When I’d put visiting Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock on my list of things I wanted to do, I had no idea that I had to make an appointment if I wanted a tour.
Luckily I started researching the house and area a few days early and found that the only spots on the 6 person tour left for this week were on Friday and only one spot at 10am.
I arrived 45 minutes early and good thing because the parking lot was FULL. It seems there was some sort of a children’s reading program of his stories for kids going on at this precise time. NO parking anywhere near. I tried going across the street to the Flat Rock Playhouse parking lot but the sign said there was a performance that afternoon and all cars parked here at 12:30 would be towed. SIGH…..so I went back and took the last “large vehicle” spot in the parking lot of the Sandburg home. The other two also had cars in them but being an RVer, I know how frustrating it is when cars take the large spots. I felt badly but I’d been told I had to be 30 minutes early to claim my spot. I was short on time by this point. Tickets are free but you have to get them on line before you come.
The lovely road above goes up to the home but no driving up. If you are handicapped, there is a sign with a buzzer and apparently they will come and get you. Otherwise you walk up the path to the right of the road. Like everything in these mountains it is UP. I’d say 1/4 mile or maybe 1/3.
The first view of the house is from the path across the front meadow but it is an abbreviated view as you cannot see the double staircase going up to the entry porch.
Behind the staircase and under the porch is the gift shop where you pick up your tickets and wait for the tour guide. 30 minutes early of course gives you ample time to shop.
I was mostly interested in the Sandburg Books and information. I did make some purchases at the end of my visit.
In the gift shop, I learned several things I did not know. Honey and Salt was his final work. He is most well known not only for his poetry but for his Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Lincoln whom he greatly admired. He worked on the book for 14 years. Sandburg amazingly won THREE Pulitzer Prizes, two for his poetry and one in history for the Lincoln Biography.
I want to try to remember this quote from him but no place to hang it in any color.
Also want to remember to try to find this DVD.
Promptly at 10 our guide took the 6 of us into the house by the lovely front staircase which has two sets of stairs on either side of the large bush.
I stopped at the top to enjoy the view from the porch where he told us the Sandburg family would often sit and Carl would sing.
Once inside the guide told us many stories about the rooms and the family. That’s a huge problem with being so far behind on the blog. I don’t remember many of them. But I do have some facts to share.
Sandburg died here at the age of 89 in 1967. The next year, Mrs. Sandburg sold the property to the National Park Service (NPS) and realizing the significance of her husband’s work to the culture of America, donated all the family’s belongings to the NPS. I was amazed that she did that the year after his death as she lived another 10 years and could have donated at that time. I wondered how it would be to have her husband die and to leave their home of 22 years and all their possessions within a year. I don’t think I could do it.
The park opened in 1974 as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. So the home of the people’s poet now belongs to us.
Sandburg was clearly a man after my own heart in many ways including that every room was lines with book cases. The house was bright and cheery with so many windows to ruin the light of my photographs.
He moved to the house in 1945 with 16,000 volumes, 11,000 of which are still in the house.
I felt like the tour was a bit hurried and there was hardly time to look around let alone ask questions. I barely read this plaque given to Sandburg by the NAACP for a life time of achievement in support of civil rights and social justice.
The move to here to Flat Rock was made for the peace and quiet for his writing and 30 acres of pasture to enable Lillian’s prize goats to have a larger home. She was nationally famous as a breeder of goats and handled all of the business.
The current goat herd are descendants of her prize winners. This was her office.
The house is a modest one though set on 264 acres. As it remains with most of their furnishings it feels as though they have just gone out. Well other than the ropes.
The life they lived was very informal.
Upstairs were the bedrooms and this small writing alcove where Sandburg worked through the night, his typewriter on a wooden crate. He lived here for 22 years and wrote nearly 1/3 of his works here.
Because he worked at night and slept late in the morning his bedroom was near his writing room.
Lillian’s bedroom was large and airy. She loved the light and would not allow curtains on the windows.
The house had many family pictures including a number with the goats.
Most of these photographs were taken by Lillian’s brother and Sandburg’s close friend Edward Steichen, a famous photographer. How did I not know what an attractive man Carl Sandburg was.
Sandburg was known as the poet of the common man. He loved to play the guitar and sing folk songs and often did so at his readings. He never wore a shirt and tie, only a collared shirt often with the sleeves rolled up.
In the gift shop I bought a recording of him singing some of his songs. He has a very nice voice.
After leaving the home, I wandered around the grounds. The 264-acre site includes the Sandburg residence, the goat farm, sheds, rolling pastures, mountainside woods, 5 miles of hiking trails on moderate to steep terrain, two small lakes, several ponds, flower and vegetable gardens, and an apple orchard.
The property has an ironic history for the biographer of Abraham Lincoln, a poet of the common man and an advocate for civil rights and social justice. The house was built in 1838 by Christopher Memminger who kept slaves and was Secretary of State for the confederacy from 1861 to 1864. The name was changed from its original Rock Hill to Connemara to honor a subsequent owner’s Irish ancestry. The Sandburg’s kept the name and Lillian took it for her goat enterprise named Connemara Farms.
The white building above is the equipment shed. The red is the goat barn.
And these friendly goats are the descendants of Lillian’s prize winners. Everyone loves to pet them especially the children.
They look alike, but not the same goat.
The Sandburg’s also had a vegetable garden which the staff now maintains.
There were other buildings on the property including the farm manager’s house which looked very inviting to me.
These other homes are from the same period as the main house.
Around the house itself were several well kept flower beds full of flowers in bloom. Taking care of the goats and all the gardens would be a great deal of work.
There is an amphitheater on the property where this mornings Rootabaga Stories readings were held and Sandburg sing alongs happen during the summer months.
This summer is the 100th anniversary of the publishing of Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories in 1922. I wished I had booked a later tour so I could have attended the 30 minute performance this morning. But I didn’t know about it. These have been done since 1974 by apprentices from the Flat Rock Playhouse across the road. Tours and programs are all free.
I walked by the amphitheater and the lake on my way to the trail head to hike at least one of the trails here.
When crossing the bridge, I looked into the water and saw a large snapping turtle who came up to have a look at me.
Though there are 4 trails on the property, I only had time to hike one. About 1/2 mile round trip.
I stopped by the small Visitor’s Center to purchase the two things I’d decided on nearly 6 hours ago, a CD of Sandburg singing his songs and this shirt with a quote from him with which I totally agree. I’ll remember his home and him every time I wear it. Size small sure is huge these days.
One last look at the house on my way back to Ruby.
This is my favorite photograph taken by Lillian’s brother. Two beautiful people who made a wonderful life together. How lucky were they!
I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the Sandburg home and stopped to eat on my way back to Winnona.
I chose the old fashioned soda shop on Main Street in Hendersonville called Mikes on Main.
The soda shop comes complete with a Wurlitzer juke box. Can’t get more authentic than that. It seems small town North Carolina is the place to find these great old places.
I was surprised to find how much I had in common with Carl Sandburg from his choice of a quiet place in the country and a home lined with books to his liberal philosophies on civil rights and social justice. I have a much deeper respect for him after being here. To me that means the park service has done a great job. I just may want to read a biography of Sandburg. Wonder which one is considered most authentic and respected. If you know, let me know.