"A morning glory at my window," Walt Whitman once said, "satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books." Perhaps it was his idyllic first home that gave him this notion. Visit the spot on which the prized American poet was born, located in West Hills, just under an hour east of Manhattan.
Official Site of the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center maintains the original 1810 house, built by Whitman's father as a model farmhouse. Its hand-hewn beam and wood peg construction speaks to his careful craftsmanship. The main structure is typical of nineteenth-century Long Island architecture, but some touches are the elder Whitman's own. Notice the large paned windows, staircase details, corbelled chimney, and built-in storage lining the fireplace walls.
Walt Whitman, the would-be poet, was born in this house on May 31, 1819. A borning room just past the main living room was likely used by his mother to care for the newborn. The main areas of the house are stark, in line with the Whitman's Quaker background. The Whitmans moved to Brooklyn in 1823, but a few artifacts from the original owners remain here, including a 100-year-old rocking chair and father Whitman's tool chest.
Visit the interpretive center to see more than 130 portraits of Walt, several original letters and manuscripts, and even a writing desk he used when he taught school on Long Island. Original letters and manuscripts are on display, including a first edition the 1855 Leaves of Grass. You can even hear Whitman's voice in a multimedia exhibit.
Outside, there are perfect spots for picnics. Check the schedule in advance for poetry readings, concerts, lectures, and events. And don't forget to visit the gift store for a memento of your pilgrimage to America's pioneer poet's first home.