As I reflect on the remarkable preservation
journey of the last ten years, Mrs. Alcott’s words of 1842
resound in my heart: “Must we be robbed of our
treasure to know its real value?” Robbed
of our treasure by lack of a foundation? By powder post beetles?
These conditions threatened Orchard House for centuries -- why would
suddenly be such urgency now?
For decades, temporary repairs borrowed time for
Orchard House, but were not enough for a systemic solution. With
the Clinton administration’s
creation of the Save America’s Treasures program, Orchard House
was able to apply for funding to hire a team of experts to develop
a Preservation Master Plan. The most critical mandate of this plan
to secure the “envelope,” or outer shell, of the House.
A leaking roof, sagging ceilings, buckling walls, and rotting floorboards
were urgent cries for help from “the dear old house.”
of Orchard House sat on bare earth for over a century and a half, and
was literally sinking unevenly into the ground. Simultaneously, powder
post beetles were turning wood to dust, decimating its support function. It was heartbreaking to see post after post uncovered only to crumble
before our eyes. Consultants warned that we had precious little time
to undertake a more proactive approach to preservation.
by inch, powder post beetles, present in original construction timbers
-- were destroying Orchard House.
The extent of damage simply could not be known until intensive investigations
began; this is the nature of preservation work. As our architect looked
at one seemingly unsupported wall in utter amazement, he thought it
was miraculous that it had "found" so many other places to
bear the load, thus avoiding certain collapse. Our work had truly begun
in the nick of time.
Inch by inch, we painstakingly re-built posts and beams, stabilizing the
House’s framework to withstand the forces of time and heavy visitation.
After this was done and the insects were eradicated, the rear portion
of the House was supported on steel beams. A foundation was dug --
largely by hand -- for the first time. Incredibly, the House remained
open to avoid disappointing our global audience, even during this
most dramatic preservation work.
Through the extraordinary generosity
of public and private supporters, the rescue of Orchard House is well
underway. Most notably, the $400,000
Save America’s Treasures matching grant enabled us to
begin our multi-phased Preservation Project and ensure that future
what visitors have cherished for over ninety years:
intimate, informative tours -- "a real reason
to visit New England," and “Simply the Best,” according
to Yankee Magazine
- lively, enlightening living history programs,
even occasionally featuring Alcott descendants
- innovative youth and adult educational programs true to the spirit
of the Alcotts
- unique "meetings" of foreign exchange students
and Louisa May Alcott
- inspiring messages of strength and courage at the
heart of the Alcott legacy.
We are honored to be designated a national treasure --
an icon of the American culture. We were proud to have won the 2005 Sustainable Tourism Award for Preservation, and privileged to have recently received substantial grants from the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation and the Town of Concord's Community Preservation Act. And we were thrilled to be a finalist for the 2009 Partners in Preservation Award sponsored by American Express and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.
We appreciate beyond
words our tireless supporters and generous contributors over the years,
both from the local community and from afar. The initial $1.5 million
structural stabilization phase is complete. We are proud of this
accomplishment since we are a small, private historic
site not under the auspices of any federal, state, or other agency.
Except for occasional, highly competitive grants, we receive no taxpayer dollars. Most
of our funding comes through private donations from individuals like
We have boldly renewed our efforts to restore Orchard House by commencing Phase II of the Preservation Project, and look to the future with high hopes, indeed. We encourage you to check back frequently to chart the
of our journey -- or better yet, come for a visit and see for yourself!
Click here to find out more about
the Save America's Treasures Project, here for
plans to restore the historic landscape, and here for
more about Mrs. Bush's visit to Orchard House.
Contributions can now be made on-line! Click
here to donate with any credit card. Contributions may also be made
by check/money order (payable to "Orchard House").
To download and print a donation form, click
here. Mail the form to: Orchard House, P.O.
Box 343, Concord, MA 01742, or, fax the form with your credit card payment to
All contributions to Orchard House are tax-deductible to the extent
permitted by law. You will receive acknowledgement of your contribution
in the mail and be listed in our annual donor recognition. Thank you!
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