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Massachusetts Conservation


William Cullen Bryant Homestead


WCB Homestead
William Cullen Bryant c. Civil War
National Archives and Records Administration

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead was home to William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), a leading American poet and journalist in the 19th century. Bryant made important contributions to American conservation through his nature poetry, as a journalist, an advocate for the creation of Central Park, as friend to Hudson River School poets, and as editor of Picturesque America, an illustrated tour guide that introduced the American public to many of the natural and cultural highlights of the American scenery of his day. The property is located in the Berkshires and has a sweeping view of the Hampshire Hills to the east.

Bryant’s maternal grandfather built the homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts in 1783, and Bryant moved to the farm with his family in 1799. Bryant spent his boyhood and adolescence in the Dutch Colonial farmhouse where he wrote several poems about the rural beauty of the area. He attended a local school, spent one year at Williams College, then studied and practiced law in Plainfield and Barrington, Massachusetts. He married Frances Fairchild Bryant in 1821. In 1825, he moved to New York, where he began a long successful career in journalism and publishing, working as co-editor of the New York Review and the Athenaeum Magazine from 1825-1829, and an editor at the New York Evening Post from 1829 until his death. During that time, Bryant published his views on abolition and conservation, supporting the presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln and the landscape work of Frederick Law Olmsted.

In 1865, Bryant purchased the Homestead, which his family had sold in 1835. He renovated the house to use as a summer home completing most of the additions and alterations that made the house what it is today. He also planted over 1,500 fruit trees on the property. Remnants of a 1,300-tree apple orchard remain today on the southern end of the farm, paralleling Route 112. His wife, whose health was failing by the time of the purchase, did not live to see the renovations completed. He and the rest of his family continued visiting the Homestead until Bryant’s death in 1878.

WCB Homestead
William Cullen Bryant Homestead
Courtesy of Ann Chapman

Today, the house is restored to its appearance in 1870. Of the 478 acres originally associated with the Homestead, 188.57 acres are preserved. The property is a National Historic Landmark owned by The Trustees of Reservations. A brochure for a self-guided tour of the property provides visitors with descriptions of many of the places Bryant loved, some of which he described in his poetry. Highlights include a long allee of large maple trees lining the entrance to the property, planted in the early 19th century. The Rivulet Trail parallels the rivulet that Bryant wrote about in his poem “The Rivulet” (1823), which describes “this little rill, that from the springs Of yonder grove its current brings, Plays on the slope awhile, and then Goes prattling into groves again.”

The trail has several interesting sections, passing through a forest that was once farmed as well as an old growth hardwood forest with sugar maples, yellow birch and white ash trees, some 300 to 400 years old. Bryant himself blazed many of the hiking trails on the property. A section of pines 120-170 years old is one of the 10 tallest pine stands in the eastern United States. Trails running through the property allow visitors to explore the woodlands, meadows, and remnants of the orchard that inspired Bryant’s early nature poems. The property encompasses the Homestead, barn, ice house, and landscape elements including pasture, orchard, maple sugar bush, and woodland.

Plan your visit

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is located at 207 Bryant Rd., Cummington, MA. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration files: text and photos. The Homestead grounds are free to visit and open daily year-round from dawn to dusk. For additional information about the Homestead, visit The Trustees of Reservations William Cullen Bryant Homestead website or call 413-634-2244.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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