Five Places to Reconnect with Writer Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson was born and lived in Amherst, Western Massachusetts, and she rarely left the town and, in later years, The Homestead, her father’s house. Amherst is a thriving university town but it is easy to re-imagine Emily’s life there in the nineteenth century by visiting places she knew, or that commemorate her.
1. The Homestead, 280 Main Street – This yellow mansion, built by Emily’s grandfather, was the poet’s home for most of her life. She was born and died there. Now it is one half of the Emily Dickinson Museum. Visitors can enjoy a tour and stand in the light-filled bedroom where Emily wrote and lowered baskets of gingerbread from her window to waiting children. The museum has a wonderful shop for all things Emily – books, t-shirts, notecards, posters, fridge magnets and dolls.
2. The Evergreens, Main Street – This Italianate villa lies across the garden from The Homestead and is the other half of the Emily Dickinson Museum. This was the home of Emily’s brother Austin and his wife Susan, who was Emily’s dearest friend. This is a house of atmosphere – it retains its Victorian décor and much of Austin and Sue’s paintings and furniture.
3. Amherst History Museum, 67 Amity Street – Everybody is familiar with Emily’s white dress and this lovely museum houses it. The dress, known as a wrapper or house dress, is made of dimity, has handy pockets and a row of mother-of-pearl buttons. It is housed in a glass case. (The Emily Dickinson Museum displays a replica of the same dress.)
4. West Cemetery, Triangle Street – The graveyard where Emily is buried is a tree-filled oasis off North Pleasant Street. Here you can see the Amherst History Mural with Emily at its heart. Here too is the Dickinson family plot, bounded by a black wrought iron fence, where Emily rests with her parents and sister. Brother Austin is buried at Wildwood Cemetery. Fans leave mementos on and beside Emily’s grave, including toys, flowers and handwritten notes.
5. Jones Library, 43 Amity Street – Go to the library to view the Emily Dickinson Room, which houses a large collection of Dickinson related items, including an eclectic exhibition of Emily-related memorabilia. You can see, among many things, Emily’s original calling card, first editions of her posthumously published poetry collections and a set of cameo buttons that belonged to the poet.