Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

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Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, located near Hendersonville in Flat Rock, North Carolina, preserves Connemara Farms, the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). Though a Midwesterner, Sandburg and his family moved to this home in 1945 for the peace and solitude required for his writing and the more-than-30 acres (120,000 m 2) of pastureland required for his wife, Lilian, to raise her champion dairy goats. Sandburg spent the last 22 years of his life on this farm, and published more than one-third of his works while living here. The site includes the Sandburg residence, a dairy goat farm (home to the Connemara Farms goat herd), sheds, rolling pastures, mountainside woods, 5 miles (8 km) of hiking trails on moderate to steep terrain, two small lakes, several ponds, flower and vegetable gardens, and an apple orchard. Visitors to the site can tour the Sandburg residence, as well as visit the dairy barn housing Connemara Farms' goat herd, representing the three breeds of goats Lillian Sandburg raised at Connemara. From June until mid-August, live performances of Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories and excerpts from the Broadway play, The World of Carl Sandburg , are presented at the park amphitheater.

The Memminger years
In the mid 1830s Christopher Memminger, of Charleston, took a tour of Flat Rock, North Carolina in an attempt to find a summer home. Unable to find a home he liked, he purchased land from Charles Baring, one of the more prominent land holders in the area. In 1838 he hired an architect to begin work on a large summer home in the Greek-Revival-style. The kitchen house and stable were actually completed first in the summer of 1838. The house was not complete until 1839. A cook’s house was added in 1841, a wagon shed in 1843, and an icehouse in 1845. An addition to the main house was constructed over the course of 1846-1849, and servant quarters were built in 1850. Memminger called his summer home “Rock Hill,” possibly because the main house was constructed on the gradual slope of Big Glassy Mountain. In 1855, he had a stream in front of the house dammed up to create a small, artificial lake. The Memminger family spent most of their summers after 1839 at Rock Hill, and lived there full time from 1864 to the end of the Civil War. During the war, the house was fortified and used as a shelter for friends who needed protection from raids by Union soldiers and Confederate deserters turned bandits.

The Gregg and Smyth years
After Memminger’s death, his son Edward sold Rock Hill to Colonel William Gregg Jr., a Confederate veteran. During his ownership, he built new steps at the front of the house, since the originals had been removed during the war for defense. He also installed a bay window and fireplace mantles. The Greggs used Rock Hill as their summer home for about ten years before selling it to Captain Ellison Adger Smyth in 1900. Smyth changed the name of the house from “Rock Hill” to “Connemara,” after his ancestral district in Ireland. The Smyths winterized the house and enclosed the porch to convert it to a dining room. They also painted the house green for a brief period and even installed an eight hole golf course in the pastures. The captain and his family used Connemara as a summer home until 1925 when they decided to make it their permanent residence. Captain Smyth died in 1942, and the house remained vacant until 1945.

The Sandburg era
Carl Sandburg, famed poet and biographer, purchased Connemara on October 18, 1945 for $45,000 . Mrs. Sandburg had been looking for a new farm in a warmer climate to raise her prized Chikaming dairy goats, and when she showed Connemara to Mr. Sandburg, he reportedly said, “This is the place. We will look no further.” Upon buying the house, the Sandburgs immediately began remodeling. Contractors were hired to work on the heating, plumbing, electrical, the roof and the cement floor of the basement. They installed new chimneys and bathrooms, as well as dozens of bookshelves for Mr. Sandburg’s large library. They also repainted the house and installed a new indoor kitchen, having turned the original kitchen building into a three car garage. The entire remodeling process lasted off and on for two and a half years. In addition, over 42,000 lb (19,000 kg) of personal belongings, primarily Sandburg’s library, were sent by train from their old house in Harbert, Michigan. The Sandburgs lived at Connemara from October 1945 to July 1969. Mr. and Mrs. Sandburg lived there along with their three daughters, Margaret, Janet, and Helga, as well as Helga’s two children, John Carl and Karlen Paula. Carl Sandburg published over one third of his works while living at Connemara, and it was at this house he died of natural causes in 1967. After his death, his wife decided to sell Connemara to the federal government in order to preserve the house as a memorial to her husband. The Secretary of Interior and family friend Stuart Udall backed the plan after he visited the house in October 1967, and Mrs. Sandburg signed a deed of gift in June of the following year. President Johnson approved a congressional act making the home a historic site October 18, 1968. The site officially opened to the public in 1974. The National Park Service spent the time between the purchase of the house and its opening restoring it and installing Plexiglas covers over the many bookcases.

The site today
Today the Carl Sandburg National Historic site attracts over 26,000 visitors a year, most of whom come during the leaf season. There are over five miles (8 km) of hiking trails on 264 acres (1.07 km 2) of land that includes pastures, two small lakes, and two mountains. There are thirty-two structures on the site, including a barn for the descendants of Mrs. Sandburg’s Chikaming goat herd. The federal government has designated the goats a historic herd, and about fifteen goats are kept on the farm at any given time. The interior of the home is arranged in a manner similar to how Sandburg kept it during the 1950s. Several bipartisan efforts by North Carolina's congressional delegation to authorize the expansion of the site by 115 acres (0.47 km 2) to protect the scenic view, as well as create additional parking and a visitor's center were successful with the enactment of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008.