Walden Pond: A History

Overview


Perhaps no other natural setting has as much literary, spiritual, and environmental significance for Americans as Walden Pond. Some 700,000 people visit the pond annually, and countless others journey to Walden in their mind, to contemplate the man who lived there and what the place means to us today.
Here is the first history of the Massachusetts pond Thoreau made famous 150 years ago. W. Barksdale Maynard offers a lively and comprehensive account of Walden Pond from the early...
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Overview


Perhaps no other natural setting has as much literary, spiritual, and environmental significance for Americans as Walden Pond. Some 700,000 people visit the pond annually, and countless others journey to Walden in their mind, to contemplate the man who lived there and what the place means to us today.
Here is the first history of the Massachusetts pond Thoreau made famous 150 years ago. W. Barksdale Maynard offers a lively and comprehensive account of Walden Pond from the early nineteenth century to the present. From Thoreau's first visit at age 4 in 1821--"That woodland vision for a long time made the drapery of my dreams"--to today's efforts both to conserve the pond and allow public access, Maynard captures Walden Pond's history and the role it has played in social, cultural, literary, and environmental movements in America. Along the way Maynard details the geography of the pond; Thoreau's and Emerson's experiences of Walden over their lifetimes; the development of the cult of Thoreau and the growth of the pond as a site of literary and spiritual pilgrimages; rock star Don Henley's Walden Woods Project and the much publicized battle to protect the pond from developers in the 1980s; and the vitally important ecological symbol Walden Pond has become today.
Exhaustively researched, vividly written, and illustrated with historical photographs and the most detailed maps of Thoreau country yet created, Walden Pond: A History reveals how an ordinary pond has come to be such an extraordinarily inspiring symbol.
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Editorial Reviews

John Motyka
Maynard's move to disengage Walden the idea -- the shrine of the environmental movement -- from Walden the place, one that ''has long been a beloved swimming hole for greater Boston,'' has helped him to construct a scholarly study of an iconic, if less than idyllic place.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
As Maynard dismayingly shows, since the death of Henry David Thoreau, hundreds of thousands of visitors have flocked to Walden Woods each year; they have trampled the flora, polluted the water with debris and urine, blared radios, set up hot dog stands and generally marred the face of this once sacred retreat. Maynard quotes one disheartened visitor who described Walden Pond in the 20th century as "a mass of humanity, a stew of frantic motion, boom boxes and squealing children." In this history of the pond and its surroundings, Maynard relates that in the past 10 years matters have improved markedly. Rock star Don Henley spearheaded the Walden Woods Project, raising millions of dollars for preservation; yet Thoreauvian purists remain skeptical about a Hollywood figure taking charge and pandering for corporate sponsorship. What would Thoreau think about the dramatic changes that have taken place in his name? How did an ordinary pond come to have such extraordinary meanings? Maynard, an architectural historian who has served as a consultant to the Walden Woods Project, tackles all of these questions in a painstakingly researched, reportorial history that begins with Thoreau's first glimpse of the pond in 1821 and carries through to the present day. It's a classic tale of Americans loving their national treasures to death, and though the middle portion of the narrative becomes a bit repetitive with its blow-by-blow account of the growth of crass commercialism, this book will surely appeal to Thoreau buffs and to those concerned with natural and historic preservation. It provides a comprehensive history of the landscape that inspired one of America's most important authors. 85 b&w illus. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The history-starting mostly from the Emersonian/Thoreauvian era-of America's most famous pond and enduring symbol of the environmental movement. Maynard (Architectural History/Johns Hopkins Univ. and Univ. of Delaware) first visited the site as a student in 1986 and with this work moves near the head of the very large class of pond-o-philes. His study, which follows a loose dawn-to-dark pattern, bears a slightly misleading title: He spends a few pages on the geological history of the pond but his cynosure is principally Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) and his enduring influence. The glacial pond, says Maynard, replaces its water every five years through leaching and rainfall. There is no spring feeding the pond; no streams flow from it. Thoreau first saw the 61.5-acre lake in 1821 and lived his famous two years there in 1845-47. Maynard properly revises several popular misconceptions about Thoreau, who was not alone in the wilderness. From his little house (10x15 ft.) he could see both the Concord road and the railroad; he had many visitors; he frequently saw his family, who lived hard by. Still, he did go to the site countless times-before and after his celebrated sojourn-sounding its depths, staring at stumps, becoming an authority on its flora and fauna. Maynard quotes liberally from Walden and from Thoreau's journals; he quotes, as well, from letters, journals, and publications of many others-Thoreau's coevals and their successors, ranging from Jack Kerouac to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who lived in his own Thoreauvian cabin. Later portions deal with the encroachments of "civilization" over the last 150 years and the ferocious defense of the pond by assorted groups, most successfully theWalden Woods Project (for whom the author has worked), which raised millions of dollars under the leadership of Eagles rocker Don Henley to buy adjacent lands eyed greedily by developers and local government alike and to establish the Thoreau Institute. Great maps show who's owned what around the pond. Essential for readers of Thoreau. (85 halftones)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195181371
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

W. Barksdale Maynard teaches architectural history at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Delaware and is the author of Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850. He has served as a consultant for The Walden Woods Project and was a visiting scholar at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. He lives in Newark, Delaware.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Preface and Acknowledgments
1 In Morning Time 1
2 Visited at All Seasons (1821-1834) 15
3 Intellectual Grove (1835-1844) 29
4 Far Off As I Lived (1845-1847) 63
5 Viewed from a Hilltop (1848-1854) 95
6 Walden Wood Was My Forest Walk (1855-1861) 121
7 All Honest Pilgrims (1862-1882) 153
8 Thoreau's Country (1883-1921) 191
9 Walden Breezes (1922-1959) 229
10 In These Days of Confusion and Turmoil (1960-1989) 265
11 walden.org (1990-2003) 301
Abbreviations 335
Notes 337
Bibliography 363
Index 389
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