The Irony of The Carl Sandburg Home

Tucked away in the town of Flat Rock, near Hendersonville, is the Carl Sandburg Home, a National Historic Site, part of the US Government’s National Park Service, which means, and here’s the irony, the site, and current major renovation, is paid for by you and me, when Sandburg made no bones about his love of Socialism. Hmmmm. The ultimate stick it to the taxpayer, sell the estate to the US Government.

I was surprised how beautiful the land and property is. Mrs. Sandburg was quite the famous goat breeder and the goat barn is actually more interesting than the house.

Lillian Sandberg’s brother was the famous photographer Edward Steichen, also a Socialist.

In early 1908 Edward Steichen’s sister Lilian — poet, essayist, and committed socialist — entered into an intensive correspondence with her new beau Carl Sandburg, also a poet and socialist. In February, she sent Sandburg a copy of The Century Magazine with an article about Edward Steichen. In describing her brother, she told Sandburg ‘One thing I have done for my brother. I’ve helped make a socialist of him — just as I helped make one of mother. And I hope someday brother will help the movement with his art. He photographed the leading socialists at the Stuttgart Convention last August — something may come of that’. Towards the end of 1908, something actually did ‘come of that’: Steichen’s portraits of socialists were published by the prominent American socialist Robert Hunter, in his widely read book Socialists at Work

The home right now is all packed up, getting ready for a major overhaul. I asked two separate guides how much you and I were in for dollar-wise for the repair and got no answer. A lot, was the best answer.

Carl Sandburg died on June 22, 1967, his wife Lilian determined that his legacy and home in Flat Rock, NC should be preserved forever. She gave her support to North Carolina Congressman Roy Taylor and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall in authorizing the Carl Sandburg Home as a National Park. The park was officially authorized on October 17, 1968 and the property was sold with its contents and cultural resources donated to the park service. The site officially opened in 1974.

The park’s vast historical and cultural resources include 264 acres of pastures, ponds, small mountains and hiking trails, as well as a total of fifty structures, including the Sandburg’s residence and goat barn. The museum and archival collection housed in the 4,000 square foot Museum Preservation center is also an important resource. It is the one of the biggest collections of its kind in the Southeast Region, containing 325,298 items that include letters, telegrams, maps, photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings and 12,000 volumes of the Sandburg’s books.

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From the What are the Odds department, asked by the guide, Where are You From, I answered New York. Then he said, Where in New York? My sister lives in Bedford Hills. At which point, the woman in the teal top said, Oh my Goodness, I grew up in Katonah! 

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About the only books not boxed up for storage.
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The kitchen was as it was when Sandburg died – that was the instructions he left to his wife that when she gave the property to the National Park Service, it should look as if the family still lived there.
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An old Aga stove, before they cost $20k!!
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Lots of fabulous out-buildings…In hindsight, I should have skipped the tour of the house and just walked the grounds.
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The goat barn…and the goats…
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Overall, a most UNDERWHELMING experience, but hey, when in Flat Rock…..

5 thoughts on “The Irony of The Carl Sandburg Home

  1. You saw an amazing summer house and took in hundred mile views from atop a rock. Of course the Sandberg property was underwhelming. Looks to be a pleasant spot to spend a few hours, though. Forget his politics. I’m happy places like that were preserved for us to enjoy because I doubt such funds will be found in the future.

    1. The guides told me that even though they applied for and “won” funding, the money comes in dribs and drabs, not one big fat check. I asked if anyone from the federal government had to come LOOK at the property to see if what money was being asked was reasonable for what work they were planning. I was told no one came. Me, I’d want to see the project asking for a million or more. But that’s just me. Yes, I suppose it is a good thing it is preserved – the land alone is worth saving, as are the barns.

    1. The Aga was in the lower kitchen, where the washer and dryer were, and not used as the primary stove. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the guide, bored by the time we got downstairs, but I thought I heard him say that the Aga was used as heat in the room to keep baby chickens warm. Then later roasted!?

      1. makes sense. the Aga is always “on”, so it stays warm… and when you have your buds over, that trusty, proletariat Hotpoint is right where you want it.

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