The Emily Dickinson Museum is a historic house museum consisting of two houses: the Dickinson Homestead (also known as Emily Dickinson Home or Emily Dickinson House) and the Evergreens. The Dickinson Homestead was the birthplace and home from 1855-1886 of 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson (1830”“1886), whose poems were discovered in her bedroom there after her death. The house next door, called the Evergreens, was built by the poet’s father, Edward Dickinson, in 1856 as a wedding present for her brother William Austin Dickinson. Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, the houses are preserved as a single museum and are open to the public on guided tours. The Emily Dickinson Home is a US National Historic Landmark.

During the Great Migration in the 1630s, thousands of English settlers flooded into the Massachusetts Bay Colony, some spreading eastward into the lower lands of the Connecticut River Valley where the towns of Hartford and Wethersfield were founded. In December 1658, a dissenting minority of strict Congregationalists in Hartford and Wethersfield purchased land from the Native Americans for the new town of Hadley, farther south along the Connecticut River on a fertile peninsular plain. In 1734 an eastern section of Hadley was carved off to become a separate third precinct of Amherst. At that time the territory was described as “being seven miles (11 km) in length and two and three-quarters miles in breadth, bounded on the north by Sunderland, on the east by equivalent lands, on the south by the Boston road and on the west by Hadley common lands” . Nathan Dickinson Sr., Emily Dickinson’s great-great-grandfather, moved from Hatfield to Amherst in 1742 when the land was allotted and surveyed. He notoriously expanded his lot “in the eastern division, north of the Pelham road” by trespassing on highway rights. By 1813, the Dickinson family’s grounds consisted of 11 acres (4.5 ha) of meadow south of the Pelham road"now called Main Street"and 3 acres (1.2 ha) north of the road where two houses were built: the Homestead in 1813 and the Evergreens in 1856. The houses today are located at 280 Main Street, across the street from the First Congregational Church (constructed in 1739). The property is one block east of the center of town and two blocks north of Amherst College. It is bounded on the south by Main Street, on the east by Triangle Street, on the north by Lessey Street, and on the east by a public lot. The property contains a wide lawn east of the buildings, site of the Dickinson family gardens.

History and ownership

Early history
Nathaniel Dickinson (-1676) was among the colonists who left England in 1629 on the Winthrop Fleet, settled in Wethersfield, and later removed to Hadley. He was a leader in municipal and religious affairs, and a century later his descendants remained one of Amherst’s most influential families. In 1813, Nathaniel’s great-great-great-grandson and Emily Dickinson’s grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson (1775”“1838), built the imposing Dickinson Homestead on Main Street, its grandeur reflecting his prominence then as a lawyer and later as one of the founders of Amherst College. However, his financial affairs were less secure, and by 1817, he had mortgaged the house for $2500 ; in 1825, he mortgaged the Homestead again, along with other properties, to Oliver Smith for $6,000 . In 1828, when Samuel Fowler went bankrupt, Smith sold the mortgaged Homestead and other properties to John Leland and Nathan Dickinson, Samuel’s nephew.

In her lifetime
In March 1830, Samuel Fowler Dickinson’s eldest son Edward purchased the western half of the Homestead for $1,500, and moved in with his wife and young son Austin . Nine months later, on December 10, their second child, Emily Dickinson, was born there. Three years later, a second girl, Lavinia Norcross Dickinson, was born. In 1833, persistent money troubles forced Edward to sell the Homestead back to Leland and Nathan , who in turn gave the entire property to General David Mack, Jr. Mack’s family entered the western half of the Homestead, while Edward and his family moved to the eastern half. They remained there until 1840, when they moved to a nearby house on West Street (now North Pleasant), overlooking Amherst’s West Cemetery. By 1855, fifteen years later, Edward had risen to prominence and wealth, boasting the financial wherewithal to purchase the entire Homestead and surrounding land for $6,000 after Mack’s death . The family moved back to the Homestead in 1856. That same year, Edward began construction of The Evergreens house just west of the Homestead, presented as a wedding gift to his eldest son Austin and new wife Susan. Emily Dickinson remained in the Homestead until her death in 1886, writing almost all of her poems there. The poems were found in her bedroom after her death.

Later history
The longest-lived member of the family was Lavinia, Emily’s younger sister, who lived on at the Homestead until she died in 1899. At that time, the Homestead was inherited by Austin’s daughter, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and leased to tenants until 1916, when it was sold to the Parke family. In 1963, in response to the growing popularity of Emily Dickinson, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1965, the Parke family sold the house to the Trustees of Amherst College. It was made open to the public for tours and also served as faculty housing. Next door, Austin and Susan Dickinson lived at The Evergreens until their respective deaths in 1895 and 1913. Their only surviving child, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, continued to live in the house, and preserved it, without change, until her own death in 1943. Her heirs ”“ co-editor Alfred Leete Hampson, and later his widow, Mary Landis Hampson ”“ continued to preserve the house as a “time capsule” of a prosperous nineteenth-century household in a New England town, recognizing the tremendous historical and literary significance of a site left completely intact. The Emily Dickinson Home was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1962. In 1991, The Evergreens passed to a private testamentary trust, the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust, which began developing the house as a museum.

Founding of the Museum
Collaborations between the Homestead and The Evergreens began as the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust prepared to open Austin Dickinson’s house to the public in the late 1990s. The success of these joint efforts suggested that uniting as one museum would have great advantages for the public as well as for administration and governance of the sites. Together the houses tell a more complete story about the poet, her family, and the world in which she lived. To that end, The Emily Dickinson Museum was created on July 1, 2003, when ownership of The Evergreens was transferred by the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust to Amherst College. The merger of the houses and the 3 acres on which they stand restored the parts of the property to the estate Dickinson herself had known and furthers the College's long-standing and complex associations with the Dickinson family and its stewardship of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and other manuscripts.

Architecture and landscaping
The Dickinson family’s grounds on Main Street consisted of 11 acres of meadow south of the thoroughfare and 3 acres north of the road on which the Homestead and The Evergreens were situated. The 1.5-acre (0.61 ha) garden was tended by Emily, Lavinia, and their mother, and Emily often sent flowers along with notes to her acquaintances. A large barn stood directly behind the house to shelter the family’s horses, cow, and chickens and provide rooms for the groundskeeper. Linking the two Dickinson houses was a path described by Emily Dickinson as “just wide enough for two who love,” crossing the lawn from the back door of the Homestead to the east piazza of The Evergreens. In the 1860s, Edward and Austin Dickinson planted a low hemlock hedge that spanned the street frontage of both houses.

The Homestead
The Homestead began as a fashionable Federal style house, built around 1813 for Samuel Fowler Dickinson and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson, Emily's grandparents. Probably the first brick house in Amherst, it was originally painted red to mask the color and texture variations of bricks and mortar. Subsequent changes to the house in the 1830s and 1840s introduced Greek revival architectural features as well as stylish white paint on the facades exposed to more public scrutiny. Owner Mack “enlarged the attic space by replacing the hip roof with gables, raised the roof line on the north and south sides, and added a second story to the wooden ‘office’ on the west” (88). Emily Dickinson's father, Edward, made extensive interior and exterior alterations to the Homestead in 1855. He built a brick addition for the kitchen and laundry on the back of the house, erected a veranda on the western side, embellished the roof with an Italianate cupola, and built a conservatory for Emily’s exotic plants. He finished the house in an ochre and off-white paint scheme, one that it wore until 1916, when new owners removed all layers of paint through a sandblasting process and painted the woodwork white in accord with early twentieth-century colonial revival tastes. In 2004 the Homestead was repainted in its late-nineteenth-century colors to interpret more accurately the house as Emily Dickinson knew it. The restoration also removed aging storm windows, repainted areas of failing masonry, and restored nearly 100 shutters and other architectural elements.

The Evergreens
Designed by well-known Northampton architect William Fenno Pratt, the house is one of the earliest and best-preserved examples of Italianate domestic architecture in Amherst. The house is still completely furnished with Dickinson family furniture, household accoutrements, and decor selected and displayed by the family during the nineteenth century. Situated on two high terraces, The Evergreens was surrounded by cultivated planting beds and looked out to the west over a neighbor’s orchard. Austin Dickinson applied the design principles of Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted to The Evergreens’ landscape. His wife, Susan, tended flower gardens that were held in high regard by townspeople. The lawn between the Homestead and The Evergreens was carefully arranged with an informal distribution of trees and shrubs meant to suggest natural growth, a mix of local and exotic specimens, and open areas where family members played lawn tennis and badminton. As Treasurer of Amherst College (1873”“1895), Austin Dickinson was also deeply involved in landscaping of the College grounds, cultivating at the same time a close relationship with prominent landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. He later led the effort to drain and beautify the town common, and spearheaded the drive to form a new style of park-like cemetery in Amherst after the fashion of Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

Guided and self-guided tours of the Emily Dickinson Museum are offered from April through December. The grounds and gardens are open to the public, but the interiors of both houses are only accessible by guided tour. Specially themed tours change periodically.

The Emily Dickinson Museum is a member of Museums10, an association of ten museums in the Amherst area. It is owned by nearby Amherst College. It also hosts a number of literary events that vary from year to year, including poetry readings and parties.

Building Activity

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