Monday, August 6, 2012

The Walt Whitman Homestead

The Walt Whitman birthplace, built by his father
Walter Whitman, complete with lilacs by the kitchen door -
"When Lilacs Once in the Dooryard Bloom'd"
Poet Walt Whitman was born at this homestead on 31 May 1819, in the village of West Hills, Long Island, New York.  His father, Walter Whitman, was a Quaker carpenter, and was not a very successful farmer.  Walter built the entire house, and worked the farm. When son, Walt, was four years old they removed to Brooklyn.  At age eleven he entered the working world.  His early life was a struggle, but isn’t that true of some of the best American poets?

A statue donated by the Japanese
poet, Daisaku Ikeda

The Walt Whitman homestead was turned into a museum in the 1950s, and the interpretive center was built in the 1970s.  The entire Whitman house was restored back to its original condition when Walter Whitman built it in the early 1800s.  There are some signature features you can view on a guided tour, which were built into the home by Walter, including a penny at the top of the staircase used as a bolt, and rubbed for good luck by generations.  There are built in corner shelves on each fireplace mantel for candlesticks, and several built in cupboards not usually seen in modest homes of this time period.  In the attic space you can see hand hewn beams created by Walter Whitman himself.

The complex includes a visitor/interpretive center, the house where Walt Whitman was born, gardens and a community center for poetry readings and youth groups.  The entire place is surrounded by a wooden wall, so you would never know you were in a suburban setting, surrounded by strip malls and speeding traffic.  It is quiet and tranquil inside the historic site.  There are also historic museums in Brooklyn, New York, where the poet spent most of his childhood, having moved from Long Island at about age four or five years old when the family farm failed.

For more information:

The Walt Whitman Homestead
246 Old Walt Whitman Road
West Hills, NY 

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. Love it!! I didn't know they were Quakers. How interesting. One has a tendency to forget that the famous started out pretty much like everyone else.