"Listen, my children, and you shall hear ..."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

You’ve heard the words – probably even had to memorize “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” in school. Often we learn about famous people and what they did. But do you ever dig deeper?

Dozens of events and places influence a writer, from births to deaths to illness to adventures and the people they came across in their lives. I’ve always believed, and we’ll learn below, that even the structure where one spends his time and sleeps and lives his life play a part as well.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Wadsworth-Longfellow House … Courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

Wadsworth-Longfellow House in Portland, Maine, did serve as inspiration for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), famed poet and national literary figure. Four generations of the family lived in the house, and all were significant contributors to New England culture and literature. According to the Maine Historical Society website, General Peleg Wadsworth built the house in 1785-1786. He and wife Elizabeth raised ten children here before retiring to the family farm in Hiram, Maine, in 1807. The last person to live in the house was Anne Longfellow Pierce, Henry's younger sister. Mrs. Pierce, widowed at an early age, lived in the house until her death in 1901. At that time, in accordance with a deed she executed in 1895, the house passed to the Maine Historical Society to be preserved as a memorial to her famous brother and their family. Virtually all of the household items and artifacts are original to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families.

Let’s take a quick look at the house and learn about it first-hand. 

My interview with John Babin, Visitor Services Manager, Wadsworth-Longfellow House

What does your job entail?

As the Visitor Services Manager at the Maine Historical Society, one of my duties is the management of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House; it includes scheduling of all the Guides and Docents who give tours in the home. Types of tours vary throughout the day, because we offer both guided and self-guided tours. For a guided tour, one tour guide will bring a group over and the group will view the house room-by-room, narrated by the guide. For a self-guided tour, a group is given an introduction and can walk through the house at their own pace with tour guides stationed in different areas to direct and answer questions. We also offer a free download for Android or Apple phones for our app. When using the app, the visitor can take an audio tour or read from the materials provided on the app. Scheduling of the guides and docents also includes daily historic walking tours of the city, all school visits which include viewing our exhibits, touring the house and historic walks through the city for the students; and scheduling of all private tours, bus groups and cruise ships. The job also includes management of the museum store staff and staff for our exhibit areas. Other duties include but are not limited to, weekly admission reports of numbers and metrics, working retail, tour guiding, opening and closing of the campus, hosting events and giving historic talks off-site to different venues throughout the state.

 

How did you get into this business?

I started as a docent giving tours of the Wadsworth- Longfellow House.

 

What do you wish for a visitor to gain/learn after touring the house?

How very close and loving both the Wadsworth and Longfellow families were. This was the place where three generations of the same family lived and where some died. It’s also the place that inspired the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write poetry, writing his first published poem in the home at the age of 13.

 

What is the most popular item on exhibit in the museum?

The most popular item is a portable writing desk that belonged to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

What is your favorite item on exhibit in the museum?

The portable writing desk, because this is one of two pieces of luggage Henry took with him on his first trip to Europe. On this desk he wrote of his travels to family members and friends, describing in detail the different towns and villages and the people he met on his quest to learn foreign languages. He met Washington Irving in Madrid, Spain. As a child, a favorite book he enjoyed reading was “The Sketch Book” by Irving.

 

What is the oldest item in the house?

A table in the parent’s bedroom next to the bed underneath a painting of the poet. The table was inspected by an antiquarian who specializes in early American objects and said it was made in New England and dates back to around 1760.

 

Wadsworth/Longfellow House hours and admission:

Open May – October 
Closed May 23, 2019, 3-5 pm for staff-wide training.
School/educational group tours available year round by reservation only

Members: Free
National Trust Members: 20% off
Adults: $15
Seniors & Students: $13
AAA members: $14
Children 6-17: $4; 5 and younger, free
Family (up to 2 supervising adults + 3 children): $35
Groups: $10 per person
Price includes admission to gallery.

For more information, please contact:
Wadsworth/Longfellow House
Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101
207-774-1822 ext. 212
hwlongfellow.org