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The William Cullen Bryant Homestead

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead
207 Bryant Road, Cummington, Massachusetts 01026-9639

House and Grounds
Grounds are open year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset.
Guided tours of the house are offered last weekend in June
through Columbus Day on selected days. Allow a minimum
of 1 hour, 2-3 hours if taking house and/or Rivulet Trail tour.

Open seasonally; vistor center, gift shop, and public
restrooms. Picnic tables year-round.

Annual Craft Festival, 3rd weekend in July, Biennial Christmas
Event, 1st weekend in December; call for other programs.

Private Functions
Call for arrangements.

Travel Directions
From the intersection of Rts. 9 and 112 in Cummington, take Rt. 112 south up the hill for 1.5 mi. to a five-way interesection. Continue straight onto Bryant Rd. for 0.2 mi. to entrance and parking (25 cars) behind red barn.

Conserving the Massachuestts Landscape Since 1891
The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is owned and cared for by the Trustees of Reservations, a member-supported nonprofit conservation organization that preserves, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachuetts, and works to protect special places across the state.

Join us! For membership information, please call 978/921-1944 or visit our web site at
©2002 The Trustees of Reservations
Cummington, Massachusetts

Photo © B.Girardi

     Lines on Revisiting the Country. 1825

     "I stand upon my native hills again,
     Broad, round and green, that in the summer sky
     With garniture of waving grass and grain,
     Orchards, and beechen forests, basking lie....

     Here I have 'scaped the city's stifling heat,
     Its horrid sounds and its polluted air...
     Am come awhile to wander and to dream."

William Cullen Bryant


William Cullen Bryant, born November 3, 1794, astonished the literary world with the publication of his first major poem at age 13. Most of his poetry drew inspiration from the Cummington countryside surrounding the Homestead. In 1817, "Thanatopsis," Bryant's most famous poem, was published while he practiced law in Great Barrington MA.

After his marriage to Frances Fairchild, the family moved to New York City in 1825 where the poet and former lawyer began a career as editor; first at literary publications and eventually as editor-in-chief and publisher at the New York Evening Post. He held this position for the rest of his life.

In 1834 Bryant embarked on the first of many lengthy trips, traveling widely in the U.S. and taking seven trips abroad. Many of his exotic travel mementos are now at the Homestead. Famous as a publisher and editor; Bryant's public life involved him on many fronts as a politician and conservationist, leading to the creation of New York City's Central Park. Artists of the Hudson River School considered Bryant their muse. At his death in 1878, Bryant was an iconic figure. His fame was so widespread that the centennial of his birth in 1894 drew thousands of people to the Homestead to celebrate his life and accomplishments.


Located on a hillside overlooking the Westfield River Valley, the Homestead is on the site of the original Cummington community founded in 1762. The Town Meetinghouse was constructed near what is now the five-corner intersection of the Homestead in 1782. Seven years later it was moved and a schoolhouse, which Bryant attended, was erected on the site. Cummington's center shifted to the valley and as the community grew, Bryant's father; Dr. Peter Bryant, served as physician and in the state legislature.

Cummington's population diminished after 1840, since many townspeople, like Bryant's family, abandoned their farms and moved westward. As Bryant observed "the soil is now exhausted; the fields...are turned into pastures...and the land which once sufficed for two farms now barely answers for one." Woodlands, a source of fuel and building materials, were also depleted.

In 1865, 30 years after the Homestead was sold out of the family, Bryant purchased his former boyhood home and used it as a summer retreat from late July through early September for the remainder of his life. Year-round the house was occupied by a series of caretakers and their families.

Bryant remained deeply committed to his childhood community and made a number of significant contributions to Cummington. He donated $500 to build a new schoolhouse located near the Homestead. A larger gift was a library, complete with book collection and a librarian's residence. These two structures remain on the south intersection of Routes 9 and 112. To make access easier to the Library from the Homestead, Bryant paid for a road that later became part of Route 112. He also built a road to West Cummington from the Homestead that is still in use today.

This is a forest that was saved by chance and preserved for eternity by a poet, William Cullen Bryant

     An area once farmed and then abandoned around 1930

     Beech, maple, and hemlock trees dominate pine and birch      trees

     A forest not significantly disturbed by human actions.      Characteristics include a wide spectrum in age distribution of its      trees and a high percentage of trees that approach a maximum      height for each species.

     Undulating forest floor, characteristic of old-growth forests.      Mounds result from organic matter accumulating over decaying      tree trunks, stumps, and uplifted roots. Pits are cavities left by      uplifted roots or empty spaces between fallen trees.

     The Rivulet supports a diversity of animals, insects, and plants.

     A shade-tolerant tree, characteristic of older forests. This one      is about 300 years old.
Maple Tree Allee, near the pond, leading to the Rivulet trail

     This 102.4 foot black cherry      is the second tallest of its      species known in      Massachusetts.

    (FRAXINUS AMERICANA)     White ash requires sunlight to     regenerate. It usually does     not live beyond 300 years.

    Snags provide a micro-     habitat for fungi, mosses, and     lichens, eventually attracting     insects that provide food for     birds and small mamamals.

  Bryant bought the forest as a

  conservationist, and stated that

  it should never be cut down, but

  should be preserved. His

  appreciation of the beauty and

  life within forests and nature

  became a main theme of many

  of his poems. He even wrote a

  poem especially about this

  brook and forest, titled "The


      Ancient, giant hemlocks create a cathedral effect with
      an under story.

      A shade tolerant tree retaining its characteristic thin,
      smooth, gray bark throughout its life and often dominant
      in mature forests.

      The maple thrives in shady forest undergrowth but shoots up
      when the forest canopy opens and allows sunlight to enter.

      A common member of the northern hardwood forests.
       Many have reached their maximum life expectancy of 300       years.

      Sugar maples, yellow birch, and white ash trees that range
      from 300 to 400 years old.

      Although not old growth, this area boasts trees of 150 to 175
      years old. Two pines in this area are 150 feet, among the
      tallest in the state.

      White pine seedlings outcompete many other tree species
      seedlings, frequently invading abandoned fields.

      A slow-growing, short-lived tree that is shade tolerant as a
      young seedling but requires increasing sunlight as it ages.

      When trees fall, the forest canopy opens, allowing sunlight
      to reach the forest floor resulting in a dramatic increase of
      under story growth amoung herbaceous plants and small trees.

©M. Arduser
The Rivulet

1.  BARN
      The original barn was built in 1801 by William Cullen
      Bryant's father, Dr. Peter Bryant. When the property was
      purchased by Welcome Tillson in 1835, the new owner built
      a new barn, possibly using materials from the original
      structure. Barn additions, including stables, were made in
      1866 and 1875 by William cullen Bryant. In 1880, his
      daughter, Julia, added a section to the north for apple
      storage. The last addition and restoration to this structure
       was made in the 1930s by his great grandson, Conrad
      Goddard. Sincethat time, the southwest section added by
      Bryant was removed.

      Hemlock hedges were used around the house as natural
      fences. This hedge marked the end of the pasture and the
      edge of the road in front of the house.

      The original house was either built or remodeled by
      Ebenezer Snell, William Cullen Bryant's maternal
      grandfather, when he purchased the property in 1789. Dr.
      Peter Bryant added a two-room office in the front, and a
      kitchen and wood house in therear in 1801. In 1842,
      Welcome Tillson removed the office addition. When Bryant
      re-purchased the family home in 1865, he converted it to a
      three-story summer residence by raising the first floor,
      expanding the house northward, and replacing his father's
      office on a smaller scale. His daughter, Julia, made additional
      external changes. Few changes have been made since then.
      The current historic house is painted in the colors that were
      used in 1870.

      In 1931, Conrad Goddard built a caretaker's residence
      across from the red barn ending the caretaker's year-round
      residence in the main house. the Caretaker's Cottage is now
      used as staff housing for the Trustees of Reservations.

      Sarah and Peter Bryant had seven children; five boys
      (Austin, William Cullen, Cyrus, Arthur, and John Howard)
      and two daughters (Sarah and Charity Louise). Five maples
      were planted by the family in the early 19th century to
      represent the five sons. these trees are now estimated to be
      nearly 200 years old. They are nearing the end of their
     natural life cycle and will soon have to be replaced.

      Bryant planted a pine windbreak behind the house in the
      1860s to shield it from the winds coming across the
      pastureland. The original pines grew to such a height that
      they endangered the historic house during windstorms. They
      were replaced with the exisiting trees in the 1990s and now
      look much as the original trees did when Bryant first planted

      The maple trees along the drive were planted by the Bryants
      around the time the family planteed thefive maples honoring
      their sons. They, too, are nearing the end of their life cycle,
      since they are close to 200 years old

8.  POND
      At the urging of his youngest brother, John Howard, Bryant
      built this pond in 1866 to serve as an ice source for the
      Homestead. Currently, the pond is used by the Cummington
      Fire Department as a water source.

      Site of Cummington's First Meetinghouse
      The Town Meetinghouse was constructed near what is now
      the five-corners intersection of the Homestead in 1782.
      Seven years later it was moved and a schoolhouse, which
      Bryant attended, was erected on the site.

      This trail traversing the site of the old growth forest runs
      close to the Rivulet Brook that provided water for the
      Homestead. The area served as inspiration for Bryant's
               The Rivulet, 1824
      "....As pure thy limpid waters run,
      As bright they sparkle to the sun;
      As fresh and thick the bending ranks
      Of herbs that line thy oozy banks..."

      An old-growth forest (also referred to as an original, or
      primary growth, forest) is one that has not been significantly
      disturbed by human actions. It is an example of what a
      forest would become after thousands of years of evolution
      through the interactions of climate, plants, animals, and
      natural disturbances. Since humans evolved and began
      cultivating the earth, very few old-growth forests exist,
      especially in new England. This small area contains trees
      greater than 200 years of age, and provides a wonderful
      sample of undisturbed forests.

      This white pine stand contains trees close to or topping 150 ft.
      in height, which is a rarity in New England. This is especially
      unusual since the trees are relatively young at 120-170 years.
      Because of their height, this stand is considered to be on of
      the top ten white pine stands in the eastern United States.

      The entrance to the Homestead woods inspired Bryant's       poem,
               Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood, 1817
      "...enter this wild wood
      And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade
      Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
      That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
      To thy swee heart...."

      for over 200 years, the
      maple trees in this area
      were tapped to provide
      maple syrup. In her diaries,
      Sarah Snell Bryant
      comments repeatedly about
      the "boys[William Cullen
      and his brothers] tapt [sic]
      the sugartrees. The trees
      are still being tapped, and
      the syrup is available for
      purchase at the Homestead.

Tapping the Maples along the Allee

      The Sugar House was used to boil the sap into maple syrup
      and existed until the late 20th century. It fell into disrepair and
      was dismantled by the Trustees of Reservations.

      This trail leads through thesugar bush and past the Sugar
      House site.

      Bryant used the Homestead lands to plant many pear and
      apple orchards, directing his caretakers to plant specific
      varieties. His mother and brothers established a very
      successful nursery in Princeton, IL, and the entire family was
      involved in apple and pear production. This part of the
      property contains a small remnant of one of many orchards
      present on the property during Bryant's time.

      In 1872 Bryant donated $500 to build a schoolhouse located
      near the Homestead on the corner of Trow Road and Route
      112. The schoolhouse building was moved and is currently on
      another property near the Homestead.

      Bryant's maternal grandparents, Ebenezer Snell and Sarah
      Packard Snell, as well as his fater, Peter Bryant, are buried in
      This early Cummington cemetery. Bryant and his wife,
      Frances, were buried at his Long Island estate, Cedarmere.

      This section of the property was purchased by Ebenezer Snell
      in 1773. There is a cellar hole and two gravesites that inspired
      Bryant's poem,
                  The Two Graves, 1826
      "Tis a bleak wild hill, but green and bright
      In the summer warmth and the mid-day light;...
      And fresh from the west is the free wind's breath;
      There is nothing here that speaks of death. ...
      Yet there are graves in this lonely spot
      Two humble graves, - but I meet them not.
      I have seen them, - eighteen years are past
      Since I found their place in the brambles last..."


      Ebenezer Snell, William Cullen Bryant's grandfather,
      either moves into or builds a center stair; two-story
      colonial house.

      Peter and Sarah Snell Bryant with their young children move
      in with her father, Ebenezer Snell. Shortly thereafter, Dr.
      Peter Bryant expands the house with a two-room office in
      the front, a kitchen, and wood house in the rear and builds a
      30 foot x 31 foot barn
                                                                1802 Sketch of outside of house

      The Homestead is sold to Welcome Tillson when Sarah Bryant, four of her sons, and one daughter move to Princeton, IL, and
       start a tree nursery. The new owner build a larger barn, possibly using some of the material from the 1801 barn. In1842,
       Mr. Tillson dismantles and sells the late Dr. Bryant's office addition. This structure is moved to the Lightening Bug section of
      Cummington. In 1914, the former office is sold again and relocated near the Homestead where it currently is part of a private

      William Cullen Bryant purchases his boyhood home from Welcome Tillson. A. L. Clark,
      an Easthampton builder, is hired to renovate the house. The two-story colonial house
       is converted to a three-story summer residence by raising the first floor to accommodate
      spacious ceilings and a Palladian window. Renovations include piazza steps, landscaping, and
      servants' rooms over the woodshed. The barn is expanded and Bryant adds a pond, dam,
      ice house, and stonewalls.

      Bryant purchases additional property beyond his grandfather's original property, eventually totaling 465 acres. He
      expands the barn again to store produce from his orchards.

      At Bryant's death, the property is divided between his two daughters, Frances Bryant Godwin and Julian Sands Bryant.
      Bryant's youngest daughter, Julia, inherits the Homestead containing the house, barn and outbuildings. Seh spends most
      of her time in Paris, sometimes renting thehouse out in the summer. She adds to the barn for additional apple storage.
      To prepare for the centenial celebration of Bryant's birth in 1894, Julia makes interior changes, adds more servants'
      quarters, and constructs the stone porch.

      Minna Godwin Goddard, Bryant's granddaughter,
      purchases the property from her family and owns it from
       1917-1927. Reflecting the Colonial Revival
       period, the house is painted white with green trim and

      The Trustees of Reservations receives the Homestead as
      a bequest from Minna Goddard, subject to the life
      estate of her son, Conrad. The Goddards summer at
      the property and the Homestead is open one day
      a week for visitors. In 1931, Conrad Goddard builds
      the Caretaker's Cottage, ending the need for caretakers
      to live in the main house.

      The Trustees of Reservations preserve and interpret the
      property. The house is repainted in the color scheme that existed when Bryant lived there in the 1870s. Surrounding property owners are assisted by the Trustees of Reservations
in placing their land under agricultural preservation restrictions to preserve the scenic rural landscape that imspired
      Bryant's poetry two centuries ago.