Carl Sandburg Home
National Historic Site
North Carolina
Park Photo
NPS photo

It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, 'Who am I, and where Have I been, and where am I going?'

—Carl Sandburg

A Place To Write

Cari Sandburg was already famous when he moved with his family to the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina in 1945. Poet, minstrel, lecturer, biographer, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, he had spent his lifetime championing social justice and the American people through his writings and his singing. At 67, an age when many people retire, Sandburg was still actively working.

Sandburg's wife Lilian had discovered the mountain farm named Connemara with their youngest daughter Helga. The farm had everything the family wanted, including a gentle climate and ample pasture for Mrs. Sandburg's goat herd and seclusion for her husband's writing. Carl Sandburg would call it home for 22 years.

The estate had a long history—an ironic history for the biographer of Abraham Lincoln—for Christopher Memminger, who built the main residence around 1838, had served from 1861 to 1864 as Secretary of the Confederate Treasury. The second occupant, textile tycoon Ellison Smyth, named it Connemara to honor his Irish ancestry. Smyth's heirs sold it to the Sandburgs, who moved from Michigan with their three daughters, two grandchildren, a library of over 14,000 volumes, and the Chikaming goat herd.

The years at Connemara were productive for Carl Sandburg. He published poems, children's literature, fiction, and nonfiction. He continued to travel, lecture, sing, and earn accolades, including another Pulitzer Prize.The family was busy too. Mrs. Sandburg bred her prize-winning goats and ran the farm business. Margaret helped her father attended to the library, and worked in her flower garden. Janet helped on the farm, which was especially active when Helga and her children, John Carl and Paula, lived here. Until her second marriage and move from Connemara, Helga managed the dairy operation with her mother. The grandchildren rode horses and played in the woods and pastures.

Carl Sandburg kept late hours. He often worked most of the night, while it was quiet and still, and slept late in the morning. After a midday meal he read, answered letters, and wrote wherever his imagination took him—his upstairs office or study, living room, front porch, or on the large, sloping rock behind the house.

There were frequent visitors at Connemara. A favorite guest was the well-known photographer Edward Steichen, Mrs. Sandburg's brother and Carl Sandburg's closest friend. Guests or not, dinner was a social gathering for the family. Afterward Sandburg would read aloud or sing with them. In the afternoon or evening, he walked with his wife, children or grandchildren, or his friends on one of the winding paths or through the woods.

Carl Sandburg died at home on July 22, 1967. In 1968 the Sandburg family sold the property, donating the contents of the home to the National Park Service to be preserved as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. Always a voice for the American people, Carl Sandburg speaks to us still through his words, songs, and the beauty and serenity of Connemara.

A Sandburg Chronology

Born on January 6 in Galesburg, Ill.; second child and eldest son of Swedish immigrants August and Clara Sandburg; baptized Carl August, called Charles.

Lilian Steichen, Sandburg's future wife, born May 1 in Hancock, Mich.

Leaves school after eighth grade to help support his family; works long hours delivering milk and at other jobs; leaves home at 19, travels country as hobo and works as laborer on farms and railroads; sharpens his interest in labor laws and the plight of working people.

Serves as a private in the Spanish-American War; returns to Galesburg, enrolls as special student at Lombard College.

Receives appointment to West Point but fails entrance exams in math and grammar; returns to Lombard College; becomes editor of college journal and yearbook and captain of basketball team; encouraged by a professor, begins writing in earnest.

Leaves college without a degree; sells 3-D stereographs; writes for Galesburg Evening Mail using pseudonym Crimson; first poetry and prose in Reckless Ecstasy published in 1904 as booklet by his college professor; active in Social Democratic party; lectures and writes against exploitation of workers; calls for end of child labor practices.

Marries Lilian Steichen, who shares his interest in social reform and human rights; he calls her by nickname Paula; she calls him by birth name Carl.

Writes and edits for several newspapers and magazines; daughter Margaret born.

Poems published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse; wins a cash award for best poems of the year and is discovered by publisher Alfred Harcourt.

Daughter Janet born; joins Chicago Daily News as a reporter; daughter Helga born.

Harcourt, Brace and Howe publishes The Chicago Race Riots; publishes Rootabaga Stories.

Publishes two-volume biography Abraham Lincoln: the Prairie Years; establishes reputation as a biographer.

Publishes The American Songbag; buys property on Lake Michigan; Lilian Sandburg designs house; leaves newspaper to focus on his writing: poetry, children's stories, and the Lincoln biography.

Lilian Sandburg buys first goats, registers the herd's name as Chikaming after the township where they live; begins breeding program to improve goats' blood lines and milk production.

Publishes four-volume set Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.

Wins the Pulitzer Prize for history; elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; receives honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, and other colleges and universities.

Sandburg family moves to Connemara Farm, Flat Rock, N.C.

Publishes Complete Poems; wins Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1951; receives many medals and honors, including National Institute of Arts and Letters gold medal for history and biography in 1952; writes prolifically; travels the country lecturing, reading poetry, and singing.

Delivers Lincoln Day address before joint session of Congress; travels to Moscow with Edward Steichen as cultural envoy for State Department and represents the United States at Family of Man exhibit; wins a Grammy Award, Best Spoken Word Performance, for his recording of Aaron Copland's A Lincoln Portrait with the New York Philharmonic.

Works as Hollywood film consultant; receives International United Poets Laureate award in 1963; receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

Receives honors from NAACP for his coverage of 1919 Chicago race riots and for his "life-long struggle to extend the frontiers of social justice."

Dies July 22 at home in Flat Rock, N.C., age 89; the nation mourns and acclaims him as writer, biographer, folksinger, lecturer, and Poet of the People.

Congress authorizes the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, the first park to honor a poet.

Lilian Steichen Sandburg dies February 18, age 93.

Visiting Connemara

A Place to Raise Goats

Carl Sandburg's wife Lilian had a deep interest in goats. But the prize-winning herd she developed in Michigan needed more room and a milder climate.

At Connemara Lilian Sandburg found what she wanted—a place where her husband could write, and she could raise goats. Here Lilian earned world fame for her work to improve the herd's bloodlines and milk production. In 1952 the herd numbered over 200. Helpers milked 50 to 80 does twice a day. In 1960 the top doe, Jennifer II, produced 5,750 pounds of milk, averaging 2.5 gallons per day. She was all-breed American champion in milk production and the World Toggenburg Champion.

The goats you see at Connemara are descended from Lilian's herd: Toggenburgs (tan and white), Saanens (white), and Nubians (multi, with long, floppy ears). After a five-month gestation period, kids are born in the spring.

About Your Visit

park map
(click for larger map)

Carl Sandburg's home may surprise you. The rooms are as the Sandburgs left them—warm, inviting, inspiring, and restful. Books and personal items are scattered about, as if the family will return at any moment from an evening walk. The home is filled with the presence of a spirited man whose writings echo the voice of the American people. Enjoy your visit. The home, farm, and beautiful natural setting will help restore your spirits.

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. Allow two hours to see the house and grounds.

Information Station Begin at the self-serve information station below the parking lot. Find exhibits, restrooms, and a map here. Then cross the footbridge and walk along the trail that follows the stone wall up the hill to the main house. This 0.3-mile trail climbs 100 feet—the height of a 10-story building. If you are unable to walk to the house, use the telephone in the parking lot or at the information station to call for assistance.

Visitor Center The visitor center is under the porch of the main house. It has films, exhibits, a bookstore, information, and ticket sales for the house tour.

Guided House Tours The only way to tour the main house is with a guide. Purchase tickets at the visitor center. A limited number of tickets are available for each tour, and there may be a waiting period. You may watch the films and see the grounds until your tour begins.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

—Carl Sandburg

Self-guiding Tours Explore the farm buildings on your own, or visit the goats, tour the dairy, or walk the trails. Five miles of trails—short or long, easy or vigorous—lead you to quiet spots in the forest or atop Glassy Mountain.

Many Activities The park has much to offer year-round. Baby goats are born in spring. In May the Folk Music Festival presents works from Sandburg's The American Songbag. In summer attend cheesemaking demonstrations, musical events, poetry readings, and performances by the Vagabond Players. In autumn enjoy cooler temperatures and colorful foliage on the mountains. Winter offers a welcome stillness on snowy days.

The sun on the hills is beautiful,
Or a captured sunset sea-flung,
Bannered with fire and gold.

—Carl Sandburg

Accessibility We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all; call or check our website. Shuttle service may be available; call to inquire from park phones at the information station or parking lot.

For a Safe Visit Please stay alert and observe these regulations. • Stay on established walks and trails-many trails have slippery, uneven surfaces and exposed tree roots. Be careful on steps and atop Glassy Mountain. • Be gentle with the goats. They can be frightened if someone yells or pokes at them. Keep your fingers away from their mouths. Stay with your small children; goats may accidentally knock them down. • Wash hands, especially those of young children, after visiting the barn area. • Be careful around ponds and lakes. Swimming, wading, and fishing are prohibited. • Watch out for poison ivy, ticks, snakes, and stinging insects. • Do not climb on fences or trees. • Pets must be leashed at all times and must stay outside the barnyard and buildings. Please clean up after your pet. • Fire risk on a farm is high; smoking is prohibited in buildings and discouraged in the park. • Federal laws protect all natural and cultural features in the park. • For firearms regulations check the park website.

Emergencies call 911

Getting Here The park, in Flat Rock, NC, is 30 miles south of Asheville, NC, and 35 miles north of Greenville, SC. From I-26, take exit 53 and follow park signs. From US 25, take exit 5 and follow park signs.

Source: NPS Brochure (2013)


Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site - October 17, 1968

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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section


A digital survey of mushrooms collected and documented at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Henderson County, Flat Rock, NC (Irene F. Van Hoff, 2010)

Archeological Overview and Assessment, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Heather Russo Pence, 1998)

Bats of Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Cowpens National Battlefield, Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Kings Mountain National Military Park, Ninety Six National Historic Site Final Report (Susan Loeb, July 2007)

Black Lives and Whitened Stories: From the Lowcountry to the Mountains — A Historic Resource Study of Black History at Rock HIll/Connemara (David W. Whisnant and Anne Mitchell Whisnant, November 2020)

Cultural Landscape Report: Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Susan Hart, December 1993)

Cultural Landscape Report: Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site 85% Draft Submittal (WLA Studio, September 2021)

Cumberland Piedmont Network Ozone and Foliar Injury Report — Carl Sandburg Home NHS, Guilford Courthouse NMP and Mammoth Cave NP: Annual Report 2012 NPS Natural Resource Data Series NPS/CUPN/NRDS—2014/676 (Johnathan Jernigan, Bobby C. Carson and Teresa Leibfreid, July 2014)

Foundation Document, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, North Carolina (July 2014)

Foundation Document Overview, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, North Carolina (August 2014)

General Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (2003)

Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/GRD/NRR-2012/501 (T.L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, March 2012)

Historic Furnishings Report: Main House and Swedish House Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, North Carolina (David H. Wallace, 1984)

Historic Furnishings Report Addendum and Update: Carl Sandburg Home, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Sarah H. Heald, November 2007)

Historic Structure Report: Barn Complex, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Joseph K. Oppermann-Architect, December 2014)

Historic Structure Report: Buck House — Phase 1, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Joseph K. Oppermann-Architect, December 2014)

Historic Structure Report: Chicken House/Wash House (Joseph K. Oppermann, September 2007)

Historic Structure Report: Connemara Main House (September 2005)

Historic Structure Report: Swedish House, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (September 2005)

Junior Ranger, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Date Unknown)

Junior Ranger (Spanish), Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Date Unknown)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

Connemara (Carl Sandburg Home) (March 11, 1969)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/CARL/NRR-2017/1373 (Peter C. Bates, Jerry R. Miller, Diane M. Styers, Carey Burday, Ron Davis, Thomas Martin and Brian D. Kloeppel, January 2017)

"The First National Historic Site Dedicated to a Poet:" A History of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, 1968-2008 (Ann E. McCleary and Donna Quinn Butler, September 2016)

The Swedish House Historic Structure Report (September 2005)

Vascular Plant Inventory and Plant Community Classification for Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (NatureServe, February 2003)

Handbooks ◆ Books expand section


Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Last Updated: 02-Dec-2021