We had one of those experiences recently that had a touch of magic about it. Unexpected pleasures are the best kind.
Near Flatrock, NC., just driving around looking for something to do, we passed a sign that said the home of poet Carl Sandburg was up ahead. It’s a national park, now, so the signs had the brown backgrounds and white lettering. He, his wife, daughters and granddaughter, lived there for nearly 21 years, until his death in 1967. The anniversary of that was just ten days away when we visited, actually.
He’s probably my favorite American writer, and I didn’t know he lived in the South. So we stopped and spent several hours wandering the grounds. It’s a lovely place, full of charm and history and serenity now. The house was built in 1838 and was at one point owned by the treasurer of the Confederate States of America, a slaveholder. Sandburg, a committed socialist and Unionist, was terribly embarrassed by the presence of slave cabins out back, but also believed in preserving historical things. So he had them renovated and painted, and just lived with the moral quandary they represented as he worked on his Lincoln and Civil War books. The house sits on a hill overlooking a pasture and a lake full of fish.
I took the tour of the house, and have a picture of the writing room on the 3rd floor where he wrote big chunks of his Lincoln biography and much of his Civil War history, below. And most of the extensive library of children’s stories he wrote. It’s just as it was when he and his wife lived there, just as it was on the day he died, July 22, 1967.
After he died, his wife of nearly 60 years just lost heart and moved out, giving the land to the Interior Department to make the national park. She and her daughters took just their clothes. If you ever are in the vicinity and want to stop by to touch a piece of literary history, please do.
This is the poet in his own voice, reading a short poem he published in 1918.