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Loved watching the feisty Jo March and staring at Timothee Chalamet’s ungodly jawline? Sighed as winters and spring unfolded (on screen) in the New England countryside, with books and balls sprucing up evenings? So did thousands of fans across the world. 2019’s Little Women is the sixth film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s endearing novel, and viewers are hungry to dig deep and find out more about the family that inspired the film. Orchard House, the March family home, is where most enquiries are currently headed. Many aren’t aware that the location is an actual heritage monument in Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
The original home of writer Louisa May Alcott, Orchard House is a 12-acre manor where she set and finished her seminal novel, basing it off her own family life. Most of the furnishings—around 80 per cent—are just as they were when the Alcotts first lived there, with careful preservation ensuring the rustic ambience doesn’t change anytime soon. Visitors find it’s like instantly wading into the film.
The building’s official website elaborates on what to expect during guided tours, which “introduce visitors to the family members themselves, the household items that held meaning to them, their individual and collective achievements and (their) lasting impact”.
Among the intimate attractions inside, tourists love seeing Louisa Alcott’s tiny writing desk; her sister Abigail May’s paintings (she inspired the character of Amy March); and Anna's (Meg is based on her) wedding gown, laid out in an upstairs bedroom for a few weeks from May 23, in remembrance of her marriage anniversary.
You might recall the March’s family’s struggles with poverty, and Jo’s resounding success that helped build a more comfortable life. Well, there’s a slice of that here too. In the kitchen lies an expensive soapstone sink, gifted by Alcott to her generous, hard-working mother after cashing in her book royalties.
Tours accommodate 50 people at a time, and are strictly guided. The museum’s events often have fun themes. February 14 saw a ‘Valentine Tea’ with manager Jan Turnquist as ‘Louisa May Alcott’. Living History (Feb 18) and suffragette-awareness events are lined up in the near future.
To cater to the surge in tourists, Turnquist hired and trained new tour guides, placing one in every room instead of assigning them to each tour group. Numerous copies of Little Women were also brought in, updated with photographs from the film.
Given the fragile nature of the structure—it’s been a museum for over 100 years—Greta Gerwig couldn’t actually shoot the sweet family drama on its premises. Instead, a detailed replica was fashioned two miles away so that Concord’s natural landscapes could lend themselves as an accurate backdrop to the ensemble cast.
Little Women starred Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, Louis Garrell and Meryl Streep in lead roles. Released in 2019, it received six Academy Award nominations, out of which Jacqueline Durran won the prize for Best Costume Design.
Orchard House is a 30-minute drive from Boston, Massachusetts. A National Historic Landmark, it is open throughout the year. For information on admissions and an event calendar, see louisamayalcott.org
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