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Henry Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond.
In 1845, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) quit work at his Dad's pencil factory in Concord, Massachusetts and moved to Walden
Pond, where he remained for two and one
half years, building a small cabin in deep woods and
undertaking an experiment in solitary living.|
Writing of the period tends to be dense and difficult for modern tastes. But Thoreau's expressions, his earnest messages and musings, are wrought throughout with wit and poetic sensibility, making them accessible to (almost) all.
Visitors to Thoreau House will want to experience this writing first hand, so we have the books there and the story of how he built his house right here in his own words. The photos are of the replica of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond State Reservation, Concord, MA. Text references to "Economy," Walden (1854) except where noted. ( SCROLL DOWN or CLICK HERE for How Thoreau built his cabin at Walden Pond--in his own words. )
How Thoreau built his cabin at Walden Pond--in his own words.
Text references to "Economy," Walden (1854) except where noted.
"I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months."
"Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house, and began to cut down some tall arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber. It was a pleasant hillside where I worked, covered with pine woods, through which I looked out on the pond, and a small open field in the woods where pines and hickories were springing up."
"My house was on the side of a hill, immediately on the edge of the larger wood, in the midst of a young forest of pitch pines and hickories, and half a dozen rods from the pond, to which a narrow footpath led down the hill. In my front yard grew the strawberry, blackberry, and life-everlasting, johnswort and goldenrod, shrub oaks and sand cherry, blueberry and groundnut." "Sounds," Walden.
"I dug my cellar into the side of a hill sloping to the south... six feet square by seven feet deep, to a fine sand... The sides were left shelving and not stoned...."
"The entrance to the cellar was 'thro a trap door in the center of the room. The king-post was an entire tree, extending from the bottom of the cellar to the ridge-pole, upon which we descended, as sailors do into the hold of a vessel." "Joseph Hosmer, from an account of his visit to Thoreau's cabin." (Borst).
"I hewed the main timbers six inches square, most of the studs on two sides only, and the rafters and floor timbers on one side, leaving the rest of the bark on... each stick was carefully mortised or tenoned by its stump, for I had borrowed other tools by this time."
"By the middle of April, for I made no haste in my work, but rather made the most of it, my house was framed and ready for the raising. I had already bought the shanty of James Collins, an Irishman who worked on the Fitchburg Railroad, for boards."
"At length, in the beginning of May, with the help of some of my acquaintances, rather to improve so good an occasion for neighborliness than from any necessity, I set up the frame of my house."
"Before boarding I laid up the foundation of a chimney at one end, bringing two cart loads of stones up the hill from the pond in my arms. I built the chimney after my hoeing in the fall, before a fire became necessary for warmth."
"When I came to build my chimney I studied masonry. My bricks being second-hand ones required to be cleaned with a trowel, so that I learned more than usual of the qualities of bricks and trowels... I filled the spaces between the bricks about the fireplace with stones from the pond shore, and also made my mortar with the white sand from the same place... Indeed I worked so deliberately, that though I commenced at the ground in the morning, a course of bricks raised a few inches above the floor served for my pillow at night... I was so pleased to see my work rising so square and solid by degrees, and reflected, that, if it proceeded slowly, it was calculated to endure a long time. The chimney is to some extent an independent structure, standing on the ground and rising through the house to the heavens; even after the house is burned it still stands sometimes, and its importance and independence are apparent." "House Warming," Walden.
"I began to occupy my house on the fourth of July, as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the boards were carefully feather-edged and lapped, so that it was perfectly impervious to rain..."
"When I first took up my abode in the woods... the fourth of July, 1845, my house was not finished... but was merely a defence against the rain, without plastering or chimney, the walls being of rough weather-stained boards, with wide chinks, which made it cool at night. The upright white hewn studs and freshly planed door and window casings gave it a clean and airy look..." "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For," Walden.
Before winter I built a chimney, and shingled the sides of my house, which were already impervious to rain, with imperfect and sappy shingles made of the first slice of the log, whose edges I was obliged to straighten with a plane.
"...before I plastered my house, the chimney carried smoke particularly well, because of the numerous chinks between the boards...surrounded by the rough brown boards full of knots, and rafters with bark on high overhead. My house never pleased my eye so much after it was plastered, though I was obliged to confess that it was more comfortable. Should not every apartment in which man dwells be lofty enough to create some obscurity overhead, where flickering shadows may play at evening about the rafters?"-p. 242, Walden. "I did not plaster till it was freezing weather. I brought over some whiter and cleaner sand for this purpose... In lathing I was pleased to be able to send home each nail with a single blow of the hammer and it was my ambition to transfer the plaster from the board to the wall neatly and rapidly ... I was surprised to see how thirsty the bricks were which drank up all the moisture in my plaster before I had smoothed it..." "House Warming," Walden.
"At length, the winter set in good earnest, just as I had finished plastering, and the wind began to howl around the house as if it had not had permission to do so till then." "House Warming," Walden.
"I had no lock nor bolt but for the desk which held my papers, not even a nail to put over my latch or windows. I never fastened my door night or day." "The Village," Walden.
"I have thus a tight, shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by fifteen feet long, and eight feet posts, with a garret and closet, a large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace opposite."
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