Sandburg’s Place

Carl Sandburg’s study, Flat Rock, N.C.

A 2-hour and 12-minute drive into North Carolina, about 132 miles, will take you to the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer Carl Sandburg. For a bonus, plan a trip when the leaves are in rich color. Combine literature and leaves in one trip to Flat Rock.

Born in Galesburg, Ill., in 1878, Carl Sandburg’s life is a classic American story. That he ended up in the American South is due in part to goats. Sandburg and his wife chose a farm and summer-home setting built by Charleston’s Christopher Memminger in the mid 1830s. Later, a Confederate veteran, Colonel William Gregg Jr. assumed ownership of the home and eventually he sold it to Captain Ellison Adger Smyth who named the place Connemara after his ancestral district in Ireland. Previously it was known as Rock Hill.

It’s ironic that Lincoln’s biographer bought this home once owned by a Confederate officer. Mrs. Sandburg had been looking for a warmer climate for her Chikaming dairy goats. It’s said that when his wife showed him the site, he said, “This is the place. We will look no further.” Sandburg purchased this Greek-Revival home near Hendersonville in 1945 for $45,000. He liked the place for its serenity.

Like many writers before and after him, he worked at various jobs. He left school at 13 to drive a milk wagon. From 14 until he was 17 or so, he worked as a porter at the Union Hotel barbershop in Galesburg, Ill. Other jobs included bricklayer and farm laborer on the wheat plains of Kansas. After time at Lombard College in Galesburg, he became a hotel servant in Denver, and later a coal-heaver in Omaha. His writing career began as a journalist for the Chicago Daily News. He spent most of his life in the Midwest before moving to North Carolina where he wrote many of his works. Sandburg wrote of the American people and their struggles, victories and hopes and he enjoyed national fame as a poet, lecturer, folksinger and biographer. He wrote, as mentioned above, a biography of Abraham Lincoln.

More than 26,000 people go to Carl Sandburg’s home a year. They tour the grounds and the home where he published more than a third of his works. The day I was there I had a park ranger to myself and it was great to take a leisurely stroll through this national historic site. It’s interesting to see where the famous lived and worked. His study looks much like the studies of other writers. Go for yourself and see.

Not far off 1-26 the 262-acre farm is easy to find. A small goat herd still lives there. While you are in the region keep in mind that Asheville is just 30 miles away. There’s much to see and do in this beautiful, historic region, and if the leaves are in full color, well what a bonus.

If You Go …

Turn onto Little River Road at the brown Sandburg Home sign, go approximately 100 yards, turn left into the parking area of the Carl Sandburg Home.

No park entrance fee

Guided House Tour Fee: $5 for adults 17 and older. $3 for senior citizens (No credit cards) Children 16 and younger admitted free

Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. except Christmas day.

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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