||Tour of the
Property: Nathaniel Hawthorne's Birthplace
YEAR BUILT: 1750
BUILT FOR: Unknown
MOVED TO ITS CURRENT SITE: 1958
This house, originally located on Union Street, was moved to this location in 1958 with the assistance of architectural historian and conservator, Abbott Lowell Cummings. Although it is a very modest example of Georgian architecture, it is best known for one famous inhabitant. It was here, on the 4th of July, 1804, that Nathaniel Hawthorne was born to Elizabeth Clark Manning and Nathaniel Hathorne.
Hawthorne’s birthplace saw the inception of his life, his family, his work, his legacy. Hawthorne’s parents had grown up as neighbors and were married much to the chagrin of his paternal grandparents. He was born, according to his older sister Elizabeth, “in the chamber over that little parlor into which we looked, in that house on Union St. It then belonged to my grandmother Hawthorne, who lived in one part of it. There we lived until 1808, when my father died, at Surinam. I remember very well that one morning my mother called my brother into her room, next to the one where we slept, and told him that his father was dead.” After the death of her husband, Elizabeth Clark Manning Hathorne returned to her parents’ home with her three children, a move not uncommon for widows during this period.
Under the guardianship of his maternal uncles, Hawthorne grew into a spoiled and beloved boy. He was tutored by famed lexicographer Joseph Emerson Worcester, read voraciously with his sisters, took dancing lessons, named his many cats Beelzebub, wrote and printed his own newspaper, and even found time to behave mischievously with aunts, friends, and neighborhood pets. In 1818, at the invitation of Robert Manning, Hawthorne and his mother and sisters moved to Raymond, Maine, where Manning had built a house for them. Hawthorne’s uncle enrolled him at Bowdoin College in 1821, and he graduated with the class of 1825, which included his friends Commodore Horatio Bridge, President Franklin Pierce, Representative Jonathan Cilley, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
It wasn’t until the publication of Twice Told Tales in 1837 that he would garner some fame and return the “W” to his name in an attempt to separate himself from the notoriety of his ancestors. This success opened the door of the Peabody sisters and the patronage of Elizabeth Peabody, who was instrumental in securing Hawthorne a job with the Boston Custom House. In 1842, after a long, secret engagement and a brief stay as a bachelor of Brook Farm, a Utopian experiment, Hawthorne married the youngest Peabody sister, Sophia Amelia Peabody. They would have three children: Una, Julian, and Rose, between 1844 and 1851. He died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, on holiday with President Pierce on May 19, 1864. Hawthorne was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery under a grove of trees he once ramble through twenty years earlier. His legacy is represented within these walls, as this house would be the foundation for an extraordinary life.