Monday

Begin Your Historic Visit to Concord, Massachusetts With a Visit to The Concord Museum Where They Have One of the Oldest Collections of Americana in the Country

While visiting the historic Hawthorne Hotel, be sure to plan some time to take a day trip to nearby Concord - the small town with a big history - where you'll find all sorts of places to visit ranging from famous authors' homes, Revolutionary War sites, Walden Pond, and more!  With so many places to see, the best way to begin is by making a visit to the Concord Museum - the ideal place to start any day trip to the location of "the shot heard round the world."

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Containing one of the oldest collections of Americana in the country, the Concord Museum was founded in 1866 with a collection that was begun in the 1850s by Cummings Davis, a man of very modest means and a descendant of Concord's founders, who made the collection available for the public to view on a regular basis before the Civil War. Today, the Concord Museum's collection numbers over 35,000 objects spanning the history of Concord from Native American settlements to the present and includes furniture, ceramics, silver and pewter, household goods, archaeological stone artifacts, photographs, documents, prints, costumes and textiles.

Located in a former apple and pear orchard that once belonged to Concord's Ralph Waldo Emerson whose house stands across the street, the Museum's collection of 17th, 18th and 19th century Americana objects is housed in a three-story building that was constructed in 1930 and fits in perfectly with Concord's historic past. In 1991 an addition designed by American architect Graham de Conde Gund, who has been compared to Charles Bulfinch, an early-American architect from Boston whose works include the Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut (1796) and the Massachusetts State House (1798), was added to provide more gallery space for the Museum's ever-changing exhibits.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

The gateway to Concord's unique place in American history for well over 100 years for visitors from around the world - and even small visitors from Salem! - there's always something new to be seen throughout the year at the Concord Museum as they present a variety of special exhibitions drawn from the Museum's vast permanent collection, as well as collections on loan from distinguished museums around the country.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Accredited by the American Association of Museums - a distinction awarded to fewer than 5% of all museums nationwide - the Concord Museum is open daily year-round with hours that vary slightly depending on what time of year you are visiting; for current operating hours, be sure to check their website. The museum is closed only on Easter, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day - closing at 1:00 pm on Christmas Eve. Current admissions are free for Members, Children 5 & under, and Active Military (with valid ID); Adults $10; Seniors (62 & over) $8; Students or Teachers (18 & over with valid ID) $8; and Children, $5.  A discount is offered for AAA members and the museum accepts cash, check, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. If you're using your GPS to get to the museum, set it for 53 Cambridge Turnpike as even though the museum's physical address is 200 Lexington Road, you'll find the entrance and parking on Cambridge Turnpike.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Now that you've made it to the museum, parked your car for free in the lot provided, and paid your admission to the friendly folks who staff the front desk, what can you expect to see when you visit the Concord Museum? Lots!

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Start off with the exhibit Why Concord? which is composed of six history galleries along with the 14-minute  film, Exploring Concord  which looks at four phases of the town's past helping to uncover the historical layers of the town. The film can be watched at either the beginning of your visit or the end, whichever way you prefer!

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In Establishing Concord, visitors can learn the reasons that Native Americans chose to settle in Concord 10,000 years ago when the rivers were rich with fish and the land was perfect for crops. Originally known as "Musketaquid" by the Algonquian peoples who first lived here, the land which is now Concord is situated at the confluence of the Sudbury and Assabet rivers. The area was largely depopulated when the tribe's population was reduced to less than a tenth of its previous number by the smallpox plague that swept across the Americas in 1633 after the arrival of Europeans.

In 1635, a group of British settlers, twelve families led by Reverend Peter Bulkley and Major Simon Willard, negotiated a land purchase with the remnants of the local tribe. Their six-square-mile purchase formed the basis of the new town, the very first in New England to be built above the tide waters "away up in the woods*", which was named "Concord" in appreciation of the peaceful acquisition of the land as well as the relationship between the Puritans who came here in the 17th century and the Native Americans who remained on their own lands which surrounded the town on all sides.

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The next gallery in the exhibit, Defending Concord, focuses on the events in the 18th century that led to the start of the American Revolution and the firing of "the shot heard round the world." Naturally you can't talk about the American Revolution without mentioning tea and the pivotal role that the taxation of it played. By the 1760s, paper was an essential element of commercial life in America and tea drinking was an important aspect of domestic life. The heavy taxation by the British on tea, sugar, molasses and paper - all of which were imported - added to the tension that already existed between England and her thirteen Colonies.

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As a rather avid tea drinker myself, I was quite taken with the glazed earthenware teapot in the above display case which was manufactured in Staffordshire, England between 1750 and 1760. The pair of silver teaspoons that were crafted by Nathaniel Bartlett in Concord in 1760 were quite nice also!

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

The pair of pistols displayed above, made in London circa 1760-1770, belonged to Major John Buttrick who gave the order to return British fire at the old North Bridge on the morning of April 19th, 1775, crying out "Fire, fellow soldiers, for God's sake, fire!" Major Buttrick is also credited with firing the first shot in the less-than-five-minute battle that left two Americans and two British soldiers dead and a third British soldier soon to die of his wounds.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Another great piece on display in Defending Concord is the circa 1775 tinned iron and glass lantern made in England and ordered by Paul Revere to be hung in the belfry of Christ Church (Old North Church) in Boston on the night of April 18th, 1775. Made famous by Longfellow’s epic poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”, the lantern was identified in 1853 as one used to warn of the British troops' arrival. The lantern was bought by collector Cummings Davis (1816-1896) with the history that it was "bought in 1782 by Captain Daniel Brown, of Concord, from the sexton of Christ Church in Boston, and affirmed by the said sexton at that time to have been one of the two lanterns flashed from the belfry of that church by order of Paul Revere on the evening of the 18th of April, 1775."

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

From Defending Concord, visitors then move on to Reforming Concord - a gallery that speaks of another type of revolution in which Concord led the way - that of ideas and literature. In this section, you can learn why so many intellectuals were drawn to Concord and the influence of temperance, anti-slavery and other reform movements. Many of those intellectuals from all around the world, including Nathaniel Hawthorne himself, gathered in a room that the museum has recreated - Ralph Waldo Emerson's Study.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Mini-Nate was quite pleased to have his photo taken in the recreated study of his old friend whom he first met in 1842 when he and his new bride Sophia rented the Old Manse from Emerson for $100 a year and later resumed that friendship when he bought a home just down the road from the site of the Concord Museum in 1852. But more on all that later!

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

It's rather astonishing to think that a small town like Concord was home to so many influential writers but indeed it was! Most of the reason for that was centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson who moved to Concord in 1835 but who had deep roots in the town with his father Reverend William Emerson growing up in Concord before becoming an eminent Boston minister and his grandfather, William Emerson Sr., witnessing the battle at the North Bridge from his house before later becoming a chaplain in the Continental Army.

It was Emerson who was at the center of the group of Transcendentalists in Concord - a group that included Bronson and Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and the Hawthornes. The group believed that society and its institutions - particularly organized religion and political parties - ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual and that man was at his best when truly self-reliant and independent. Emerson's 1836 essay Nature is considered to be the watershed moment at which Transcendentalism became a major cultural movement and thus Concord was dubbed as "the biggest little place in America" by Henry James, one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism.

Next to Emerson's Study is a display from the museum's "Thoreau Collection", the largest collection of Thoreau's possessions anywhere, which includes furniture from Thoreau's house on Walden Pond such as the desk where he penned his 1849 essay Civil Disobedience and 1854 book Walden.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

The remainder of Reforming Concord includes a display of drinking vessels like the ones below which could be found in many Concord households designed specifically for the consumption of alcohol which was done in fairly large quantities in Colonial and Federal New England. The display includes a fairly wide assortment of vessels made from pewter, glass, silver, earthenware, and porcelain made in China, England, Bohemia, Germany, and America during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

In Preserving Concord, you can learn a bit about how the citizens of Concord took steps to keep sacred the ground of the battlefield that people started visiting as early as 1790. The exhibition includes pieces of the Old North Bridge that were made into walking sticks and boxes as well as a model of the bridge itself.
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Additionally there is a display about saving the authors' homes - The Emerson/Ripley Home aka The Old Manse, the Hawthorne House aka The Wayside, The Alcott House aka The Orchard House, and The Emerson House - all iconic parts of Concord just as much as the Old North Bridge.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Once you've had a chance to tour the History Galleries of Why Concord? it's time to move up to the second floor to view what are known as the Period Rooms. In addition to the "Ralph Waldo Emerson Study", the Concord Museum has four Period Rooms which offer visitors a glimpse into the domestic lives of past men and women of Concord.

The Early 18th-Century Chamber (circa 1700-1720) is arranged to suggest a portion of a principal room in the house of a prominent citizen of Concord, such as a minister or magistrate, which would be a semi-public space where the owner would receive visitors frequently.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

The Mid 18th-Century Chamber (circa 1750-1775) emphasizes the importance and popularity of tea-drinking as a social ritual which gave rise to the introduction of such specialized forms as the tea table and the ceramics, silver and other accessories needed to prepare and serve it.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

In between some of the Period Rooms is a display entitled "Silver Vessels to Furnish the Communion Table", a Communion Service of the First Parish Church in Concord.  The pieces date from 1676 to 1792 and were made in either Boston or Concord.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

While walking between rooms, don't forget to take a peek out the window to the beautiful courtyard below before heading up to the third floor of the museum! 

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

On the third floor you'll find The 19th-Century Chamber (circa 1800 - 1820) with furnishings ranging from the late-Baroque style of the easy chair, long a symbol of eighteenth-century prosperity, to wallpaper of a “most fashionable pattern,” representing the accelerating pace of change in 19th-century American manufacturing. The most expensive item of furniture in the room would be the bed due to the cost of the feathers used for stuffing the mattress and the amount of cloth used and time spent to sew the hangings.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Crossing from the 19th-Century Chamber to the next Period Room, is a display of dishware including some lovely teapots from England circa 1820. The pink-luster glaze pot and cup on the bottom shelf were my favorite while Nathaniel thought the middle teapot, an earthenware pot with a silver-luster glaze, was more masculine and to his liking.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

The last Period Room is the the 19th-Century Parlor, Set for Dining (circa 1810 - 1830) which contains contemporary prints and paintings as well as formal characteristics of the Neoclassical taste including a passion for symmetry, uniformity and order which are echoed throughout the parlor such as in the placing of vessels and utensils in a crescent on the table, in the "D" shape of the card tables, and again in the drapery swag motif which appears in the wallpaper and the fireplace surround. The room also includes a beautiful Eight-Day Clock manufactured by Daniel Munroe & Co. of Concord, 1802-1804.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Speaking of clocks, there is an exhibit of some very nice ones along with a display explaining an eight-day clock movement in a small gallery just off of the 19th-Century Parlor. It's a lovely place to sit and rest a spell or maybe shoot some photos from the lovely round windows!

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Heading back downstairs be sure to take a little bit of time to look at the painting of the Battle at the Old North Bridge (trust me, the photo here does not do it justice at all) and admire the Period piece mirrors that adorn the walls.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug
Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

Before leaving the Concord Museum to explore Concord armed with the knowledge of all you've learned, be sure to stop in at The Concord Museum Shop which features unique gifts, books, music and souvenirs of Concord including tricorn hats, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Penny Candy, notecards and postcards, teapots and t-shirts, replica 1775 lanterns, and pretty much any book about Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David Thoreau that you can think of! It's a great place to find something unique to give as a gift or bring home for yourself.

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug

I should also mention that if you're visiting when the houses are open and wish to buy a combination ticket which includes admission to the Concord Museum and either The Emerson House or The Orchard House, you can do so and save yourself a bit of money to spend visiting another historic home in Concord or buying yourself a nice souvenir! If they don't offer it - though I'm sure they will - be sure to ask at the front desk!

With activities for the kids including special treasure hunts for younger children, object searches for older children, and hands-on activities in many of the galleries of the museum which engage young visitors and help them learn what a history museum is all about, along with a children's work-space complete with colored pencils and places to draw, the Concord Museum is a wonderful place for visitors of all ages. It really is the best place to start your day trip in Concord even if you go for no other reason than to see the famous "one, if by land, and two, if by sea" lantern - which is pretty darned cool even if you aren't a history buff!

Photo from the Concord Museum Gallery on SmugMug


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2 comments:

  1. I know you must've enjoyed all of the history! But... Oh, I would love checking out all of the clocks! I just mentioned clocks at Jean's blog. How funny.

    And I love the courtyard... why don't we have courtyards anymore. Why must we mow and suffer so much hayfever rather than sitting in the courtyard sipping a glass of tea or lemonade?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The clocks were all so interesting and quite cool, especially considering that clock-making is no longer the art form that it once was. New technology is great but we miss out on so much of the artistry and beauty of form and function that the early artisans captured.

      And that courtyard looked so inviting! The perfect place to wile away the afternoon hours with a lovely cup of tea or two!

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~ Nathaniel and Linda