Discover Concord Summer 2022

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The following spring, 28-year-old Henry David Thoreau constructed his new dwelling at Walden Pond, living there until the end of 1847. During those two years at the pond Henry wrote his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers, and began taking notes for a second book, Walden, which he wrote several years later. In the mid-1840s, with his pencil company thriving, John Thoreau decided the family needed a new home. He bought land on what is now named Belknap Street, then referred to as Texas Street because it was considered to be the outskirts of town and so far away from the village it might as well have been in Texas! There John built “The Texas House.” Henry occasionally assisted his father building this home and he moved back in with the family when it was completed. Then, in 1850, the Thoreau family sold the “The Texas House” and bought the so-called “Yellow House” at 255 Main Street, a home with a wing at the rear for John Thoreau’s pencil shop where Henry also sometimes worked. By this time, John Thoreau & Co. pencils were winning awards for their high quality. Yet, sadly, it was in this house on May 6th, 1862, Henry David Thoreau, age 44, passed away from his ever-worsening tuberculosis. Henry’s sister Sofia would play the key role in establishing his legacy. Like many artists and writers, Thoreau did not achieve significant fame or recognition during his lifetime. Despite this lack of public and critical acceptance, Sofia safeguarded Henry’s manuscripts after his passing. For the next several years she queried magazines and book publishers and eventually succeeded at getting her brother’s prose and poetry published. Were it not for Sofia’s loyal and determined efforts, it’s doubtful any of us would know who Henry David Thoreau is today. 36

Discover CONCORD

| Summer 2022

Henry David Thoreau’s private live/work home at Walden Pond, circa 1846.

“The Yellow House” at 255 Main Street in Concord, circa 1862. (Still in existence. The present wing on the right side of the home was added after the Thoreaus owned it.)

————————————————————————————————————————————————— John Roman is an award-winning illustrator, author of The Art of Illustrated Maps (Simon & Schuster, 2015), an adjunct professor of illustration at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and a regular feature story writer for Artist’s Magazine. See his art at: Excerpted and reprinted with permission from Electrum Magazine, an online literary journal. Visit to read the complete essay and see more of the author’s illustrations of Thoreau’s homes.