Yesterday I took the day off and headed north to to visit Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s home in Pittsfield, MA. It was the last day of the season for tours at the historic home. They were closed the day before due to a storm that dropped about 12 inches of snow.
Melville lived at Arrowhead from 1850-1863, his most prolific years as a writer. His study is on the second floor, front right. His mother-in-law wanted the room for her bedroom but he claimed it for his study. The main house was built in 1784 and Melville added the side porch and the outbuildings.
Melville’s study where he wrote Moby Dick and much more.
Even on a cloudy day the study gets great light and has a real warmth to it. The table pictured above is similar to the one on which he wrote. Melville positioned the table against the window, which looks out toward Mount Greylock. The room just visible to the left is a small bedroom that Melville set up for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne who spent a total of four nights there. Melville initially didn’t let anyone else sleep there.
Mount Greylock in the distance as viewed from the parking lot.
The snow-filled clouds obscured much of Mount Greylock and my little iPhone was certainly no match for the landscape. Lore has it that a snow covered Mt. Greylock was Melville’s inspiration for a white whale. Peter, my tour guide, said that in the mornings when there’s better visibility it does look like a whale. The wispy fog that often hugs the mountain in the morning looks like sea foam, adding to the whale mirage.
Another view of Melville’s study.
Just below Melville’s study on the lower level is the parlor where guests would be received. Photography is not allowed inside Arrowhead, other than in Melville’s study, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the walls are painted a pale green and the trim–ALL the trim–is painted hot pink which was THE new paint color in 1851 when Mrs. Melville made the color choice. Lest you think she was unhappy with the color combination, the Melville’s also had special wallpaper made for their bedroom–a green and hot pink thistle pattern hand stamped on a creamy yellow background.
This decorative tile that Melville purchased in Constantinople hangs in his study.
The back of the house.
The section of the back of the house, on the right with the three windows on the first floor, is the dinning room and above that are bedrooms. On the opposite side of the dining room, at the front of the house, is the family parlor.
Tourism is up in the Berkshires this year due to J.K. Rowling setting Ilvermorny, the North American School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on Mount Greylock. Here’s an article on Mount Greylock’s influence on the literary imagination.