Thoreau’s Cabin Site

Ellery Channing astutely noted that Thoreau’s “senses lived twice,” by which he meant both that Thoreau had the pleasure of original sight, sound, and touch, and that there was a later experience of memory preserved in his writing. Channing knew that Thoreau believed that what has been preserved can live again. From Thoreau’s time to ours, many individuals—acting separately and collectively—have worked to preserve the details of Concord as Thoreau knew and loved it and to pursue the meanings that he found in the physical world. Preservation was a potent word for him, for it meant literally to protect the wild, and, at the same time, to hand down a way of seeing and thinking about the Concord landscape.

The first and best-known landscape marker dedicated to Thoreau’s memory is the cairn that Bronson Alcott and Mary Newbury Adams originated in June of 1872. “The tribute thus rendered to our friend may, as the years pass, become a pile to his memory,” wrote Alcott. He was right: the cairn has been a pilgrim’s shrine almost since its first stone was placed, as the photographic record shows. In 1881, Walt Whitman added his stone in memory of the man who had early recognized the New Yorker’s genius. Fittingly, when the Thoreau Society was organized in July of 1941, its members made a similar pilgrimage, as visitors still do today.

Unlike the cabin, Thoreau’s bean-field had no cairn, for its exact location remained surprisingly obscure. The late Bradley P. Dean’s work on the field at Walden suggests how the existence of rich subject collections has preserved key knowledge from one person to another, often from one generation to another. For a number of years, Concord residents worried that the general area known as the “bean-field” was endangered by urban development, but no one knew precisely what the field’s boundaries were. Herbert Gleason and Allen French worked to make a more precise determination, but Dean brought everything together. Starting with Thoreau’s own descriptions in Walden and in his letters and then moving from Edward Waldo Emerson’s 1920 letter to Harry A. McGraw in the Thoreau Society collections to letters, photographs, and clippings among Ruth Wheeler’s papers at the Concord Free Public Library, Dean was able to document the location of the bean-field. Appropriately, he published the results of his investigation in one of the society’s publications, the Concord Saunterer, in the issue celebrating the sesquicentennial of the appearance of Walden.

But a physical marker like the cairn or a discovery like that of the actual boundary of the bean-field represents only one means of recognizing and perpetuating the significance of place. Those who were closest to Thoreau — Emerson, Ellery Channing, Sophia Thoreau and H. G. O. Blake — carefully preserved his manuscripts, thus beginning a tradition of the discovery and rediscovery of the original sources that embody Thoreau’s response to the landscape. At sessions of the Concord School of Philosophy during the 1880s, Blake read passages from volumes of Thoreau’s manuscript journal to audiences composed of both Concordians and pilgrims drawn to the town by the promise of high thinking. And as early as October 25, 1895 — when some seventy-five people (among them George Bradford Bartlett, Alfred Winslow Hosmer, Frank Sanborn, Walton Ricketson, and Kate Tryon) met at the Sudbury Road studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French specifically to share reminiscences about Thoreau — those with a particular interest in the author have sought opportunity to talk about his life, work, and world. Such activities, along with the letters, memoirs, and essays of collegial Thoreauvians, have furthered the development, transmission, and interpretation of the documentary record.

Contact Information

The Thoreau Society 341 Virginia Road Concord, MA 01742

Phone: 978-369-5310



John Conroy   April 30, 2024
Since the original cabin was removed long ago, it was interesting to get a feel for how small and simplistic the cabin was!
David Harris   November 13, 2023
Great all around experience, beautiful day light breeze and a chill in the air. The walk around the lake was just a beautiful experience. Absolutely loved it. Well maintained and very clean.
Alex Chernyaev   November 4, 2023
I'm a big fan of him and it was such an interesting experience to be there at the very place of his cabin. You can see a beautiful lake and a very nice peaceful Forest around. The place is worth working for a few hours and don't miss an opportunity to swim in the lake if the weather is acceptable. Highly recommended to visit
Geoffrey Gould   October 22, 2023
I attended an authors conversation here and had never been. Thoreau is an earthquake in my life as he is to many. Being in his home was very special. I will at some point return during daytime hours and explore more "thoreu-ly". We are very lucky to have this historical site not only restored and operating but also welcoming people for important events through the Thoreau society and others.
Marc Peterson   September 2, 2023
THE place of history on Henry Thoreau. If your in the area and even if you don’t read much, the walk to get here is very peaceful and the location along Walden Pond is very scenic and relaxing. Also a cabin replica at the visitor center as the original is no longer standing
Jonathan Leung   September 1, 2023
I liked the replica. It was nice to see a piece of history. The kids liked to explore even if they didn't quite understand it. The park is great with nice clear calm water. The visitor center is also well put together
Jenn Cyr   May 20, 2023
So peaceful, well kept, and a great walk. I do wish the wifi was better for the parking situation, but now I have the app and can pay ahead! ($8 for the day)
samuel   July 31, 2022
i want to visit someday
Michael Rodgers   February 3, 2022
The Thoreau farm was closed for the winter.
Tyler Wills   December 12, 2021
Such amazing experience, this was my ultimate first time going. Had a awesome day! I kinda look similar to Henry David Thorau ( we have similar traits/ looks) maybe I'm a relative lol! I must get my great poetry from him. What a beautiful day we had.
Gin Ma   July 24, 2021
It was a treat to visit this place. Happy to see that the area seems well preserved and in keeping with what one might expect for such a literary destination.
Anne Marie Brako   May 9, 2021
Loved poetry walk. Great idea during the pandemic! Please don't remove... until need outdoor exhibit in place!
Jean-Francois Vezina   August 25, 2020
You can rent the native house of Thoreau to write a part of your history. I have been there to write my 6th book about the Democraty of the Heart
Dan Brosgol   May 27, 2020
Spectacular hike from CCHS down the tracks and into Walden. The one-way rule was great, not too many people. 4.3 miles RT.
dusty   February 18, 2020
Nana Nash, M.A.   August 6, 2019
Classic philosopher/great thinker. Beautifully preserved home and modern garden for all to visit. History still relevant today. The garden gives food to local food bank. What a terrific way to volunteer one's time!
christopher trochez   May 7, 2019
As a guy that loves books and old book stores this was like magic. The woods are beautiful. The weather was beautiful. To just be here made parts if me complete. I say to anyone go spend a day at Walden Pond, hike back to the cabin site, and just enjoy the peace. One thing though...bugs. bring a can of Off or something. Those little gnats or whatever along the water will drive you nuts.
Rebecca Londono   April 13, 2019
I went here not as a Thoreau fan but because my ancestors had once owned this house before Thoreau was born there. It is a beautiful site and the person that greeted us was very kind and knowledgeable. I can see why people would like to stay and write. If you are not into hearing about history, writing, reading, it is just a quick walk through of a historic home.
Luke Gulbrand   May 10, 2018
Complete peace and tranquility. The perfect spot for reflection. It’s amazing to imagine Thoreau at his cabin enjoying these views each morning. The entire Pond and cabin experience is awesome.
Nichole Nelson   February 22, 2017
Nice, quiet writer's retreat in the house and informative/inspirational posters throughout. On Common Ground is on the grounds. This place truly keeps Thoreau's spirit alive and the director went above and beyond to accommodate us off season.