Brook Farm Historic Site

BrookFarm_signature_courtesyMassDCR_2017.jpg
West Roxbury, MA
United States
Brook Farm Historic Site

Landscape Information

Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education

Consisting of 179 acres and located in the West Roxbury neighborhood, the site is best known for its short tenure as a utopian community for Transcendentalists during the 1840s. The commune was founded by former Unitarian Minister George Ripley and was organized around contemporary principles of equality. Though Brook Farm was one of dozens of communal experiments in the U.S. at the time, it gained heightened notoriety due to the participation of prominent literary figures and intellectual leaders. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Blithedale Romance (1852) was inspired by his time on the commune. The community constructed multiple residences, a school, greenhouses, and other ancillary agrarian buildings. The experiment proved financially unstable, and the utopian enclave fell into disuse during the years leading up to the Civil War, when it was used as a training camp for Union soldiers. A cemetery, The Gardens at Gethsemane, was established on several acres of the historic farm in the 1870s. The site housed a Lutheran orphanage from 1872 to 1943, and Brook Farm Home, a Lutheran school and treatment center, from 1948 to 1974. Although a high-rise development was proposed in the 1980s, the site was acquired by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1988. It is now operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as a historic site.

What remains of historic Brook Farm is its cultural landscape: rolling fields, woodlands, and wetlands. Today’s visitors can stroll, picnic, and hike. Though the historic structures from the era as a Transcendentalist commune were destroyed by fire over the years, a number of their foundations remain, allowing for interpretation and an understanding of spatial character. Brook Farm was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places the following year.