Edward Dickinson constructed a small conservatory for his daughters Emily and Lavinia when he purchased and renovated the family Homestead in 1855. Nestled into the southeast corner of the Homestead, this small structure housed a significant interest in the lives of Emily Dickinson and her family and in her poetry. Here, Dickinson kept watch over fragile exotic specimens and favorite New England varieties during the cold winter months. The conservatory became a conduit for keeping in touch with those important to her; she sent blooms to mark births, deaths, and other significant occasions in the lives of friends as near as Amherst and as far away as Boston. Dismantled in 1916, original architectural elements of the conservatory—notably its window sash and exterior door—still exist and will be incorporated into the reconstruction. Its reconstruction and interpretation will enhance visitors’ understanding of what the Dickinson home was like, the family’s and the poet’s values, and sources of inspiration for Dickinson’s poetry.
The Dickinson family vegetable and perennial gardens spilled down a gentle slope east of the Homestead and were bordered by orchard trees and a shaded lawn. Reconstructing the gardens, lawn and orchard involves conducting garden archaeology to determine the precise location, size, layout, plant materials and structures of the perennial garden; reintroducing plantings, a rose arbor and a summerhouse; and expanding the fruit orchard. Restoration of the Homestead gardens will add an important new dimension to our modern-day experience of Emily Dickinson's life and times.
Contact executive director Jane Wald (413-542-2154) to learn more about these two important landscape projects and how you can help make them a reality.