“The people have come far, and can look back and say, 'We will go farther yet.'” Carl Sandburg wrote in his book-length poem The People, Yes. The Illinois-born son of Swedish immigrants, the author spent decades working in and writing about early 20th century Chicago, so rural Western North Carolina must have seemed as far away as a distant star. Yet that’s where he moved in 1945.
When he and his wife Lilian bought the 248-acre “Connemara” property just outside of Flat Rock from the Smyth family of Charleston, S.C., that year, Sandburg was already a celebrated poet and author, winning three Pulitzer Prizes for his work. He lived there for the next 22 years, until his death in 1967. Today, the home and the grounds are preserved as a National Historic Site and are open to the public.
Any trip to the Carl Sandburg Home has to start with a tour of the house itself, which is filled with historic artifacts, including more than 11,000 of Sandburg's personal book collection. For literary buffs, one special treat is Sandburg's perfectly preserved workspace, right down to his typewriter (but don’t try typing on it). Home tours are available every 30 minutes during park hours, and cost $5 for adults.
After the home tour it's just a short walk down to the barn where many of Lilian Sandburg's goats were kept. At one time, the Sandburgs kept more than 200 goats at Connemara, and Lilian distributed her goats' milk to local dairies that sold it in stores around the area. The National Park Service still keeps goats that represent the three breeds the Sandburgs raised. The goats are quite friendly, and very popular with the kids.
Next, put on your walking shoes for a hiking trip to the top of Glassy Mountain. The 1.25-mile hike is moderately difficult, but well worth it for the rock outcroppings along the way — absolutely perfect spots to kick back and read one of Sandburg's books or work on one of your own. Once at the top of the mountain, check out the great views.
After coming down, spend a few minutes watching the 12-minute interview Sandburg did with renowned journalist Edward R. Murrow. The clip is well worth it: Sandburg sings folk songs, recites poetry and leads the legendary journalist on a Connemara tour.
For more information about Sandburg’s home, visit nps.gov/carl, or call 693-4178. For those with GPS navigation (and old-fashioned paper maps), the National Historic Site is located at 1800 Little River Road, Flat Rock, N.C.
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