This Treasure Matters: Inside the Home Where Emily Dickinson Pushed the Poetic Envelope

Posted on: March 17th, 2010 by Jason Clement

Thanks to Save America's Treasures, the Homestead is where visitors today can go inside Emily Dickinson's world.

It is easy to think of poets as simply professional people-watchers – incredibly articulate talents who can capture a moment – a feeling – out of thin air and immortalize it on paper in such a way that it can be relived by complete strangers.

However, for one of America’s greatest and most prolific in the craft, understanding and explaining the profound complexity of human emotion did not come from being a tortured lover or an all-around astute observer; it came from a life lived in loneliness and isolation.

Poems without titles; unconventional style and punctuation; recurring themes of death and immortality – this is Emily Dickinson.

Dickinson was born in 1830 at a home in Amherst, Massachusetts known as the Homestead. Introverted and reclusive even in her early years, it is here where she would spend the majority of her life – and where her creativity would flourish. Many of those who study her believe that her quarantine gave her an opportunity to step back and understand the human experience like none before her had. She passed away in 1886, leaving behind 1,800 poems that continue to push the poetic envelope today.

Quite simply, Emily’s story could not be told without her home. Save America’s Treasures realized this, granting $200,000 in 2004 towards the creation of a master plan that would link and preserve the Homestead and the Evergreens (a neighboring home where members of the Dickson family also lived). The federal grant was matched by more than $500,000 in private funds, which ultimately addressed critical exterior restorations and mechanical systems upgrades.

In 2009, some 13,000 tourists and Dickinson enthusiasts visited the homes, known collectively as the Emily Dickinson Museum. According to the site’s executive director, the rising visitation numbers have had a multiplying effect on the local economy of Amherst, drawing thousands of curious visitors into the town where Emily was once known only as an eccentric woman of mystery.

Save America's Treasures, Preserve America, and the other programs cut or underfunded by the proposed federal budget do more than preserve our country's rich heritage – they put Americans to work. Learn more about the National Trust's campaign to restore this critical funding.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Jason Clement

Jason Clement

Jason Lloyd Clement is the director of community outreach at the National Trust, which is really just a fancy way of saying he’s a professional place lover. For him, any day that involves a bike, a camera, and a gritty historic neighborhood is basically the best day ever.