About William Cullen Bryant Homestead
From its iconic red barn to elegant allee of maples leading to the main house, this lovely property is testament to a celebrated poet's ideal of living mindfully on the land.
What makes the William Cullen Bryant Homestead a special place?
We think it’s the serene vista of the Westfield River Valley that inspired one of America's greatest poets. William Cullen Bryant’s verse celebrates this quintessential American landscape, and helped inspire the 19th-century land conservation movement that involved Frederic Law Olmsted and Charles Eliot, founder of The Trustees of Reservations.
Bryant served as editor and publisher of The New York Evening Post for 50 years. A passionate conservationist and horticulturalist, he used his editorials to rally support for Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park. He also was a strong abolitionist who helped Abraham Lincoln win presidential election.
From 1865 until his death in 1878, Bryant summered here at his boyhood home, today a National Historic Landmark. He converted the two-story farmhouse into a rambling three-story Victorian cottage and expanded the sprawling red barn to store apples and pears from his orchards. Inside the house you’ll discover colonial and Victorian pieces from the poet’s family, as well as exotic memorabilia from his extensive European and Asian travels.
The Homestead’s pastoral landscape, largely unchanged for more than 150 years, includes pastures, fields, maple sugar bush (that has been tapped for more than 200 years), and woodlands. A self-guided map highlights the Rivulet Trail, where old growth, including ancient specimens of hemlock and a magnificent cherry tree, rise near the Rivulet, a trickling stream immortalized by Bryant’s 1823 poem of the same name.
The Pine Loop features enormous pines that reach heights of 150 feet – a stand among the tallest in the Northeast. When the Homestead is open, guided tours are available.
2.5 miles of footpaths and carriage roads. Moderate hiking.
When to Visit
Grounds: Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1 hour for the self-guided landscape tour.
Access inside the house varies – please call for more information.
Picnic tables year-round.
Regulations & Advisories
- Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
- Photography is not permitted inside the house.
- Mountain biking is not allowed.
207 Bryant Road
Cummington, MA 01026
Get directions on Google Maps.
From Northampton: Follow Rt. 9 West,
which will join Rt. 112 South. In Cummington,
at the intersection where Rt. 112 South
departs from Rt. 9, follow Rt. 112 South up
the hill 1.5 mi. to a five-corner intersection.
The Homestead is straight ahead.
From Pittsfield: Follow Rt.9 East. In
Cummington, at the intersection where
Rt. 112 South departs from Rt. 9, follow Rt.
112 South up the hill 1.5 mi. to a five-corner
intersection. The Homestead is straight ahead.
When to Visit
Grounds: Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset.
Access inside the house varies – please call for more information.
Grounds: FREE to all.
The boyhood home of one of America's foremost 19th-century poets, the William Cullen Bryant Homestead is a National Historic Landmark.
William Cullen Bryant, born November 3, 1794, astonished the literary world with the publication of his first major poem at age 13. Most of his poetry drew inspiration from the Cummington countryside surrounding the Homestead. In 1817, “Thanatopsis,” Bryant's most famous poem, was published while he practiced law in Great Barrington MA.
After his marriage to Frances Fairchild, the family moved to New York City in 1825 where the poet and former lawyer began a career as editor, first at literary publications and eventually as editor-in-chief and publisher at the New York Evening Post. He held this position for the rest of his life.
In 1834 Bryant embarked on the first of many lengthy trips, traveling widely in the U.S. and taking seven trips abroad. Many of his exotic travel mementos are now at the Homestead. Famous as a publisher and editor, Bryant’s public life involved him on many fronts as a politician and conservationist, leading to the creation of New York City’s Central Park. Artists of the Hudson River School considered Bryant their muse. At his death in 1878, Bryant was an iconic figure. His fame was so widespread that the centennial of his birth in 1894 drew thousands of people to the Homestead to celebrate his life and accomplishments.
Located on a hillside overlooking the Westfield River Valley, the Homestead is on the site of the original Cummington community founded in 1762. The Town Meetinghouse was constructed near what is now the five-corner intersection of the Homestead in 1782. Seven years later it was moved and a schoolhouse, which Bryant attended, was erected on the site. Cummington’s center shifted to the valley and as the community grew, Bryant’s father, Dr. Peter Bryant, served as physician and in the state legislature.
Cummington’s population diminished after 1840, since many townspeople, like Bryant’s family, abandoned their farms and moved westward. As Bryant observed “the soil is now exhausted; the fields are turned into pastures/and the land which once sufficed for two farms now barely answers for one.” Woodlands, a source of fuel and building materials, were also depleted.
In 1865, 30 years after the Homestead was sold out of the family, Bryant purchased his former boyhood home and used it as a summer retreat from late July through early September for the remainder of his life. Year-round the house was occupied by a series of caretakers and their families.
Bryant remained deeply committed to his childhood community and made a number of significant contributions to Cummington. He donated $500 to build a new schoolhouse located near the Homestead. A larger gift was a library, complete with book collection and a librarian's residence. These two structures remain on the south intersection of Routes 9 and 112. To make access easier to the Library from the Homestead, Bryant paid for a road that later became part of Route 112. He also built a road to West Cummington from the Homestead that is still in use today.
Property Acquisition History
Original acreage a bequest, with endowment, of Minna Godwin Goddard in 1927. Additional land purchased in 1981 with funds given by Mrs. Winthrop M. Crane III.
Archival material related to the Bryant Homestead is available to researchers at the Archives & Research Center in Sharon, Massachusetts.
William Cullen Bryant Collection
(7.4 linear feet)
Regarding William Cullen Bryant, his extended family, colleagues, and his childhood home now known as the William Cullen Bryant Homestead. The majority of the materials were created between 1845-1878.
The Archives & Research Center welcomes donations of documents, manuscripts, records, photographs, maps and memorabilia that pertain to a particular property. Please contact us at 781.784.8200 or email@example.com
Maps and Resources
Self-guided landscape tour brochure available at the visitor center and bulletin board in parking area. You can download a basic map of the property before you visit.
Note: The house is not open to the public.
The Bryant Homestead is a beautiful setting for your wedding. We can accommodate wedding ceremonies and receptions for up to 200 people, mid-June through mid-September. Events must end one hour before sunset, as there are no outdoor lighting facilities. If more than 75 people are in attendance, the client must provide sanitary facilities. Use is for the grounds only; events may not take place inside the Homestead. Electrical hook-ups and outdoor water available; tenting is allowed. Please call 413.634.2244 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Planning Your Visit
Hidden Hills of Western MA
Hilltowns of Western MA
Before You Go
We encourage you to visit as many Trustees properties as you can.
Wherever your travels take you, please observe all posted regulations, follow special instructions from property staff, and keep in mind the Stewardship Code:
- Protect wildlife and plants.
- Guard against all risk of fire.
- Help keep air and water clean.
- Carry out what you carry in.
- Use marked footpaths and bridle paths.
- Leave livestock, crops, and machinery alone.
- Respect the privacy of neighboring land.
- Enjoy and share the landscape with others.
Click on links below for further visitor information:
Before Setting Out
Enjoying Trustees Reservations
About Hunting on Trustees of Reservations Land
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