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Visit Robert Frost's New Hampshire Homes


Article by Mary Emma Allen

Photos by James S. Allen 

Front Home plaque
New Hampshire played a significant role in Robert Frost's life and was reflected in his poetry. He spent periods of his life in at least three areas of the Granite State and gleaned materials for much of his poetry in these towns of Derry, Plymouth and Franconia.

Frost's father was a native of New Hampshire. Although the poet was born in San Francisco, he returned to New England when he was ten years old. He grew up in Lawrence, MA, spent one year at Dartmouth College and studied two years at Harvard before moving to a farm in the West Running Brook area of Derry in 1900.

 

 

Frost's Derry Home

Plaque at the Frost House in Plymouth
There he farmed, not always as his neighbors might, and taught English at nearby Pinkerton Academy until 1910. The Robert Frost Farm, on Route 28, is open to the public.

This 64-acre farm became a source of inspiration for Frost as seen by the reverence for nature and farm life revealed in his poetry. Some of his early poems, such as "Hyla Brook" and "Mending Walls," are said to have been written here. Hyla Brook is the small brook south of the farm.

Exhibits from the poet's life, as well as samples of his poetry, are displayed at the farm. You can walk over some of the area where Frost got his poetic inspiration along the trail traversing the nearby woods and meadows.

Frost's Plymouth Home

The Frost House at Plymouth State University
From Derry, the poet moved to Plymouth, where he taught psychology from 1911-12 at the State Normal School (now Plymouth State University). Here he, his wife Elinor and their four small children lived in a white house with Principal Ernest L. Silver. The residence was located at the corner of Highland Avenue and School Street.

(Incidentally, the University has acquired a collection of Robert Frost's letters to Dr. Silver.)

While teaching here, Frost continued to write the poems which would be included in A Boy's Will, his first book of poetry. The year in Plymouth also inspired poems for more of his books. He enjoyed walking around the town and outlaying areas, where he received poetic inspiration from these rambles.

It's said that "A Winter's Walk" was written about his trek up Ward's Hill, the hill on Highland Street as you approach the turn-off to the Plymouth Schools. Frost often walked in the "intervale" south of Plymouth on Route 3, near River Road. Or he might cross the covered bridge over the Pemigewasset River (now the steel bridge)and make his way along Holderness Road. Another walk he often took led past the Draper-Maynard factory and the peg mill on Route 3 north of town.

Franconia Interlude

After Plymouth, the Frost family spent three years in England, then settled on a farm near Franconia village in 1915. His poem, "New Hampshire," from a book by the same name, tells how Frost acquired the Franconia farm from a farmer who didn't want to sell. "I had to take by force rather than buy," he said of the transaction.

The farm Frost purchased lay on the west side of Sugar Hill, about two miles from the village. It looked out onto the Lafayette Range and the peaks of Mt. Lafayette, Liberty and Cannon. His four children attended the village school, and when his neighbors learned he had been a teacher, they made Frost president of the local parent-teacher organization.

Here, too, Robert Frost liked to walk, and his friends and neighbors often saw him trudging along the roads and country lanes in all kinds of weather. He'd and stop to talk with those he met. From these conversations and his natural surroundings, Frost drew much of the material that would appear in future volumes of poetry, such as Mountain Intervale and New Hampshire.

Celebrities Visited

Then reporters began to visit and write articles about Robert Frost and Franconia. Important personages stopped in to see him. Carl Sandburg looked Frost up, and his account of the journey once more brought Franconia into a poem.

As 1916 drew to a close, Frost accepted a teaching post at Amherst and stayed there until the spring of 1920. Then he retired to Franconia, intending to remain another year so he could write poetry uninterrupted.

By now Frost had become quite famous and the influx of visitors began to intrude upon his relationship with his neighbors. So Frost and Elinor moved to Vermont one day in September. Although they never returned to Franconia to live, the Frosts came back for short visits.

The Frost Place, on Ridge Road in Franconia, is open during the summer months, and a poet-in-residence resides there at that time. Visitors also are welcome.

To discover Robert Frost's New Hampshire, follow the trails to the three areas where he once lived and wrote his poetry. (Find directions on the various web sites above.) You also may want to visit Dartmouth College , which he attended immediately after high school.


(c)Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen writes from her woodland home in NH. In addition to travel writing, she writes and illustrates books for children and adults. She also teaches writing workshops, including those on writing one's family history. E-mail: me.allen@juno.com .)

 

 

 



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