I worked at a boys camp in North Carolina two summers. We would take an outing down the road to Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. He had lived in Galesburg, Chicago and Elmhurst, Illinois, and then Michigan before buying this farm outside Flat Rock, NC that he called Connemara. This is the house on top of a hill looking down to a pond below. Out buildings and farmland surround the home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains.
I now live in Elmhurst, Illinois where Sandburg had moved in 1919. He’d commute by train to Chicago to his job reviewing (silent!) movies for the Chicago Daily News. His home, about a half mile from where we live is gone. Also gone is the Lindlahr Sanitarium that filled most of the space between. Eugene Debs, former president of the American Railway Union and five time candidate for U.S. president for the Socialist Party, had three extended stays at the Sanitarium and would visit Sandburg. Debs died in 1926 walking back from a visit with the Sandburgs.
Sandburg wrote most of his six volume biography of Abraham Lincoln while living in Elmhurst, He was awarded the Pulitzer for history for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years in 1940. He twice received the Pulitzer for poetry. His desk at Connemara appears he just walked away from writing. One wall has pictures of the prize winning goats he and his wife Lilian (Paula) raised on the farm.
Next week, I’ll walk over to Elmhurst College to hear Doris Kearns Goodwin, another Pulitzer prize winning author, speak about leadership and Abraham Lincoln. Can you just imagine her and Sandburg sitting at the kitchen table and talking about Abe?
Sandburg’s poetry inspired me when I prepared the eulogy for my brother Herb. I said that Herb personified the poem Chicago: Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.
Amazingly, Paula Sandburg’s brother was Edward Steichen, the phenomenal photographer who collaborated with Sandburg in curating the famous exhibition and book, The Family of Man. Steichen’s photographs hang on the walls at Connemara.