Rural Heritage Village Smithy

The Children's Gift to Longfellow
by Andy Juell

Lonfellow's blacksmith shop was more than poetic license. It sat at Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the proprietor was one Dexter Pratt. And yes, the spreading chestnut tree stood out front. When Brattle Street was widened in 1876, the tree feel victim to progress. In honor of the poet, the children of Cambridge, as well as the town, had a chair made from its wood.

The chair is described as "black-stained Eastlake-style armchair" made by H. Edgar Harwell of Boston from the wood of the "Spreading Chestnut Tree." The seat was tufted leather, the seat rail carved in the gothic or black-letter style with a portion of the verse from the original poem etched around the rails:

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.

The chair was presented to Longfellow on February 22, 1879, in honor of his 72nd birthday by the children of Cambridge, a few of whom probably caught those burning sparks in their youth. The chair now resides in the first-floor study at Longfellow House in Cambridge, at the Longfellow National Historic Site, 105 Brattle Street, under the care of the National Park Service.


Andy Juell wrote for Anvil magazine (no longer in print).

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31 October 2001