Mapping Thoreau Country

Thoreau’s Birthplace

Thoreau's birthplace on Virginia Road

"The subject of this sketch was born in the town of Concord, Massachusetts, on the twelfth day of July, 1817. The old-fashioned house on the Virginia road, its roof nearly reaching to the ground in the rear, remains as it was when Henry David Thoreau first saw the light in the easternmost of its upper chambers. It was the residence of his grandmother, and a perfect piece of our New England style of building, with its gray, unpainted boards, its grassy, unfenced door-yard. The house is somewhat isolate and remote from thoroughfares; the Virginia road, an old-fashioned, winding, at-length deserted pathway, the more smiling for its forked orchards, tumbling walls, and mossy banks. About the house are pleasant, sunny meadows, deep with their beds of peat, so cheering with its homely, hearth-like fragrance; and in front runs a constant stream through the centre of that great tract sometimes called "Bedford levels,"—this brook, a source of the Shawsheen River." --William Ellery Channing, Thoreau, the Poet Naturalist, with Memorial Verses (Boston: C.E. Goodspeed, 1902), 3.

It takes a man of genius to travel in his...native village.

"From the centre of the village the Thoreau family moved to an isolated farm... This house has been removed somewhat from its original site beside the poplars, the peat-bogs, and the ambling brook, on the old Virginia Road, yet its exterior is only slightly changed. The place of Thoreau's birth has been rendered doubly interesting recently by the resurrection of a tradition, more truly a fact, that here a negro, freed and sent north from Virginia, built his cabin on what was then called "the plains." As the negro was dubbed "Old Virginia," his narrow, tortuous path, gradually made to the town, was called "Old Virginia Road." In memory of Thoreau's potent words and efforts against slavery, the circumstance assumes a romantic and prophetic significance." -- Annie Russell Marble, "Where Thoreau Worked and Wandered," The Critic: An Illustrated Monthly Review of Art, Literature, and Life," (New Rochelle: P.G. Putnam, 1902), 509.