The recent sighting of an albino humpback whale off Australia’s Gold Coast put Moby Dick in many people’s minds – but did you know the house where Melville wrote his famous book – Arrowhead the Herman Melville House – is right here in the Berkshires?
Herman Melville published 11 novels, 17 short stories, and even more poems – but chances are, one title of this classic, American author is the first that comes rushing to mind: Moby Dick.
Often referred to as “the most ambitious book ever conceived by an American writer,” Moby Dick was published in 1851 – and a large portion of it was written at a Massachusetts farmhouse purchased by Melville in 1850: Arrowhead, the Herman Melville House Museum in Pittsfield, MA.
Herman Melville lived with his family at Arrowhead for 13 years, farming, writing, and living life in the Berkshires. His years at Arrowhead were his most productive period for his best work. It is clear Arrowhead influenced his writing, inspiring him and appearing in a number of his stories. Most notably, it has been said that the view of Mount Greylock from his window was partial inspiration for the whale Moby Dick!
Arrowhead also appeared in Melville’s short story, “The Piazza,” and was inspiration for his collection of stories entitled “The Piazza Tales.” The piazza in question refers to a porch Melville added to Arrowhead – a porch you can still stand on to this day during your visit to the Herman Melville House, enjoying much the same view Melville did.
Another piece, “I and My Chimney,” sees Arrowhead as a model for the house in the story, making it one of the most accurate descriptions of Arrowhead during Melville’s time here. Allan Melville, Herman’s younger brother, was so proud of the story that he added a short inscription to Arrowhead’s chimney from the text during his occupancy of the property, an inscription you can still see to this day.
Despite the quality and quantity of Melville’s productivity during his 13 Arrowhead years, he was not making a living from his writing. He eventually sold Arrowhead to his brother, Allan, and moved his family to New York to try his luck at the lecture circuit.
Arrowhead stayed in the Melville family until 1927, then went through a number of different owners until 1975, when the Berkshire County Historical Society purchased the house and began its restoration.
Arrowhead, the Herman Melville House, is now much as it was during the 13 years Melville and his family lived and farmed here, from 1850 to 1863. A National Historic Landmark and museum, visitors can now take guided tours of this historic farm, learn more about the fascinating and troubled author who added a porch, outbuildings, and a wing to the old house while also writing some of his most famous and successful novels here.
Arrowhead the Herman Melville House Museum
780 Holmes Road, Pittsfield, MA
For hours, current exhibits, and more, be sure to visit: www.mobydick.org
Herman Melville House Lodging
Applegate Inn’s convenient location has you less than 15 minutes from the Herman Melville House Museum and makes exploring the Berkshires a snap!
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