Mr. and Mrs. Swellesley recently paid a visit to the former residence of poet Henry W. Longfellow and family at 105 Brattle St., in Cambridge for a free tour of the house by the National Parks Service. It was a worth a look, as we got to see the room where Longfellow did much of his writing, Mr. and Mrs. Longfellow’s bedroom (which features a big ring on the ceiling, and sadly, the room where Mrs. Longfellow’s dress caught on fire and led to her untimely death. For fans of the TV show Hoarders, the Longfellow house should be a treat — they had a lot of stuff.
As is our lot in life, wherever we go we wonder if there might be a Swellesley angle and wondered the same while at this old Georgian manse (and we’re not just talking about the fact that many compare our writing about Wellesley’s happenings in a poetic style that the common man/woman can appreciate to Longfellow’s accounts of American history in a way that the common man/woman could digest it). No mention of Wellesley was made during our tour though.
As for a possible Wellesley-Longfellow connection, the first thing that came to mind is Longfellow Pond in Wellesley. But no, that was named after Nathan Longfellow, a man who lived in Wellesley Hills during the 1800s and owned a paper factory.
One other angle is that George and Martha Washington set up house at 105 Brattle St., during the Siege of Boston in 1775-76, and the Longfellows didn’t let anyone visiting forget it. The Washingtons’ mugs were plastered everywhere in the house. Gen. Washington of course also paid Wellesley a visit back in the day, as is commemorated on a plaque in Lower Falls. Then again, where didn’t the guy go?
However, upon a little further investigation, we did come up with a very solid Longfellow angle in Wellesley. We learned that the great poet of Paul Revere’s Ride fame and more, paid a number of visits to Wellesley College back in the 1870s, as documented in a 1901 edition of the Cambridge Tribune as well as in a Wellesley College newsletter. One anecdote has Longfellow being rowed around Lake Waban on a boat captained by a “handsome woman” and fittingly called Evangeline, the title of one of his famous poems.
There’s also a lasting tribute to Longfellow at the college: the little concrete-lined body of water with a fountain in it next to the Clapp Library on the Wellesley College campus is actually known as Longfellow Pond in honor of the poet. There used to be a natural pond there by that name.