The Road Not Taken
The Robert Frost Farm in New Hampshire was the poet’s home for over a decade and an inspiration for some of his most enduring works.
As one of the most beloved and leading American poets, Robert Frost’s writings epitomize the rustic beauty of the New England region. Some of his works are directly connected to the small rural farm that he lived in from 1900 to 1911 in Derry, New Hampshire. There, the great poet farmed, taught at the nearby Pinkerton Academy and perfected his writing craft that would win him four Pulitzer Prizes. Today, the idyllic Robert Frost Farm stands as a National Historic Landmark and a popular New Hampshire state park.
Visiting the Robert Frost Farm is a unique way to experience his legendary poetry. Frost’s first two books, “A Boy’s Will” (1913) and “North of Boston” (1914), and half of his third book, “Mountain Interval” (1916), were written during his time at the Derry farmhouse. “For visitors who know Frost’s poetry, the farm is tantamount to a sacred grove—an opportunity to appreciate his poetry in a more tangible way,” says Randee Martin, the Robert Frost Farm manager. “To those who don’t know Robert Frost well, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about him, his family and the fascinating time that he lived in.”
In 1965, two years after Frost’s death, the State of New Hampshire purchased the farm and its surrounding five hectares of land. A few years later, an additional 19 hectares were acquired to preserve the farm’s picturesque beauty. In 1968, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1974, Frost’s eldest daughter, Lesley Frost Ballantine, and a team of trustees and state officials began an extensive rehabilitation and renovation of the property. Their goal was to accurately recreate the original look and feel of the farm, which inspired Frost’s poetry in his early career. In 1975, the Robert Frost Farm opened to the public, offering tours, historical displays, a beautiful hiking trail, pristine farm grounds and series of poetry readings.
Inside, the house furniture closely represents the original living arrangements as remembered by Ballantine, who personally supervised the farm’s furnishings programs. The antique pieces are representative of what a 20th century American family would own, and illustrate the simple, family-oriented layout the Frost family had during their time there. In the parlor, there is a replica of the famous Morris chair Frost bought while he was a student at Harvard University—his favorite chair that he always sat in while writing his poetry.
This attention to detail is often found in Frost’s poetry as well. “I love the fact that the setting of his poem ‘The Death of the Hired Man’ is the Derry Farm,” says Martin. “One can point out all the details of the poem which include the barn, the kitchen, the porch and even Frost himself as the young college student who needed to learn the art of haying.”
The farm hosts an annual Frost Farm Poetry Conference, where attendees come together every June to support the writing and reading of poetry, especially metrical poetry, and pay homage to Frost’s Pulitzer-winning work. Robert Frost Farm trustee Bob Crawford helps organize the weekend-long gathering, which features special guest speakers, writing workshops, readings, delicious food and networking with other poetry lovers. Seats are limited and must be reserved in advance, in order to ensure an intimate and interactive event.
When Frost died in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said, “His death impoverishes us all—but he has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.” Now, over 50 years later, Frost’s poetry is still taught in schools in several countries across the world and continues to be as popular as ever before. For fans of the outdoors, historians and poetry aficionados alike, the Robert Frost Farm is a fantastic insight into the idyllic rural home of one of America’s finest writers.
Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.