George and Henry Read Here

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Library used by both Washington and Longfellow.

 

George Washington, called the Father of the US, and Henry W. Longfellow, one of the most recognized US 19th century poets, famously resided in a widely recognized Cambridge, Massachusetts House.

The Georgian mansion, built in 1759, and served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston, July 1775 – April 1776. Washington found the views of the Charles River important in devising military strategy against the British.

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1854 image of the home labeled as “Headquarters, Cambridge 1775” in reference to George Washington

During his time there, Washington was visited by John Adams and Abigail Adams, Benedict Arnold, Henry Knox, and Nathanael Greene. In his study, Washington also confronted Dr. Benjamin Church with evidence that he was a spy. It was in this house that Washington received a poem written by Phillis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet.

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Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site                    National Park Service

The house was a wedding present to Longfellow and Fanny Appleton from the bride’s father in 1843. It was the Longfellow family’s home until 1913. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow filled the mansion with objects reflecting his interest in other cultures. European and Asian artwork, furniture, decorative objects and books are found throughout the house.

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Pictured here is the room where the real Dante Club met at Longfellow’s house in the mid-1860s. Longfellow converted one of the windows to a bookcase—he did this in several rooms of the house, in order to house his library of approximately twelve thousand volumes. Credit: Nicholas A. Basbanes

While Longfellow lived in the house, he produced many of his most famous poems including “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Village Blacksmith”, as well as longer works such as Evangeline, The Song of Hiawatha, and The Courtship of Miles Standish. In all, while living in this house, Longfellow published eleven poetry collections, two novels, three epic poems, and several plays as well as a translation of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.

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Longfellow in his study.

Longfellow  often wrote in his first-floor study, formerly Washington’s office, surrounded by portraits of his friends, including charcoal portraits by Eastman Johnson of Charles Sumner, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Cornelius Conway Felton. Longfellow would write either at the center table, at the desk, or in the armchair by the fire. Famous literary figures such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne were visitors, as were politicians, actors, musicians, and others.

For a time, Longfellow’s home was one of the most photographed and most recognizable homes in the United States.

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Trivia lovers should note that in the early twentieth century, Sears, Roebuck and Company sold scaled-down blueprints of the home so that anyone could build their own version of Longfellow’s home. Several replicas of Longfellow’s home appear throughout the United States. A full-scale replica of the house was built in Great Barrington, Massachusetts at the turn of the 20th century. This building is the only remaining full-scale replica of Longfellow’s original home maintaining all the original historical character.

The Longfellow House Washington Headquarters National Historic Site, 105 Brattle St., Cambridge, is open Wednesday through Sunday from May 25 through November 1, 2016. Free 50-minute ranger-led house tours are every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis (limit of 15 people per tour). The Visitor Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gardens are free and open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk.

 

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