On my recent visit to Amherst, MA, I visited Emily Dickinson’s house as well as the house of her brother and his wife. I learned that the Dickinson homes certainly have a unique charm. Although on the same property, and belonging to the same family, The Homestead and The Evergreens have a different beauty that I was excited to see.
The Homestead – the childhood home of Emily Dickinson and the place she lived until she died in 1886. It’s thought by some that she was a recluse, only writing depressing poems. (And there was a time when I thought the same, but she wrote on a variety of different topics and was interested in life.) After visiting her home and learning more about her, I believe she was happy with her life, spending it with the people she cared about most while doing what she loved. (Although, she never published a single poem during her lifetime.)
The house she lived in was simple – canary yellow with dark green shutters. There was a small flower garden on the side of the house with a birdbath. A few times I watched as a robin flew to the rim of the bath and drank the water before flying away. Also, further down from the house there was a larger garden which also contained flowers, among various vegetables. (Along with a rather friendly cat whose name seemed to be Oscar Wilde.)
While walking through the house I saw various rooms including the library, a large room off from the foyer and Emily’s room. It didn’t really hit me until I was standing in Emily’s room – the profound thought that this is where she not only lived, but wrote all those poems so many years ago. Her small desk with a lamp and a chair faced the window and I wondered if she wrote long into the night or whenever inspiration struck.
As any artist’s house that is turned into a museum, things were pristine and most of the furniture was authentic. Maybe it’s my active imagination, or maybe something else, but I could imagine the people who once lived in the house walking up and down the stair, through the halls, sitting and talking, entertaining. It really was like stepping into the past. But there’s a difference between stepping back in time and feeling as though time itself has stopped.
The Evergreens – the home of Emily’s brother and his wife, a wedding present built by his father across the way from The Homestead. Structurally, this house is very different from the one Emily lived in, but what I found more breathtaking was what was on the inside.
As soon as I stepped into the dimly lit foyer, I could smell the houses age. (Some may call it a musty sent, but it wasn’t musty, it was age and history that floated through the air.) It was written in the family will that the house was to remained untouched. So everything was still in the same place. Every single piece of furniture, down to the rugs and wood floors, were authentic.
The wallpaper in the halls was peeling, the paint was chipping, there were small holes and cracks in the ceiling and long cracks that ran the length of the wall. Some of the rugs were torn after a lifetime of foot-traffic and the wood floors worn in places after years of people walking on them. Even the fireplaces appeared to have ash still in them. (Although, I could’ve imagined this.) Either way, this house felt like the family left long ago, leaving all their belongings, and was waiting for them to return.
That was the beauty of this house. In no way am I calling it unkept or ugly. All of these things add to its character. It shows this house had a life and I could imagine it in its glory days as Emily’s brother and wife entertained or simply took care of their family. I could feel it’s history pouring from the walls and thought of the stories they could tell, if only they could speak.
Both these houses had their own charm and their own personality. I loved them equally, but for different reasons. In The Homestead it was walking the same halls as Emily Dickinson once did (to name one) and in The Evergreens it was the pure authenticity of the house and the history that was ingrained into every floorboard (to name one). In the end, I’m glad I was able to explore these gorgeous houses and that they could be preserved not only for today, but also for future generations.
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