Merrimack Valley for the American History Buff

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There is no shortage of history to be found in Merrimack Valley. It’s where the Revolutionary War started on April 19, 1775. Then there are the amazing American literary figures that have made their home here, like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathanial Hawthorne. Or perhaps you’re an art connoisseur who would love to see the works of James McNeill Whistler. Whatever you choose, you’ll find amazing historical landmarks as you travel throughout the Greater Merrimack Valley.

Revolutionary War Landmarks

The American Revolution went from April 19, 1775 through September 3, 1783 and was the war that shaped our country. The fighting for independence began in Lexington and Concord, and today you’ll find several tours, monuments, and historic sites where you can learn about the various battles and key figures.

Minute Man National Historic Park

Begin where the Revolution began; at Minute Man National Historic Park. The opening battle and “shot heard round the world” is brought to life for visitors as they explore the battlefields and historical buildings. Stop by the Minute Man Visitor Center to watch the award-winning multimedia presentation theater program to learn more about the battle. After, visit Hartwell Tavern, a restored 18th-century home located along Battle Road. You’ll come away having learned so much about the American Revolution and have a newfound appreciation for the colonists.

Lexington Battle Green

A National Historic Landmark, the Lexington Battle Green is where the Lexington militia confronted 800 British soldiers on April 19, 1775. Learn what life was like back in Colonial Lexington at one of the historical house museums. Step on a trolley and check out the assorted historical horses and landmarks. If you’d rather walk, there are free guided walking tours on weekends in April and May, and daily from Memorial Day through October.

Lowell Cemetery

Lowell Cemetery is the final resting place for many of Lowell’s Founding Fathers, as well as other local historic figures. For example, buried here is Charles Herbert Allen, who was a politician and businessman, and the sugar company he started is now known as Domino Sugar. Another notable figure buried here is Edith Nourse Rogers, who was one of the first women to serve in Congress, serving from 1925 to 1960.

Then there are the fascinating monuments you can walk around and view. Many are stately and solemn, though there are a few notable ones that stand out among the rest. There’s the monument to Horace Ebert, which is carved granite shaped like his favorite leather chair. The monument to the Baker-Brandt family is a pair of massive books to represent the family’s love of reading. It’s a nice bit of levity to an otherwise solemn place.

Merrimack’s Industrial History

Lowell is the center of what was once Merrimack Valley’s booming industrial revolution and no place showcases that better than the Boott Cotton Mills Museum. This museum is full of interactive exhibits, informational videos, and other programs where you can learn about the Mill Girls and other important industrial figures. 

Hear the roar of the 1920s weave room with authentic working power looms. Discover the way technology evolved throughout the Industrial Revolution, as well as labor laws and how workers were treated. It’s a fascinating museum that will teach you so much about what brought America into the modern era.

American Authors

History and literature go hand-in-hand in New England, but especially in the Merrimack Valley. There are many famous authors that have made their homes here, and many even set their stories here. Come see their former homes and feel as if you’ve stepped into stories like Little Women and Walden.

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

Another staple of Concord, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House was the home of the author of Little Women and her family. Take a guided tour of Louisa May Alcott’s colonial home where she wrote and set her famous story. If you’re a fan of the book you’ll recognize several rooms she set her scenes in. You’ll even get to see the very desk Alcott’s father bought her to encourage her literary dreams.

Walden Pond State Reservation

Visit Walden Pond State Reservation and explore the woods where famous author Henry David Thoreau wrote his famous work, Walden, which was first published in 1854. The woods were originally owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and he was a close friend of Thoreau’s, so he allowed him to build a cabin and live there for two years, two months, and two days so he could experience “simple living.”

If you want to see a replica of the cabin and the original’s site, you can take a self-guided walk around the pond. As you stroll in Thoreau’s footsteps along this easy hike you can experience the tranquil beauty of nature just like he did.

American Artwork

There has been some spectacular art and amazing artists from the Merrimack Valley, and the museums and galleries do a great job showcasing them. Discover American history through the stunning art the Valley has produced.

addison gallery interior picture of people viewing the artwork

The Whistler House Museum of Art

The Whistler House Museum of Art is not just an art museum featuring a distinguished collection of 19th and early 20th-century American art. It’s actually the birthplace of James McNeill Whistler, who has created several prominent paintings. When you come to visit, you’ll view both beautiful galleries and get a tour of a historic house and adjoining Victorian park.

Addison Gallery of American Art

If you’re an art lover, you can’t miss the Addison Gallery of American Art. Featuring a collection of over 25,000 pieces of art across all mediums, including oil paintings, watercolors, photography, sculptures, and textiles, you’ll find yourself in awe of just how versatile creators can be. You’ll see pieces from the 18th century to the present, allowing you to witness and appreciate the evolution of American art.

When you’re traveling through the Greater Merrimack Valley, be ready for a historic journey through America. Whether you’re aiming for museums, tours, or just checking out monuments, you’ll have no shortage of places to visit. It’s a history buff’s dream destination!

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