Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoreau's cabin

I wrote about Thoreau's cabin in the early days of this blog. Rather than repeat, you can see that post here, and this post will focus on the site. When I visited Walden Pond last week (here) I saw the site of the original cabin. It's on a slope above the pond. Thoreau, grieving from the loss of his brother, decided he wanted to live a simple life in the woods and write a book. He was 27 when he built the cabin (in 1845) on land owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This is the view today from the cabin site. He wrote his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers while living there, as well as the first draft of Walden, his most well-known book.

 Stones mark where the cabin was originally thought to be, though later study sited it a short distance away. It was solitary, but not remote. He often walked into the village of Concord (less than 2 miles away) to visit friends and family.

I love these little sculptures built by visitors. 
They make me think of Scottish cairns. 

There are some in the water too. I saw a couple of teenage girls working on this one.

Thoreau studied nature closely, and started writing his journals while living at the cabin. The journals, which he wrote for the rest of his life, are filled with detailed observations of nature, and are used by scientists today. (See here.) It is said that he built the cabin to find a home and to find himself. It seems that he did both.

The cabin has inspired many people to build reproductions. You can see Thoreau's original list of building materials here. This company will build one for you, or sell you a kit so you can do it yourself. 

By the time I completed my walk around Walden Pond, I decided I need to build a little cabin in the Catskills. I think that will remain a fantasy. If you have small cabin fantasies you will enjoy this site



  1. Hello Jen:
    We can totally see the appeal of a small cabin in the woods in order to 'live life deliberately' in the manner of Thoreau. And, what a feat this must have been for a young man in the C19 without the modern technology to keep in touch with the world at large.

    This all takes us back to our Herefordshire days when our house was in a small hamlet deep in the Herefordshire countryside. Kilvert who wrote diaries drawing from the nature of this wonderfully unspoilt area of England reminds us of Thoreau in his woods.

  2. It sounds ideal to have a tiny retreat not far from home. I've always loved his quote about having three chairs. One for solitude, two for company, and three for society. Best of all worlds.

  3. I assume you must have walked all the way 'round since the cabin is way out on the far end. I really enjoyed the walk around the pond and I'll have to do it again this fall. I don't recall seeing the cairns when I was there.

    I really enjoyed Life in the Woods but was left wondering if Thoreau might have been a curmudgeon.

  4. I believe Steve finds "curmudgeon" to be a bit of a compliment.

    I have always longed for a tiny cabin, I have a book ' Little Retreats" that is a go to of min when I need just that.

    I am a secret curmudgeon.

    xo Jane

  5. I chose my cabin,Jen. Did you choose yours. ( I only made it to page five, though...there are 45)!
    You are a blogging maniac these days!

  6. Page 3--Island cabin, Denmark. There are several in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark that I love. The sea.

  7. I llike the idea that even teenage girls will take time out from their everyday teenage girl distractions, to join in a tribute to a quieter world.

  8. Your post makes me dream ... isolated but not remote life in a unique cabin...with wild flowers, chairs, water view nearby.

  9. What a peaceful place to walk and think and even fantasize of life in the woods.
    Thank you for all the very interesting links : )

    1. Hi Demie! Hope you're having a good summer.

  10. you certainly do live in a beautiful part of the world!!!


  11. I love the little stone sculptures. The first ones remind me of snowmen for some reason and the ones in the pond, ducks. I have log cabin plans like crazy, for a house on the lake...hmmm!

  12. I am familiar with those stone sculptures, cairns, here. One of the aspects of them is related to a folk religion: they say dead children should build cairns to ease their parent's sorrow before going to heaven. However every time they are about to finish it, Demon pull them down. Finally guardian god appears and helps them build the cairns and leads them to heaven.
    Still now people try to help build up cairns if they find the stones.

    Have a nice week ahead, Jen.