Five Famous Authors Who Lived in Beacon Hill
While dozens of distinguished writers and authors have resided in Beacon Hill (Anne Sexton, Henry James, Michael Crichton, Phillis Wheatley, Robert Lowell, and the list goes on), visiting these five authors’ homes makes for a particularly pleasant walk. So follow our directions, use our map, and maybe even take an Instagram in the city’s most charming neighborhood.
Sylvia Plath— 9 Willow Street
Plath moved to an apartment overlooking scenic Acorn Street in 1958 with her husband, poet Ted Hughes. The couple resolved to dedicate their time to writing professionally during their yearlong stay. Plath also worked part time at Massachusetts General Hospital transcribing mental patients’ records. She wrote two of her most famous short stories, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and The Daughters of Blossom Street based on her time at MGH.
Robert Frost— 88 Mount Vernon Street
From 1938 to 1941, Robert Frost tried to find solace in Beacon Hill after the death of his wife, Elinor. He lived in the neighborhood while teaching poetry at Harvard. The Figure a Poem Makes is thought to be the first writing he completed while living there.
Louisa May Alcott— 20 Pinckney Street
Although Louisa May Alcott lived in Louisburg Square at the end of her life, she lived at 20 Pinckney Street around the age of 20 (in addition to two other homes on the same street.) She’s famous for Little Women, but while living on Pinckney, her first story The Rival Painters: a Tale of Rome and her first book Flower Fables were both published.
Henry David Thoreau— 4 Pinckney Street
Philosopher and author Henry David Thoreau is most well known for Civil Disobedience and living in the woods in Walden, but a young Thoreau lived in aristocratic Beacon Hill. He mentions his former neighborhood as a contrast in Walden:
“What do we want most to dwell near to? Not to many men surely, the depot, the post-office, the bar-room, the meeting-house, the school-house, the grocery, Beacon Hill, or the Five Points, where men most congregate, but to the perennial source of our life, whence in all our experience we have found that to issue, as the willow stands near the water and sends out its roots in that direction.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne— 54 Pinckney St
The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables author spent his days working at the Boston Custom House and writing love letters to his future wife, Sophia Peabody, while living on Pinckney Street. It is said that working at the Custom House stalled Hawthorne’s creativity, slowing his literary work.