirs and many papers of Du Bois, himself all donated by his friend, Chancellor Randolph Bromery.

Not only is this facility the tallest university library in the world, but it is also the second tallest library in the world. Since I have been there many times as a UMass student, I can personally recommend viewing the interesting artworks displayed on the Children’s Literature floor. There is also an eagle nest habitat on the roof which the University records and broadcasts the happenings of within the library for all to see.

Dr. Seuss with the Cat in the Hat
Dr. Seuss is depicted with the Cat in the Hat. photo

For more information visit Du Bois Homesite

Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born to a German family in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was in his early thirties before publishing his first signature style illustrated children’s book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry St.

Mulberry Street in Springfield is less than a mile from the doctor’s childhood home. His birthday is the annual Read Across America Day which encourages people to read and was started by the National Education Association.

Springfield now has a historical memorial sculpture garden in his honor. It is located at Springfield Museums and the bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and his beloved characters were created by his very own stepdaughter, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates.

The Museum is open to school programs and birthday parties being appropriately held in the garden. Like Du Bois, Seuss had a library named after him at the University of California in San Diego. In his life, he contributed greatly to the library along with his second wife.

For more information visit Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden

Mother Goose

mary goose tombstone
Mary Goose tombstone – Wikipedia

It is disputed who this woman was or if she was even a real person. There are questionable reports that Mother Goose was a Bostonian woman named Mary Goose who had sixteen children (talk about a woman who lived in a shoe with so many children she did not know what to do).

Supposedly after her husband died she went to live with her eldest daughter and sang songs to her grandchildren so much that other children flocked to listen to her stories. Eventually, her son in law published these rhymes in a book.

There is, in fact, a tombstone from 1690 with Mary Goose’s name on it at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston, MA. However, on a less depressing note, Mother Goose has her own theme park in Glen, New Hampshire.

Story Land

Story Land is the usual kid-friendly amusement park with quite a few rides, character greetings, live shows and play areas all featuring the well-known characters from Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes. This park also has a handful of animals reminiscent of the lovable creatures from the stories. Story Land is open during the summer months of June, July and August.

For more information visit Story Land New Hampshire

Robert Frost

Robert Frost Trail. Ella's Trails photo
This is the Amherst portion of the Robert Frost Trail. Ella’s Trails photo

Robert Lee Frost was born in San Francisco, California but his family relocated to Lawrence, Massachusetts when he was nine after the death of his father. He is known for his harsh, realistic poetry of life in rural Massachusetts. His name has a handful of sites in New England that tourists can visit.

The Robert Frost House in Cambridge, MA was built in 1884 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Another of his homes on that same list is the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire. The house itself is now a museum and the land is a state park. Many of his early poems were written here about farm life while he worked on the property for nine years.

The Robert Frost Trail in Massachusetts is a 47-mile long footpath passing through Hadley, Amherst, Granby, Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury, Leverett, Sunderland, Wendell, and Montague. It features many kinds of scenery and terrain. It was named after him due to his time served teaching at Amherst College in western Massachusetts.

For more information visit Robert Frost Farm

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on Independence Day in Salem, MA. He was a descendant of John Hathorne who was a judge during the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne’s upbringing and ancestral background of Salem lead to him writing two of his most famous works, The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables.

The House of the Seven Gables is a real place in Salem that Hawthorne visited as it was owned by a cousin of his during his lifetime. The House has been converted into a museum right next to Hawthorne’s childhood house where he was born. This house has also been converted into a museum.

For more information visit House of the Seven Gables

Montague’s Book Mill

This place is obviously not an author but for anyone who has a genuine love for books, this is a must see in Montague, MA. I have been here twice with some friends and I can not wait to go back. This was originally the Montague Sawmill built in 1834 and still has a lovely cobblestone “deck” right on the river left over from when it was a functioning gristmill. Not to be outdone by the other sites on this list it is of course a historic landmark.

The store has about 40,000 used books in very good condition (but they are not cataloged). When perusing the shelves, one feels like they are in an attic full of the owner’s private collection of semi-organized stacks of books.

The second floor has the Lady Killigrew café with delicious food and a cinema for independent art films. Right downstairs is the Alvah Stone Mill restaurant and Turn it Up! used music and movies shop.

For more information visit Montague Book Mill

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