The #BBFBookHunt is back! And this year, we’re honoring Boston’s literary history.
Our beloved annual tradition of hiding books written by BBF-featured authors around the city of Boston returns. But this year, we’re doing things a little differently. Despite the Boston Book Festival being mostly virtual this year, we still want you to get out and about to connect with the literary culture of our city. And since there are a number of great literary history locations around town that would be perfect hiding spots….
Here’s how the #BBFBookHunt 2021 will work:
By Friday, October 8, we’ll post a map of literary history sites found around Boston and its surrounding neighborhoods, as well as some fun and educational facts about each. Consider this your #BBFBookHunt treasure map.
On Saturday, October 9 and Sunday, October 10, we’ll be out dropping free books at the historic literary sites on the map.
Follow along on our Twitter (@bostonbookfest) and our Instagram Stories (@bostonbookfest) to see where we’ve hidden our #BBFBookHunt books. Head to the spots to find your free copies, and get to know our literary history a bit better in the process!
#BBFBookHunt Literary History Treasure Map
Use the map and sites below to hunt up some free books on October 9 and 10, or simply follow the map to hunt up some literary history on your own time!
Click on the location markers to find a literary site, and its description. Browse the list by clicking on the rectangle with the arrow at the upper left corner of the frame.
Boston (Back Bay/Downtown/Beacon Hill/North End)
Old North Church
193 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113
“Listen, my children, and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…” The Old North Church is famous for the two lanterns set in the steeple that prompted Paul Revere’s ride in 1775, but it was truly memorialized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s beloved 1860 poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
Old West Church
131 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02114
Between 1894 and 1960, the Old West Church was the location of the Boston Public Library’s West End branch, where two notable Bostonians worked: George Washington Forbes (1864-1927), the first Black librarian in the BPL system, and Fanny Goldstein (1895-1961), the first Jewish woman head of a BPL branch and founder of Jewish Book Week.
African Meeting House
8 Smith Ct., Boston, MA 02114
The African Meeting House is a historic site in its own right, but it was also the place where authors Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart, publisher William Lloyd Garrison, and others spoke. The African Meeting House also houses the Museum of African American History, which hosts the annual Stone Book Award.
Alcott Family House
20 Pinckney St., Boston, MA 02114
In 1852, the Alcott family—Louisa May Alcott was 20 at the time—moved to Beacon Hill from Concord, and it was there when Alcott sold her first story, “The Rival Painters: a Tale of Rome,” and her first novel, Flower Fables. Pinckney Street was also the site of a few family instances that would later inform scenes in Little Women.
Louise Imogen Guiney
16 Pinckney St., Boston, MA 02114
A writer of many genres, Louise Imogen Guiney (1861–1920) was born in Roxbury to Irish immigrant parents, and lived at one point on literary Pinckney Street. In addition to being a poet, essayist, fairy tale writer, biographer, and more, Guiney was also a cataloguer for the Boston Public Library.
Longfellow Bridge/Fanny Applegate Pedestrian Bridge
Frances Appleton Bridge, Boston MA 02114/Esplanade
The Longfellow Bridge is probably the largest literary-associated site in Boston, named for poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)—and the newly-built pedestrian bridge to the Esplanade from Charles St. is named for his wife, Fanny Appleton (1817-1861). Longfellow would walk over the West Boston Bridge (now the Longfellow) to visit her in Beacon Hill, and wrote about it in his 1845 poem “The Bridge.”
Sylvia Plath’s home
9 Willow St., Boston, MA 02108
While only there a year, Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), author of The Bell Jar and other works, and husband Ted Hughes, moved to Beacon Hill in 1958, during which Plath attended Robert Lowell’s poetry course at BU. It was in that class where Plath met poet Anne Sexton, and the two would head out for drinks at the Ritz-Carlton after class, today the Newbury Boston at the edge of the Common.
Make Way for Ducklings statue
Public Garden (northeast corner)
Marching through the Public Garden since 1987, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack are bronze statues based on the mallard family from Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. (Fun fact: There is an identical ducklings statue in Moscow.)
Edgar Allan Poe Statue
Boylston St. and Charles St., Boston, MA 02116
While famous gothic storyteller Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is mostly associated with Baltimore, he was born in Boston (though he notoriously despised us “Frongpondians”) near the corner of Boylston and Charles. Now named “Poe Square,” it boasts a vibrant statue of the author, unveiled in 2014.
Elizabeth Peabody’s book shop site
13 West St., Boston, MA 02111
In 1942, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894) opened a bookshop on West St., which was part bookstore, part publisher, and part literary meeting place, where she hosted the Transcendentalists and Margaret Fuller’s salon. It was also where The Dial, the short-run Transcendentalist literary mag, was published. (Fun fact: Elizabeth’s sister Sophia Peabody married Nathaniel Hawthorne here in 1842.)
10-1/2 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108
Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenaeum has seen its fair share of writers, historians, scholars, and residents of Boston pass through its red doors at 10 1/2 Beacon St., including Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Amy Lowell, and more. (Fun fact: Did you know that the MFA’s original collection came from the Athenaeum?)
Old Corner Bookstore
283 Washington St., Boston, MA 02108
Once the hub of publishing in 19th century America, the Old Corner Bookstore was the home of the Ticknor & Fields publishing house, which printed the works of Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and more, and boasted a robust literary community well-documented by Annie Adams Fields.
Omni Parker House
60 School St, Boston, MA 02108
With a few literary claims to fame, the Omni Parker House was where the Saturday Club, a group of 19th century writers and intellectuals met, and there they founded The Atlantic Monthly. Charles Dickens also stayed here during his trips to town (you can see his room’s door preserved in the basement), as did Mark Twain and Willa Cather.
The Scarlet Letter plaque
26 Court St, Boston, MA 02108
For anyone who has ever read The Scarlet Letter (1850), one of the more striking images is that of the rose bush outside of the prison door, of “the first prison-house, somewhere in the vicinity of Cornhill.” The site of the old prison-house would’ve been at 26 Court St., where you can find a plaque referencing The Scarlet Letter.
Phillis Wheatley Statue at Boston Women’s Memorial
Comm. Ave. between Fairfield St. and Gloucester St.
In the Boston Women’s Memorial on Comm. Ave. you’ll find a tribute to Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), a freed slave and the first African-American to publish a book of poetry in 1773. Her poem “To His Excellency, George Washington” led to her visit to the then General in Cambridge, and many of her poems were dedicated to leaders and people of the time.
The Kahlil Gibran Memorial
201-227 Dartmouth St., Boston, MA 02116
Lebanese-born Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), author of The Prophet, immigrated to Boston as a child in 1895, where he lived with his mother and siblings in the South End, went to the Boston Public Schools, and studied at the Boston Public Library.
The Ghost of Eugene O’Neill
91 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA 02215
Before it was BU’s Kilachand Hall, it was Shelton Hotel, where playwright Eugene O’Neill died in 1953 on the fourth floor, in room 401. Named “Writer’s Corridor” by the School, the dorm floor where undergrad writers live is said to be haunted by O’Neill’s ghost.
Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA 02129
The USS Constitution, the oldest still-afloat ship, was once in danger of being decommissioned—but it was saved in part by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.’s 1830 poem “Old Ironsides,” a tribute to the ship.
Dorothy West and Helene Johnson home
470 Brookline Ave., Boston, MA 02115
Though it’s now the location of the Longwood Medical Center, this used to be the location of the house where cousins Dorothy West (1907-1998) and Helene Johnson (1906-1995) lived. Both eventually left Boston to become prominent members of the Harlem Renaissance: Johnson an acclaimed poet, and West a novelist, including The Living Is Easy (1948).
Anne Bradstreet’s home
Harvard Square (Out of Town News)
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) immigrated to the Colonies in 1630 as part of the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and settled in what was then New Towne, now Cambridge. She is the first published writer in New England, and her collection The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America gained renown here and in England.
Place of the first printing press
Holyoke St. and Mass. Ave., Cambridge
The first printing press in the Colonies made its way over in 1638. However, the man who brought it died on the passage, so his wife Elizabeth Glover, along with a few friends, set up and ran the first printing press in America. According to John Winthrop, “The first thing which was printed was the freeman’s oath; the next was an almanack made for New England by Mr. William Peirce Mariner; the next was the Psalms newly turned into metre.”
Plough and Stars Pub
912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
The Plough and Stars pub and music venue was founded in 1969 by Peter and Padraig O’Malley, but their literary history claim to fame is that in 1971, Peter O’Malley and DeWitt Henry founded the literary journal Ploughsares, which is named after the pub and runs out of Emerson College (and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year).
W.E.B. Du Bois home
20 Flagg St., Cambridge, MA 02138
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was the first person of color to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1895, and lived on Flagg St. (though in a former building on the premises) from 1890 to 1893. He would go on to be one of the foremost authors and intellectuals of the time, and the founder of the NAACP.
Margaret Fuller home
42 Brattle St., Cambridge (CCAE)
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), a writer, host of the Transcendentalist salons, creator of The Dial literary magazine, and the first female war correspondent, lived at the current location of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education from 1831 to 1833.
Countee Cullen home
413 Broadway Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
A renowned poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Countee Cullen (1903–1946) lived in Cambridge while pursuing a master’s degree after having published a collection called Color. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and would go on to become a teacher and mentor to a young James Baldwin.
William Wells Brown home
1 Lilac Ct. Cambridge, MA 02141
William Wells Brown (1814-1884) escaped slavery in Kentucky and settled in Boston, where he became a prolific writer, and his novel Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter (1853) is considered the first novel written by a Black author.
Pauline Hopkins home
53 Clifton St., Cambridge, MA 02140
Pauline E. Hopkins (1859-1930) wrote four novels, short stories, and a musical play about the Underground Railroad. She was also the editor of a number of magazines, including Colored American Magazine, and her short story “Talma Gordon” is considered the first mystery written by a Black author.
Malcolm X home
72 Dale St., Boston, MA 02119
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Malcolm Little moved into this house on Dale Street, owned by his sister Ella Little-Collins. Malcolm X spent his teenage years in and around Roxbury, and though he spent minimal time at the house on Dale St., wrote “All praise is due to Allah that I went to Boston when I did. If I hadn’t, I’d probably still be a brainwashed black Christian.” (Register for our BBF session with Malcolm X biographer Tamara Payne on Oct. 16.)
670 Baker St, West Roxbury, MA 02132
Brook Farm was a utopian society experiment created by Transcendentalist, minister, and journalist George Ripley in 1840, yet it only lasted for six years. The most famous participant was Nathaniel Hawthorne, who used the experience to inspire The Blithedale Romance. (The other Transcendentalist communal living experiment was Fruitlands, started by Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott’s father, located in Harvard, MA. [We won’t make you go up there for a book!])
William Monroe Trotter home
97 Sawyer Ave., Dorchester, MA 02125
William Monroe Trotter (1872-1934) founded The Guardian in 1901, a weekly newspaper that covered Boston’s Black community, as well as national politics and race relations in the early 20th century. Trotter countered both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois in their approaches to racial equality, focusing instead on his own approach to racial justice.