Preservation Fund to Preserve
Nationally Significant Intellectual and Cultural Artifacts and Historic
Structures and Sites
The house amazingly rested upon ten tons of steel support beams
a foundation was painstakingly dug, largely by hand.
Background on Save America’s Treasures
Save America's Treasures was
originally founded as a public-private partnership that
included The White House, National Park Service, and National Trust
Preservation. Dedicated to the preservation and celebration of America’s
historic legacy, Save Americas Treasures works to recognize and rescue
symbols of American tradition that define us as a nation. Prior to
the creation of the
Save America’s Treasures, there were few major funding sources
available to help small,
independent house museums like Orchard House. Honorary Chair Laura
currently leads this effort along with co-chairs Richard Moe (President
of the National
Trust for Historic Preservation), and noted author Susan Eisenhower
former President Dwight D. Eisenhower). Mrs. Bush succeeds former
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who continues to support the program as its
Background on Orchard House
A National Registered Historic Landmark, Orchard
House is most noted as the home of Louisa May Alcott and her family.
here in 1868 that Louisa wrote and set her
autobiographical novel, Little Women, one of
America’s most beloved and significant
contributions to world culture, seminal to
feminist and American family life studies.
A “second home” to close friends Henry
David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Orchard
also witnessed the development of the only truly American philosophy,
The circa 1690 home has tremendous integrity of original
a Transcendentalist philosopher and educational reformer, was an
early preservationist who rescued the house -- once occupied by
Man -- from
certain destruction in 1857. Remarkably, 80% of the collection
is authentic to the
Alcotts, with a vast store of archival materials comprised of family
and original artwork and photographs. One of the earliest historic
in this country (opened in 1911), it draws a worldwide audience
from all 50 states
and more than 30 foreign countries. Orchard House was the first
stop of the
Emperor and Empress of Japan during their 1989 visit to the United
States, and was
visited by First Lady Laura Bush on June 20, 2002 in her first
appearance as Honorary
Chair of Save America’s Treasures.
Unfortunately, heavy visitation to a structure
originally built for light to modest residential use, years of significant
overstress, deferred maintenance, the cumulative effects of
moisture/freeze/thaw cycles, and a leaking roof threatened
the home, which was literally sinking unevenly into the
ground due to lack of any foundation under the rear
portion. The precious collection was in jeopardy of being
lost or irreparably damaged due to lack of climate control,
improper storage, and water damage. Decades of re-active,
stopgap, and “temporary” rehabilitation were only interim
measures to defer the ultimate destruction of significant
structural members which had experienced accelerated.
Many posts required additional wear, insect damage, and an extremely
large number of
loading cycles. It was determined by preservation
consultants that the best way to provide for the next 300 years of
existence was to adopt a pro-active position toward completely upgrading
the structure’s condition.
temporary supports, like this one pictured in the Upstairs Hallway.
Phase One Begins
We knew that ensuring the safety and stability of the structural
envelope would allow this historic home to be accessible for
come, and that without prompt action, irreparable damage would result.
For example, unique Art Studio wall drawings
by May Alcott (pictured at left) were in real danger of being
lost forever. .For the past twenty years, consultants had studied
physical and environmental aspects of the structure; now the
varied reports and observations
were integrated into a practical Master Plan to direct a comprehensive
of restoration and conservation. Fortunately, the Save America’s
Treasures Grant allowed Phase One of the Preservation Project to
begin. Although public access was at times limited to protect
historic fabric’s sagging ceilings, and fatigued floors, Orchard
House did remain open throughout this dramatic process to not disappoint
its global audience.
Key Project work elements of Phase One included:
lifting the home (which sat directly on unstable bare earth) onto
steel support beams so that a foundation could be dug -- largely
structural upgrading of walls near collapse; mechanical/electrical
upgrading (including plumbing, septic, and climate control); and
connected work/storage space.
Plaster conservator Andy
Ladygo (pictured at right) was one of many experts who
made urgent repairs during Phase One.
Phase One culminates with the visit of First Lady Laura Bush on June
[click here to read more]
to find out more about
the Preservation Project, here
plans to restore the historic landscape, and here
the text of Mrs. Bush's speech at Orchard House.
Contributions to the Preservation Project can now be made online.
here to donate via Visa, MasterCard, or
American Express. Contributions may also be made
by check or money order (payable to Orchard House).
For a printable version of a donation form, click
here. Mail the form to: Orchard House, P.O.
Box 343, Concord, MA. 01742 or if you prefer, fax the printed form 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 newsletter.
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