Defecating on the Doorstep of History

The Old Manse

Prairie and I went for our weekly Wednesday history tour today and settled on The Old Manse and North Bridge area of Concord, about a 15 minute drive from our house. The historic home and the legendary bridge turn out to be neighbors, a fact I first learned a few months ago when driving by the area sans dog. Both sites are also part of the Minuteman National Historic Park along with the Battle Road Trail and other sites.

Face of Manse
Face of Manse

Public parking is available in two places when visiting. One is located directly across from The Old Manse and the other is on the far side of the North Bridge at the North Bridge Visitor Center. Both can accommodate commercial buses, RVs, and passenger cars. Dogs are welcome on leash, but you will need to bring your own bags and there aren’t any public trash containers. The Old Manse has grounds you can enjoy for free (inside tours are not) and you can follow the trail that leads to the North Bridge and then up to the Visitor Center.

Thoreau's Garden
Thoreau’s Garden

According to some helpful signage, the second floor of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ancestral home – The Old Manse – looks down on the North Bridge and it is thought that Emerson’s grandparents watched the April 19, 1775 battle just a few hundred yards away from their house. Over a half a century later, making the gothic home the rental of all rental properties, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia, would live there, paying $100 a year in rent. A highlight of the house tour is viewing the glass window panes where the couple etched poetry using Sophia’s diamond ring – something I was not able to see today since weekday tours don’t begin until May 26. Henry David Thoreau planted a garden in front of the house in honor of the couple’s wedding and it’s still in use.

North Bridge
North Bridge

As Prairie and I walked down the dirt and gravel path leading to the house, she suddenly assumed the tell-tale position of a dog about to poo. I don’t know why, but the thought of her doing that within a few feet of the front door bothered me immensely. It felt wrong in both a fundamental and historic way. It also made me think about the time my older brother realized Walden Pond was open for swimming, thinking it was protected from public use because of its history. “Not only can you swim in it,” I told him, “but people leave their children’s dirty diapers on the beach!” I felt his his literary soul crush completely and don’t know if he ever came to terms with the news.

Path to Boathouse

As Prairie fully committed to her squat I tried to pull her away, attempting to drag her to some less obvious place in the grass and away from the house. She would have none of it. In the end I was left standing there for 10 minutes, watching the dog in that awkward position they get in, her face suggesting a certain degree of embarrassment as though she was aware her behavior was in bad taste. The gothic home loomed behind and above her, setting the scene completely.


Even taking out the neon yellow poo bag seemed wrong since it was so out of contrast with the rest of the scenery: lush and green and natural. After dropping her deposits back at the car, we strolled around the Emerson property and followed the trail back to the boathouse on the river. Imagining Hawthorne and Thoreau preparing to launch a boat and float throughout the day proved very distracting and the dog almost toppled off the dock.

By the River
By the River

It was truly one of those, “I’m so in love with Massachusetts” days. The air was cool and smelled of lilacs, the sun would peak in and out from the clouds, and occasional winds would blow the grass, flowers, and leaves as we walked.

oldmanse_nb 101

If not for Prairie looking obsessively and neurotically over her shoulder each time she noticed walkers behind us it would have been a peaceful stroll. Instead, her nervousness proved annoying as did her incessant growling at a Minuteman statue.

Prairie on North Bridge
Prairie on North Bridge

“Is she a rescue dog?” a nice couple asked when Prairie refused to walk any further until they caught up to us. “No.” I replied, “She’s just neurotic. Makes her fit into our family pretty well.”

Looking back from North Bridge Visitor Center Path
Looking back from North Bridge Visitor Center Path

Once we made it up to the Visitor Center we continued past and took to the street, looping around the surrounding property, and strolling back to the car. Prairie settled into her walk, content that nobody was following us, and happy to be out and about.

oldmanse_nb 104

Published by Karina Coombs

Freelance writer

One thought on “Defecating on the Doorstep of History

  1. Would love to visit the area especially after reading the historical novel written by the current curator of “the Orchard House” on Emerson’s wife and their close relationship with Thoreau who lived off and on at the Manse. As far as Prairie – you know that “when you have to go – you go.” Love the description and photos in the article.


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