The Wayside, Concord, Mass

The Wayside, at 455 Lexington Road in Concord, around 1890-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2018:

This house is best known for having been the home of three different notable authors during the 19th century, although the house itself is actually much older than that. It has been heavily altered over the years, but it dates back to at least 1717, when owner Caleb Ball sold the property to glazier Samuel Fletcher. It changed hands several more times during the first half of the 18th century, and during this time its owners included housewright Nathaniel Coleburn, who lived here from 1723 to 1730 and 1740 to 1747, and cordwainer John Breed, who lived here from 1747 to 1769.

In 1769, Breed sold the property to Samuel Whitney. He was involved in the Patriot cause in the years leading up to to  the American Revolution, including serving as a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which met in Concord in October 1774. He was also the muster master for the Concord minutemen, and in early 1775 he stored a cache of ammunition here on the property. The British redcoats, who had come to Concord to seize colonial military supplies on April 19, marched right past the house both before and after the Battle of Concord, although they evidently did not search Whitney’s house or outbuildings.

The Massachusetts colonial government was not the only institution that ended up in Concord because of the Revolution. From 1775 to 1776, the Continental Army laid siege to British-occupied Boston, and many of the soldiers were stationed in Cambridge. Around 1,600 were housed at Harvard, requiring the college to relocate to Concord during the 1775-1776 school year. Here in Concord, classes were held in the meetinghouse, the courthouse, and a schoolhouse, and students and faculty boarded at various locations throughout the town. This house became the residence of John Winthrop, a noted scientist who held the Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard from 1737 to 1779.

In 1778, Samuel Whitney sold the house to Daniel Taylor, who in turn told it to Daniel Hoar two months later. He was a farmer, and he lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1814. His son, Daniel Hoar Jr., then inherited the property, which remained in the Hoar family until 1827. The house subsequently went through several more owners, and in 1845 it became the home of Amos Bronson Alcott, his wife Abigail, and their four daughters: Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth, and Abigail.

Bronson Alcott, as he was generally known, was a noted writer and philosopher who was associated with the Transcendentalist movement. A few years before moving here, he had been the founder of Fruitlands, a short-lived utopian commune in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts. This effort ultimately failed after just seven months, in part because of poor agricultural practices and strict dietary rules that prohibited all animal products and even some vegetables. The Alcotts subsequently relocated to Concord in 1844, where they lived with a friend for a short time before moving into this house.

Although Bronson Alcott was a noted figure in his own right, his fame was eclipsed by that of his second daughter, Louisa May Alcott. She was 12 years old when the family moved here, and they lived here for a little over three years before moving to Boston in 1848. However, despite her relatively short stay here, these were formative years for Louisa, and many of her experiences here were later incorporated into her best-known work, Little Women, a largely autobiographical novel that was published in 1868 and 1869.

In the three years that they lived here, the Alcotts made a number of changes to the property. Bronson did extensive landscaping work, in particular the creation of terraces on the hillside behind the house. He planted these with a variety of flowers and trees, and he grew fruits, vegetables, and grains here in order to accommodate his vegan diet. The family also made changes to the house itself, which they named Hillside. This work included the addition of two new bedrooms for Louisa and her older sister Anna. During this time, the family was also involved in the Underground Railroad, and they are believed to have sheltered at least a few runaway slaves here in the house.

In 1848, the Alcotts moved to Boston, although they would eventually return to Concord in 1857. A year later they purchased Orchard House, located immediately to the west of this house on Lexington Road. It would remain in the family for more than 25 years, and Louisa lived there for most of her literary career. In the meantime, though, their former home here was sold to another prominent author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. He had previously lived in various places throughout his adult life, including several years in Concord at the Old Manse, but this was the only house that he ever owned.

Hawthorne moved into this house in 1852, along with his wife Sophia and their three children, Una, Julian, and Rose, whose ages ranged from one to eight. When he had left Concord in 1845, Hawthorne was still a relatively unknown author who struggled to make ends meet. He subsequently lived in Salem, where he worked as surveyor at the Custom House for several years, before moving to Lenox in the Berkshires. However, by the time he returned to Concord to live here in this house, he was a well-established author, thanks to the recent publications of The Scarlet Letter (1850), The House of the Seven Gables (1851), and The Blithedale Romance (1852).

Also in 1852, Hawthorne published a campaign biography of Franklin Pierce. The two men had been friends since their time at Bowdoin College, and Hawthorne helped Pierce’s presidential campaign by lending him both his name and literary talents to write the biography. It was evidently successful, because Pierce won the election and was inaugurated in 1853. Pierce then rewarded his friend by appointing him as the United States consul in Liverpool, a prestigious diplomatic post that Hawthorne held for the next four years until the end of Pierce’s presidency.

As a result of this appointment, the Hawthornes only lived here for a little over a year before moving overseas, and they would not return here until 1860, after an extended tour of Europe. Hawthorne would continue to reside here for the last four years of his life, until his death in 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire, while on a trip through the White Mountains with ex-President Pierce. His widow Sophia remained here in Concord until 1868, when she and her children moved to England. She ultimately sold the house in 1870, a year before her own death.

Although Hawthorne lived in this house for a relatively short period of time, he made some substantial alterations to the house. Upon returning from Europe, he added a third-story tower to the rear of the house, which became his study. Other changes included the addition of a bedroom above the wing on the left side, and a bay window where the front door had originally been. During his ownership, he also changed the name of the house, from Hillside to The Wayside.

In the 1870s, after Sophia Hawthorne sold the property, it was owned by Mary C. Pratt, who operated the Wayside School for Young Ladies out of the house. Her neighbor Bronson Alcott, who was still alive and approaching 80, was a frequent visitor here during this time. He often lectured at the school, and he also gave tours of the grounds, telling stories to visitors about Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The school ultimately closed in 1879, and that same year the house returned to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s family when it was purchased by his daughter Rose and her husband, George P. Lathrop. They resided here intermittently for the next four years, and during one of their absences Rose’s brother Julian lived here with his family. George was the editor of the Boston Courier newspaper, and he also wrote several novels, although his works never received the same attention as those of his famous father-in-law. Rose would later go on to have success in a completely different field. After George’s death in 1898, she founded a Catholic religious order, the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, and became Mother Mary Alphonsa.

In 1883, the Lathrops sold the house to Boston publisher Daniel Lothrop and his wife Harriett. As with so many of the previous residents of this house, Harriet was an accomplished writer. She was best known for The Five Little Peppers, a children’s book series that was published by her husband’s company starting in 1881, under the pen name Margaret Sidney. She eventually took over the operation of the publishing company after Daniel’s death in 1892, and she continued writing children’s books into the 1910s.

The Lothrops had one child, Margaret, who was born here at The Wayside in 1884. Both George and Harriett were interested in literature and historic preservation, and they recognized the historical significance of their house. Margaret grew up with a similar appreciation, and she eventually inherited the property after her mother’s death in 1924. At the time, she was an economics professor at Stanford University, but she arranged to have the house preserved and open to the public for tours starting in 1928. She eventually returned to Concord in 1932, residing here at The Wayside while also organizing the tours of the house during the summer months.

Margaret’s goal was to sell the house to an organization that would preserve it for the future. She even wrote a book, The Wayside: Home of Authors, about the history of the house. It was published in 1940, and she hoped that it would generate interest in the property, but no prospective buyers came forward. She ultimately lived here for the next 25 years after writing the book, and she continued to give tours and conduct research throughout this time.

In 1963, she successfully lobbied for the house to be declared a National Historic Landmark, the highest level of federal recognition for a historic site. Two years later, she finally found a buyer in the National Park Service, and in 1965 the house became part of the recently-established Minute Man National Historical Park. The house has remained a part of the park ever since, and it is still open to the public, nearly a century after Margaret Lothrop first opened her house for tours.

The first photo in this post was taken sometime around the 1890s, during George and Harriett Lothrop’s ownership. Thanks in large part to their daughter’s efforts, the exterior has remained well-preserved since then. The shutters are gone, and there have been some changes to the wing on the right side, but otherwise the house hardly looks any different from this view.

Overall, the only other significant difference between the two photos is the front lawn, which was once shaded by two large trees that probably dated back to Hawthorne’s time. Both the elm on the left and the pine tree on the right are long gone, perhaps as a result of the 1938 hurricane or, in the case of the elm, to Dutch Elm Disease. However, there is at least one tree still standing from the first photo. On the left side of the house, in front of the porch, is a hawthorn tree that was, appropriately enough, planted by Nathaniel Hawthorne during his residence here. Despite its unassuming size, it is now more than 150 years old, and it survives today as a living reminder of the home’s famous occupant.

Old Manse, Concord, Mass (2)

The view of the Old Manse facing the southeast corner of the house, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, the Old Manse is an important historic landmark in Concord, with connections to the American Revolution and to two of the most important 19th century American writers. It was built in 1770 as the home of William Emerson, the pastor of the First Parish Church. Only five years later, the American Revolution started quite literally in his backyard, when the Battle of Concord was fought at Old North Bridge, which was located just 150 yards behind the house. Emerson subsequently joined the Continental Army as a chaplain, although he fell ill and died in 1776 while serving in the army. However, the house remained in his family for many years, and its later residents included his grandson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived here for about a year from 1834 to 1835.

In the meantime, William Emerson’s widow Phebe remarried in 1780 to Ezra Ripley, who had become the new pastor of the church after Emerson’s death. Phebe died in 1825, but Ezra lived here until his death in 1841, and his son Samuel then inherited the property. For several years, Samuel rented the house to Nathaniel Hawthorne and his newlywed wife Sophia. They lived here from 1842 to 1845, and during this time Hawthorne wrote Mosses from an Old Manse, a collection of short stories that was published in 1846 and named for this house. However, by 1845 Samuel Ripley decided to return here to live in his childhood home, and the Hawthornes subsequently relocated to Salem.

Samuel Ripley died less than two years later in 1847, but his widow Sarah continued to live here. After her death in 1867, her daughter Sophia Thayer inherited it, and she still owned it when the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century. The photo shows the southeast view of the house, revealing its elegant Georgian-style architecture with its large gambrel roof. The Old North Bridge over the Concord River is located just beyond the house, although it is hidden from view by the trees in the distance.

By the early 20th century, the Old Manse was used primarily as a summer residence, and after Sophia’s death in 1914 the property went to her daughter, Sarah Ames, the wife of Boston architect John Worthington Ames. She owned it until her death in 1939, and her husband subsequently sold the house and its contents to the Trustees of Reservations. This organization, which focuses on historic preservation and land conservation, owns a number of historic properties throughout Massachusetts, although the Old Manse is perhaps one of its most important ones. More than 80 years later, the Trustees still own the house, which is open to the public for guided tours. During this time, the house has remained well-preserved, and there are few differences between these two photos aside from the large tree on the right side, which hides much of the house in the present-day view.

Old Manse, Concord, Mass (1)

The Old Manse on Monument Street in Concord, around 1890-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2018:

The Old Manse is one of the most important historic buildings in Concord, with connections to the American Revolution and to two of the most important authors in 19th century America. It dates back to 1770, when it was constructed as the manse, or parsonage, for the First Parish Church. The church itself was located in downtown Concord, while the Old Manse is about three-quarters of a mile north of there, along the banks of the Concord River and adjacent to the Old North Bridge.

The first pastor to live here in this house was William Emerson, the grandfather of future Transcendentalist author Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was about 27 years old at the time, and he had served in the church since 1766. It was during his pastorate that, in October 1774, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress met in his church after the British authorities had formally disbanded the colonial legislature. The delegates, who were presided over by John Hancock, continued to meet anyway, and during their time in Concord Emerson served as the chaplain of the congress.

Within six months, Concord was again at the center of revolutionary activity when, on April 19, 1775, British forces left Boston to search for hidden caches of munitions in Concord. After a brief skirmish in nearby Lexington, which marked the beginning of the American Revolution, the British arrived in Concord, where they began searching the town. They ended up at the Old North Bridge, which was quite literally in Emerson’s backyard, just beyond the trees on the far right side of this scene, about 150 yards from the house. It was here that the redcoats engaged with the local militia forces, and where the famous “Shot heard round the world”—as Emerson’s famous grandson later termed it—was fired.

Reverend Emerson and his family witnessed the battle from the house, although he was not directly involved in the fighting. However, he subsequently joined the Continental Army as a chaplain, and he is generally considered to have been the army’s first such chaplain. He traveled north to Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York during the summer of 1776, but he subsequently fell ill and died in Rutland, Vermont on October 20, at the age of 33.

His death left his widow Phebe with five young children to care for, including a newborn daughter. She subsequently remarried in 1780 to Ezra Ripley, who had succeeded her late husband as pastor of the church. This was not an uncommon practice for young pastors to marry the widows of their predecessors, although there was a bit of an age difference here, as Ezra was ten years younger than Phebe. The couple had three more children together, and they continued to live here at the Old Manse for the rest of their lives. Phebe died in 1825 at the age of 83, and Ezra continued to serve as pastor of the church until his death in 1841 at the age of 90, for a total of 63 years in the pulpit.

In the meantime, Phebe’s eldest son, William Jr., followed his father into the ministry, graduating from Harvard in 1789 and eventually becoming pastor of the First Church in Boston. Like his father, though, he also had a short life, dying in 1811 at the age of 42. His son, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was seven years old at the time, coincidentally the same age that William had been when his father died in 1776. Ralph would continue the family tradition by attending Harvard and becoming a pastor, serving in Boston’s Second Church starting in 1829. However, his young wife Ellen died two years later from tuberculosis, causing a crisis in faith that led him to resign from his position in 1832.

In 1834, when he was about 31 years old, Ralph Waldo Emerson moved into the Old Manse, where he lived for about a year with his elderly step-grandfather. Although he was not yet a published author, Emerson did some writing while he lived here, including working on his famous essay “Nature,” which was published in 1836. During this time, he also became engaged to his second wife, Lidian Jackson. They married in 1835, and they subsequently moved into their own house, which still stands at 18 Cambridge Turnpike in Concord.

After Ezra Ripley died in 1841, his son Samuel inherited the property. He was also a pastor, serving in Waltham, Massachusetts, but starting in 1842 he rented this house to newlyweds Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. At the time, Nathaniel Hawthorne was about 38 years old, and he had enjoyed only moderate success as a writer. However, during his time here in Concord he continued to write, and in 1846 he published Mosses from an Old Manse, a collection of short stories that were, for the most part, written here in the house. The title of the book also provided the name for the house, which continues to be known as the Old Manse today.

Aside from writing a number of short stories here, Hawthorne also took inspiration from a tragedy that occurred in 1845, when 19-year-old Martha Hunt drowned herself in the Concord River near the house. He was part of the search party that recovered her body, and he later incorporated the incident into his 1852 novel The Blithedale Romance. In the book, one of the main characters, Zenobia, meets an identical fate, and Hawthorne provides a lengthy description of the search and the discovery of her body, which is described as “the marble image of a death-agony.”

In the three years that the Hawthornes lived in the Old Manse, they had several notable visitors, including future president Franklin Pierce, who came here in the spring of 1845. He and Hawthorne had been classmates at Bowdoin College, and they would remain lifelong friends. Several years later, in 1852, Hawthorne would publish a campaign biography of Pierce, using both his name recognition and literary talents to promote Pierce, who had earned the Democratic nomination for president. Pierce ended up winning the election, perhaps in part because of Hawthorne’s efforts, but his presidency ultimately failed to live up to the abilities that his friend had described in the biography.

In 1845, Samuel Ripley was looking to return to this house and live here, so by the end of the year the Hawthornes had relocated to Salem. They subsequently lived in Lenox before returning to Concord in 1852, purchasing The Wayside on Lexington Road. In the meantime, Samuel Ripley resided here at the Old Manse for only a few years before his death in 1847. However, his widow Sarah continued to live here for another 20 years. She was a noted scholar who, in the days before widespread higher education for women, had been almost entirely self-taught. She was an expert in a wide range of subjects, and over the years she tutored a number of college students, including a young Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Sarah Ripley died in 1867, but the house remained in her family for several more generations. Her daughter Sophia Thayer inherited the property, and after her death in 1914 it went to her daughter, Sarah Ames. During the early 20th century, the house was used primarily as a summer residence, and Sarah Ames owned it until her death in 1939. Her husband, architect John Worthington Ames, then sold the property to the Trustees of Reservations, a nonprofit organization that focuses on historic preservation and land conservation.

The first photo was taken sometime around the 1890s, during Sophia Thayer’s ownership. Very little has changed in more than 120 years since then, and in both photos the front view of the house is largely obscured by the trees on either side of the long driveway. Today, the Old Manse continues to be owned by the Trustees of Reservations, and it is open to the public for guided tours. Much of the surrounding area, including the battlefield site at the Old North Bridge, has also been preserved as part of the Minute Man National Historical Park, which was established in 1959 and is administered by the National Park Service.

Wright’s Tavern, Concord, Mass (2)

Wright’s Tavern on Lexington Road in Concord, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, this building was constructed in 1747 as a tavern. It was originally owned by Ephraim Jones, but it changed hands several times during the mid-18th century. By the 1770s, it was owned by Daniel Taylor but operated by Amos Wright, whose name has come to be associated with the tavern because of several important events that occurred here at the start of the American Revolution.

In October 1774, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress met in Concord in defiance of the Intolerable Acts, which had dissolved the colonial legislature. The delegates met nearby in the First Parish Church, but they held committee meetings here at the tavern, in addition to visiting here for food and drink. About six months later, on April 19, 1775, the tavern became a gathering place for minutemen prior to the Battle of Concord, and later in the day it was briefly used as the headquarters of Major John Pitcairn, while he searched the town for munitions.

After the war, the tavern became a bakery, which remained in operation until 1831. From there, it went through a series of commercial tenants over the years before eventually being acquired and restored by the neighboring First Parish Church. The first photo was taken only a couple decades later, showing the tavern as it appeared at the turn of the 20th century. Since then, the tavern has remained largely the same, and it stands as one of the most historic buildings in Concord, having been designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

Wright’s Tavern, Concord, Mass (1)

Wright’s Tavern, seen from Lexington Road in Concord, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This tavern has stood at the center of Concord for nearly 275 years, since its construction in 1747. It was built by Ephraim Jones, who ran the tavern here for several years before selling the property to Thomas Munroe in 1751. After Munroe’s death in 1766, it was purchased by Daniel Taylor, and he went on to own it for the next nine years. During this time, in the years leading up to the American Revolution, the tavern served as a popular gathering place for locals. These included the militiamen who met regularly on the nearby training field for drills, as well as congregants from the neighboring First Parish Church.

The tavern came to be known as Wright’s Tavern because of Amos Wright, who was the proprietor during the mid-1770s. Although he did not own the property, he ran the tavern, and it was during his tenure here that several historic events occurred. The first of these came in October 1774, when the Massachusetts Provincial Congress met in Concord. Earlier in the month, the colonial legislature had been dissolved as part of the so-called Intolerable Acts, but its members ignored this directive and met anyway, convening in Concord on October 7. The Congress itself met in the First Parish Church, with John Hancock presiding, but the tavern was used for committee meetings, in addition to providing food and drink for the 300 delegates in attendance.

Just six months later, Wright’s Tavern again found itself at the center of revolutionary activities in Massachusetts. In the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, Concord minutemen gathered here in advance of the approaching British forces, which were attempting to seize colonial military supplies that were stored here in town. Later in the day, these minutemen retreated to the north of town, on the other side of Old North Bridge, where they fired the famous “Shot heard round the world.”

In the meantime, though, the British temporarily occupied the center of Concord, and Major John Pitcairn made the tavern his headquarters. From here, he dispatched search parties in a largely unsuccessful attempt to find the military supplies. He also reportedly ordered a drink here at the tavern, which he is said to have stirred with his finger while declaring that he would “stir the damned Yankee blood” in the same manner by nightfall. However, as it turned out, the colonial minutemen defeated the British at Old North Bridge, and Pitcairn and his men were forced to retreat to Boston. Pitcairn returned safely, but he was ultimately killed two months later at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

After the war, the old tavern became a bakery, with residential space for the baker on the upper floor. Starting in 1790, the bakery was run by Francis Jarvis, and it became a fixture here in the center of Concord for many years. Jarvis sold baked goods out of the building here, but part of his business also involved a wagon route that sold bread, pies, and other goods throughout the surrounding towns. His son, Francis Jr., was born here in 1794, and he would later become a partner in the bakery before taking it over from his father in 1824. The younger Francis operated the bakery for another seven years, before selling the property in 1831.

Over the next few decades, the building housed a variety of commercial tenants, ranging from the print shop to the manufacturer of Potter’s Hair Balm. By the late 19th century, the building was in poor condition, but in the 1880s it was purchased by Reuben Rice and former U.S. Attorney General Ebenezer Hoar, with the goal of preserving the historic structure. They then donated it to the First Parish Church, and it was subsequently converted back to its original use as an inn.

The first photo was taken around 30 years later, showing the old colonial-era tavern at the dawn of the automobile age. One such car is visible on the right side of the photo, with a group of occupants climbing into it, presumably after staying at the hotel or eating in its dining room. The exterior of the building is covered with a variety of signs, attesting to its historical significance as well as the amenities offered here. Another sign, located at the corner on the left side, indicates that it is an “Automobile Red Book Station.”

Today, around a century after the first photo was taken, the exterior of the tavern remains essentially the same as it did back then. It is still owned by the church, although it is no longer used as a hotel. Instead, part of the building is used by the Concord Museum for educational space, and another part of the building is occupied by two architectural firms. Because of its historical significance, the tavern was named as a National Historic Landmark in 1961, making it one of six sites in Concord to receive this level of recognition.

Martin Van Buren House, Kinderhook, New York

The Martin Van Buren house in Kinderhook, New York, around 1910. Image from The Village Beautiful, Kinderhook, N. Y. (1910).

The house in 2018:

Martin Van Buren was born in 1782 in Kinderhook, a small village in upstate New York about 20 miles south of Albany. He was the first American president to be born as a U. S. citizen, as all previous presidents had been born as British subjects prior to the Declaration of Independence. He came from an old Dutch family that traced its roots back to the former colony of New Amsterdam, and he grew up speaking Dutch as a child, making him the only president to learn English as a second language. Van Buren was born in his father’s tavern on Hudson Street, which is no longer standing, but he spent his later life in this house on the Old Post Road, residing here from 1841 until his death in 1862.

Although Van Buren is generally considered to be one of the more obscure American presidents, he was a shrewd politician who helped to form the basis for the modern Democratic Party. He held a number of political offices during his career, beginning in 1806 when he was elected as the fence viewer for Kinderhook. Despite its decidedly modest-sounding name, fence viewers played an important role in settling disputes between landowners, and Van Buren was subsequently appointed as a surrogate of Columbia County, which involved dealing with wills and estates.

In 1812, Van Buren was elected to the state senate, and he went on to serve as a senator until 1820. For part of this time he was also the attorney general of New York, serving in that capacity from 1816 to 1819. During his time in state politics, Van Buren became a powerful figure, and he was instrumental in setting up a New York political machine that came to be known as the Albany Regency. As a result of his influence, in 1821 the state legislature elected Van Buren to the United States Senate, choosing him over the incumbent Nathan Sanford.

Van Buren remained in the Senate until 1828, when he was elected governor of New York. He took office in Albany on January 1, 1839, but his term was very brief. During the fall elections, Van Buren had allied himself with Andrew Jackson, and in the process he had united former Democratic-Republicans in support of a single candidate, thus avoiding a repeat of the four-way debacle that had occurred in 1824. This move formed the modern Democratic Party, and Van Buren was rewarded in March 1829, when Jackson appointed him as his secretary of state. As a result, he resigned as governor on March 12, and he joined the Jackson’s cabinet later in the month.

After two years as secretary of state, Van Buren was appointed as minister to the United Kingdom in 1831. It was a recess appointment, and he traveled to London while Congress was still out of session. However, upon reconvening in early 1832, the Senate ultimately rejected his nomination, forcing Van Buren to return. Vice President John C. Calhoun had cast the tiebreaking vote against Van Buren in hopes of ruining his career, but it ended up having the opposite effect. Van Buren’s return to America put him in contention for the vice presidential nomination in the 1832 election, and in May the Democratic National Convention chose him to replace Calhoun on the ticket.

Andrew Jackson easily defeated Henry Clay in the general election, and Van Buren was inaugurated as vice president on March 4, 1833. Over the next four years, he remained one of Jackson’s most important advisors, and after Jackson declined to run for a third term, Van Buren became his logical successor for the 1836 election. He ran essentially unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and was the party’s unanimous choice at the convention. He went on to win the fall election, with the nascent Whig Party splitting their voters among four different candidates.

Despite his successful political career prior to the presidency, Van Buren’s single term as president was mediocre at best. It was largely defined by the Panic of 1837, an economic recession that began only months after he was inaugurated. His response to the crisis was largely ineffective, leading his Whig opponents to ridicule him as “Martin Van Ruin” during his 1840 re-election bid. This recession, combined with the growing strength of the Whig Party, doomed him in the general election, and he lost in a landslide to William Henry Harrison.

After leaving the White House in 1841, Van Buren returned home to Kinderhook, where he had purchased this house two years earlier. The home, originally known as Kleinrood, had been built around 1797 by Peter Van Ness, a judge on the Court of Common Pleas. Van Ness was in his early 60s at the time, and he was a veteran of the American Revolution, having served as a colonel in the state militia. He died here in 1804, and his son William Peter Van Ness subsequently inherited Kleinrood. William was also a judge, serving at the federal level as a United States District Court judge from 1812 until his death in 1826, at the age of 48. He owned this house for most of his time on the bench, but he ultimately lost it at auction in 1824, when it was sold to pay for a lawsuit judgment against him.

Kleinrood was purchased by William Paulding Jr., a former congressman who went on to serve as mayor of New York City from 1825 to 1826, and 1827 to 1829. Paulding lived in New York City, and he already had a summer residence in Tarrytown, so he never actually lived here. However, he owned Kleinrood for the next 15 years, including the house and the surrounding 137 acres. He evidently made few improvements to the property during this time, and it was in poor condition by the time he sold it to Martin Van Buren in 1839 for $14,000.

Prior to purchasing this property, Van Buren had never owned a house of his own. Nevertheless, he gladly took on the challenge of managing and improving a large farm, perhaps hoping to emulate earlier presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson, all of whom were famous for their grand estates. Van Buren soon set about making changes and improvements, including changing the name from Kleinrood to Lindenwald. He also built stables and other outbuildings, and he made some alterations to the interior of the house. The most dramatic change inside the house was the removal of the original staircase, creating a central hall on the first floor that could be used for banquets and other large events.

When he moved into the house in 1841, Van Buren did not envision it as his retirement home. He was 58 years old at the time, and he hoped that he would be able to recapture the White House in 1844. However, he failed to receive enough votes at the Democratic National Convention, in part because of his opposition to the annexation of Texas, and the party’s nomination ultimately went to James K. Polk. By the next presidential election, Van Buren had drifted even further from the party that he had founded, becoming a strong opponent of slavery. In 1848, he received the nomination of the Free Soil Party, and in the general election he received more than 10% of the popular vote, although he did not win any electoral votes. However, his candidacy likely cost Democrat nominee Lewis Cass the election by splitting the vote and allowing Zachary Taylor to win.

In the meantime, Van Buren continued to improve Lindenwald, he and steadily grew the property through additional land acquisitions. The house itself also underwent an expansion, which occurred in 1849 after his youngest son, Smith Thompson Van Buren, moved into the house with his family. For this work, Smith hired noted architect Richard Upjohn, who designed an addition on the rear of the house. The most notable feature of this addition was a five-story Italianate-style tower, which stands on the left side. Overall, though, Upjohn’s alterations were probably not among his best works. The result of his work was a rather muddled blend of architectural styles, with the house featuring elements of Federal, Gothic, and Italianate architecture.

Martin Van Buren had been a widower since the death of his wife Hannah in 1819, at the age of 35. Smith’s wife Ellen similarly died young in 1849, shortly after they moved to Lindenwald and before the addition was completed. However, while the former president never remarried, his son Smith married for a second time in 1855, to Henrietta Eckford Irving. Smith and Henrietta continued to live here at Lindenwald until 1862, when Martin Van Buren died here in his bedroom on the second floor. Smith and his family subsequently moved to Beacon, New York, and the house was sold out of the family in 1864.

Over the next decade, Lindenwald continued to be operated as a working farm, although it changed hands three more times by 1874, and none of these owners personally lived here. Then, in 1874 it was purchased by brothers Adam and Freeman Wagoner, who lived in the house and ran the farm. Adam ultimately gained sole possession of the property, and he owned it until 1917. The first photo was taken during his ownership, showing the exterior of the house as it appeared in the early 20th century. Both the house and the surrounding grounds were well-maintained, and the house was flanked by tall white pines on either side of the photo.

After Wagoner sold Lindenwald in 1917, it went through several more ownership changes over the next 40 years. During this time, most of the land was sold off, leaving only 13 acres by 1945. The condition of the house itself also declined, and it was altered in the late 1950s by the addition of a two-story columned porch on the front. This porch was vaguely reminiscent of the one at Mount Vernon, but it hardly matched with the rest of the house, and instead only added to the architectural confusion of its design. The owner who added the porch was an antique dealer, and around the same time he also opened a shop here on the property.

The house steadily deteriorated until 1973, when it and the surrounding 13 acres were purchased by the National Park Service. A year later, the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site was established here, and the house was subsequently restored to its appearance when Van Buren lived here. It opened to the public in 1988, and more than 30 years later it continues to be run by the National Park Service, with few significant differences in its appearance since the first photo was taken over a century ago.