A little less than 12 miles up the road from my campsite is Robert Frost’s Stone House Museum. It was taken over by Bennington College in 2017 and is the home Frost lived in from 1920 to 1929 and where he composed some of his famous poems, like’ Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening’, which was part of his Pulitzer Prize winning book entitled New Hampshire.
The house is one of several owned by Frost in New England such as Robert Frost Farm in Derry NH and The Frost Place in Franconia, NH. I am disappointed that I didn’t know the Frost Place was so close when I was at Moose River Campground earlier this summer. I visited Franconia Notch which was wonderful and would have definitely gone back to see the Frost Place had I known. Reason to Return or RTR as David and I used to say.
I read that both of these New Hampshire homes also have short nature trails with pieces of Frost poetry along them. Bennington has followed this example here. But more on that later. There are also two other Frost Homes in New England that are not open to the public. One in Cambridge, MA and one in Ripon, VT.
There are two trails on this property. One is a two mile trail that ends Lake Paran in North Bennington. I was looking forward to the hike. Nearly a mile of the trail is on the Frost property.
I started out to hike it first thing but when I entered the woods, I was shocked to find the mosquitoes ravenous.
I hadn’t run into mosquitos much in Vermont and didn’t have any repellant with me. I also discovered as I hiked, that I had left my phone back at the car and I was worried that it would get too hot if I persevered on the trail. So I turned back with plans to return another day with repellant and my phone. I know better than to hike alone anywhere without my phone in case of emergency.
I abandoned my hike idea and walked up to the house where I found the entrance fee was what I considered a steep $10 even for seniors. But, I was here and it went to a good cause.
This house was built in 1769 and was considered historic when Frost purchased it. I was told it is a rare example of Dutch colonial architecture made of native stone and timber.
I’ve forgotten now why the white tent was in front of the house but it ruined my ability to get a exact photograph of the house to compare with the wonderful woodcut done by Frost’s long time illustrator J.J. Lankes whose work I much admire.
This photograph of the wood cut was one of the many things lining the walls of the one room devoted to Frost. The house was altered to expand the dormer and enclose the rear porch in the 1950’s after the Frosts’ no longer owned it. So the woodcut is the house as the Frosts knew it.
Once inside, I found there was no tour and that this was a museum of two rooms with the walls of one covered with the life story and works of Robert Frost. The second room was devoted to an exhibit of an artist I was not interested in. Not sure why or what the Frost connection was if any.
There is no access to the 2nd floor. This is Bennington’s 4th year of ownership but I certainly hope they plan to do more with the inside of the house than this although I later learned that the house was more Frost’s son Carol’s and his wife’s than Frosts.
I started here reading the information on the walls and looking at the books.
I loved the old 45 record player and was very tempted to turn it on and play Frost reading. If you’d like to hear his voice, here is a link for a Utube audio of Frost reading The Road Not Taken. He was living in New Hampshire when he wrote that poem and actually wrote ‘Stopping By Woods on a Snowing Evening’ here on a hot summer day. I found that funny.
There were so many lights in the room that it was difficult to take pictures.
The walls were lined with biographic information which was very interesting. I hadn’t known much about Frost’s life and learned a great deal about him, his wife and his 6 children only 4 of whom survived. The children grew up in Derry New Hampshire and were homeschooled by Frost and his wife Elinor.
This sofa was in Frost’s town house in Cambridge but was not in the Stone House when he lived here. Frost’s great grandson Dennis Wilber gave it to the Stone House in 2008. It was the only piece of furniture documented.
Among other things I learned was that Robert Frost met his wife Elinor White in high school in Lawrence Massachusetts. They graduated as co-valedictorians in 1892. Elinor was described as a shy girl who liked poetry. They were married for over 40 years and Frost was devastated at her death from a heart attack in 1938. Many quotes from his letters on display here affirm that he considered her “the unspoken half of everything I ever wrote”.
The Frosts chose this house because Frost had a 1000 apple tree orchard dream and their son Carol wanted to be a farmer. This area had a better climate than New Hampshire for gardening, had good schools for the two remaining children, was close to his professional life in Amherst and his publisher in New York with good railroad connections to both.
Frost’s son Carol had just graduated from high school and was 18 when the family moved to the stone house. It was he who tended the apple trees on the farm, had a large vegetable garden and chickens. In 1923 he married a friend of his sister’s and Frost deeded the stone house to him though the entire family continued to live here until the first grandson arrived. Frost and his wife then bought another house 2 miles away. So this was really Carol and Lillian’s house in my view.
Frost always wanted to be a farmer and delighted in Carol’s abilities. By the time they moved to the Stone House he was a recognized poet and so his love of rural life was more an avocation than a vocation. Today Frost’s 1000 tree orchard is in ruins because of subdivision and neglect on the western edge of the farm. The museum is working with the Vermont Land Trust and Fund for North Bennington to buy back the land and clear the overgrowth of over 35 years. I hope my now seemingly pittance admission will help.
This display orchard was planted in 2008 in the south pasture near the gray barn from cuttings of 4 historic Frost Trees. Ultimately they hope to make a propagation program available to the public so that people may have a Frost apple to grow in their gardens.
The gray barn reminded me of the one that was on our farm for at least 100 years.
On the coffee table in front of the sofa was a children’s book of 18 stories written by Frost for and about his children before he became known as a poet. I’d never heard of it and feel sure the house could have sold copies of it if they had had them for sale.
Lesley was Frost’s 2nd child and first daughter, born in 1899. I found it interesting that from the age of 5, Lesley kept a diary which was later published as New Hampshire’s Child. I might like to read that as well. Subsequent research has shown that it is more readily available than her father’s book. By the time they moved to the stone house, Lesley was working in New York. The same research showed me that Lesley Frost became a children’s book author and lecturer on English Literature whose married name was Ballentine. Hmmmm
There is SO much more very engaging information on Frost and his life on the walls of this room than one can even imagine. Reading it made me think perhaps I’d like to read whatever is considered the best biography of him. But standing and reading over my head became tiring so I left in search of the nature trail.
Like the longer trail whose trailhead goes off from the parking lot, this one also begins as a mowed path this time from the yard of the house.
It slips into the woods for a short bit and there is the first poem, Stopping By Woods.
There are goldenrod lining the path and of course the poem Nothing Gold Can Stay.
From there the path continues on and comes to a rock wall built obviously for the purpose of displaying the poem The Mending Wall.
The flowers attracted today’s Wildlife.
The short trail ended at the demonstration orchard near the barn with the appropriate poem ‘Good-Bye and Keep Cold’. I hope you can read these poems from the pictures should you want to.
Before I left, I went around and took one last photo of the “back” of the house which faces the same road the campground is on, Vermont 7A.
From there I was just in time to stop by the Farmer’s Market at the park in Arlington on my way home. I’ll leave that for the next post.