Late Autumn Getaway: The William Cullen Bryant Homestead

During late autumn the New England landscape is imbued with poetry; the crunch of decaying leaves underfoot and crisp air and blue skies that mask the howl of winter on the horizon. Despite, or perhaps because of the shortened days, the urge to be outside—for just a wee bit longer—is as strong as ever.

William Cullen Bryant Homestead, photograph by William H. Johnson

Featured in our latest title, New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens, the William Cullen Bryant Homestead makes for a wonderful late autumn getaway that captures and celebrates this essential poetry of the season, which Bryant himself called “the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

Born 217 years ago this week, on November 3, 1794, William Cullen Bryant ascended to the literary world with the publication of his first major poem at age thirteen. Like all of the properties profiled in Kim Knox Beckius’ new book, the William Cullen Bryant Homestead offers a glimpse into what this iconic American’s home life was like. In this case, it’s evident that the pastoral landscape of Bryant’s youth was a great influence on the mind of one of America’s foremost 19th-century poets. So much so that in 1865, after a career spent in New York City as Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of  the New York Evening Post, Bryant purchased his former boyhood home (sold out of the Bryant family 30 years prior) and used it as a summer retreat from late July through early September for the duration of his life.

While tours of the home, (deeded to the non-profit Trustees of Reservations in 1927 by Bryant’s granddaughter), are only offered Saturdays, Sundays, and Monday holidays from the last weekend in June through Columbus Day, a trip to the homestead’s 195 acres still offers a great fall outing–and spectacular winter hiking and snowshoeing.

Open daily year-round, the photogenic grounds afford visitors a chance to explore the two-hundred-year-old sugar maple grove described in Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood, or to meander along a trail through an old-growth forest along the “oozy banks” immortalized by William Cullen Bryant in The Rivulet.

The lush hills and sparkling streams that were a backdrop for Bryant’s youthful wanderings also seem to have helped to keep Bryant young in his later years. Beckius quotes Mary Dawes Warner, daughter of a caretaker, who recalled that Bryant “never opened a gate. He would walk up to it, put his hand on it, and vault over. I have seen him at eighty years of age go over a four foot gate.”


If you go…

207 Bryant Road

Cummington, MA 01026

Drive time from Boston 2 1/2 hours
Drive time from Hartford 1 1/4 hours 

Interested in learning more about William Cullen Bryant, the Pioneer Valley, or want to pick up a copy of New England’s Homes & Gardens? Please stop by these recommended bookshops in the area:

Broadside Books, Northampton
Amherst Books, Amherst
Heritage Books, Southampton
Odyssey Books, South Hadley
Booklink Bookseller, Northampton
Places to eat: 
Elmer’s Store, Ashfield
Bread Euphoria, Haydenville
Pages Coffee Bar, Conway
Lady Killigrew Cafe at the Montague Bookmill, Montague
P.S. If you love the looks of the William Cullen Bryant Homestead from what you see here, be sure to visit our earlier post for a (free) digital desktop calendar featuring a vibrant fall landscape image and a November calendar.

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