Minute Man National Historical Park | THE WAYSIDE

The Wayside, home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, at Minute Man National Historical Park

The Wayside, home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, at Minute Man National Historical Park


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GUIDED TOURS

The Wayside is the name given to an early 18th century house by author Nathaniel Hawthorne, the owner from 1852 to 1869. It became part of Minute Man National Historical Park in 1965, and after being renovated it was open to the public in 1971. It was closed and renovated for a second time between 2012 and 2016, and it is now open once again. Being an old house, it is not wheelchair accessible.

The inside of the house can only be seen on a guided tour. The schedule varies from season to season, so be sure to get the most current information on the National Park Service’s official Visit The Wayside: Home of Authors web page for Minute Man National Historical Park.

As of the 2023 season, tickets and reservations are no longer needed. The house is open on select days of the week between certain hours (1 PM to 4 PM at the time of this writing). If you want a tour, simply stop by during this time. Tours are given every thirty minutes, and if you just missed one, wait on the front porched for the next tour to start. On a busy day you may have to wait a while.

Parking for The Wayside is across the street and just a little west of the house.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's bedroom in his house, The Wayside, at Minute Man National Historical Park

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s bedroom in his house, The Wayside, at Minute Man National Historical Park

HOUSE HISTORY

During the American Revolution the house was owned by Samuel Whitney, muster master of the Concord Minute Men. It is one of eleven houses within Minute Man National Historical Park that existed when the Battles of Lexington and Concord took place on April 19, 1775. Because it sat on Bay Road—the main road between Boston and Concord at the time—British soldiers passed The Wayside on their march to Concord in the morning and on their way back to Boston a few hours later. No fighting took place in this area, though the Whitney’s claim that a stray bullet came through the house and grazed one of the their children’s head.

Samuel Whitney sold the house in 1778, and a number of owners of no significance lived in it until it was purchased in 1845 by Bronson Alcott, whose twelve-year-old daughter Louisa May would go on to become a famous author, most remembered for her book Little Women. Bronson Alcott was a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived just down the street. When Alcott’s school in Boston failed, Emerson suggested that he move his family to Concord, and he helped the Alcotts purchase the house. At the time, the house was much smaller, so the Alcotts expanded the entrance, added a one-story west side addition, and a small addition to the east side of the house.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, who also came to Concord because of Emerson, purchased the house from the Alcotts in 1852 (the Alcotts moved into the house next door, now called The Orchard). However, Nathaniel and his wife, Sophia, only lived in the house for a year before moving to London after he was appointed United States Consul to England from 1853 to 1858, and they remained abroad for a few years after that before returning to Concord in 1860. During this time the house was used as a rental property. Once back home, the Hawthornes added an additional story to the west side addition made by the Alcotts and a three-story tower addition to the backside of the house where Nathaniel did he writing.

Interior of The Wayside tower where Nathaniel Hawthorne did his writing, Minute Man National Historical Park

Interior of The Wayside tower where Nathaniel Hawthorne did his writing, Minute Man National Historical Park

Interior of The Wayside tower where Nathaniel Hawthorne did his writing, Minute Man National Historical Park

Interior of The Wayside tower where Nathaniel Hawthorne did his writing, Minute Man National Historical Park

When Nathaniel died in 1864, Sophia continued living in the house until selling it in 1869. A decade later, The Wayside was purchased by the Hawthornes’ daughter Rose and her husband George Lathrop. Rose wanted to live once more in her childhood home.

In 1883, the Lathrops sold The Wayside to Daniel Lothrop (this is not a typo—it’s Lothrop). His wife, Harriett, was an author of children’s books using the pen name Margaret Sidney. The Lothrop’s contribution to the evolution of the house was the west side porch.

Renovation evolution of The Wayside

Renovation evolution of The Wayside

In 1884, the couple’s daughter, Margaret, was born. Years later after her parents had died, Daniel in 1892 and Harriett in 1924, she recognized the significance of the house’s history and spent the next forty years preserving it as a museum, even giving tours. She was trying to sell it to a preservation group for much of this time, but had no luck. It wasn’t until 1965 that she was able to sell the house to the National Park Service for inclusion in Minute Man National Historical Park. The sale required the exploitation of a loophole, because as much as the National Park Service might want a house that was lived in by Alcott and Hawthorne, the park was about the American Revolution, not authors. The loophole was that it was on Bay Road when the fighting took place on April 19, 1775.

The acquisition of The Wayside by the National Park Service brings up an interesting point about many of the historical homes in the National Park system that most people are not aware of. Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, is not part of the park system. George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, is not part of the park system. Even Louisa May Alcott’s home next door is not part of the system. Yet The Wayside is. What’s the difference?

With a few exceptions, most of the historical homes in the National Park system were previously owned by individuals or preservation organizations with financial problems. Owners who could no longer afford the upkeep of an old family mansion or of houses nobody wanted to pay to see, like The Wayside, contacted the National Park Service. If the federal government could justify the house’s significance to American history, a deal was made. Some houses were purchased, some donated, and some exchanged for unpaid taxes. The Hermitage, Mount Vernon, and even The Orchard are cash cows, and nobody is turning them over to the government. It’s the same reason why Lexington Green isn’t part of Minute Man National Historical Park—it’s a huge tourist attraction for the city of Lexington. So in essence, private citizens in financial trouble pawn off their property to the United States government and put the burden of upkeep on the American public.

You may ask why Alcott’s home is a success and Hawthorne’s a failure. Who reads Hawthorne anymore? Little Women, on the other hand, is still hugely popular, and tourists from around the world stop at The Orchard. In fact, it is the most popular tourist attraction in the area as far as historical homes go. Also, in case you are not aware of it, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house is just a little farther down the road, and Henry David Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond is only a few miles away on Highway 126.

The Orchard, home of Louisa May Alcott, in Concord, Massachusetts

The Orchard, home of Louisa May Alcott, in Concord, Massachusetts

Home of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts

Home of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts

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Last updated on September 6, 2023
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