The creative energy of Asheville and its surrounding mountains woos and then draws into itself the artist—even those who use prose and poetry as their canvas. And so it was for Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). He was already in his sixties when in 1945, he and his wife, Lilian Steichen, moved from the Midwest to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Their new home was a 246-acre estate in Flat Rock, just outside of Asheville that the previous owner had named Connemara after a region in western Ireland known for its rugged beauty and natural landscapes. The property is now known as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and is open to the public. The historic site is only a short 25 mile drive from Applewood Manor and well worth a spot on your must-see list.
Carl Sandburg drew a new sense of creativity from Asheville’s local culture, (a rich history, vibrant arts scene, the Appalachian heritage) and the tranquil atmosphere of its mountains. He penned over one-third of his lifetime literary works during the 22 years Asheville was his home. Those works included the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, The Complete Poems (1950). But he also found time to be actively engaged in the community. Sandburg attended poetry readings, lectured at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and participated in local events. His presence and contributions to Asheville left an indelible mark on the city’s artistic and cultural landscape.
Lilian was an acclaimed goat breeder and transformed a portion of the estate into a thriving goat farm, earning her the nickname “Goat Lady of Connemara.” The farm not only provided a source of income but also enabled the couple to live a life deeply connected to nature.
Guests of Applewood Manor have an inexhaustible number of unique and one-of-a-kind attractions competing for their time in Asheville. The Carl Sandburg Home is one of those, but it is one that combines many of the activities that might be on one’s bucket list. The site hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including poetry readings, musical performances, and educational programs. These events celebrate Sandburg’s contributions to American literature and showcase the vibrant artistic culture of Asheville. For the hiker there are five miles of hiking trails with breathtaking views. The serene surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains were instrumental in inspiring Sandburg’s creativity, and it’s easy to see why. The estate provides a perfect backdrop for a leisurely afternoon walk, a picnic or just reconnecting with nature. And there is hands-on fun visiting the farm’s goat herd where visitors also discover the importance of the goats to the author and his wife. Many of the goats in the farm’s herd are descendants of those bred by Lilian Sandburg.
The preservation of Connemara and its designation as a National Historic Site marks the importance of the author. When he died in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed:
Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America.
For more information about the Carl Sandburg Home, including visiting hours, admission fees, and special events visit their official website: https://www.nps.gov/carl/index.htm.