On Wednesday, October 17, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. with a live reading until 1 p.m. of Sandburg’s long poem The People, Yes by readers who signed up to read five-minute sections. From 2–4 p.m., guest speakers, including poets Glenis Redmond and Kimberly Simms, will reflect on the significance of the park and the poet. The folk music of Grammy- award-winning musician Dan Zanes will conclude the program. Special tours of the home and activity stations on the grounds are scheduled throughout the day. The anniversary’s theme, Nothing Happens Unless First a Dream, was taken from Sandburg’s poem, Washington Monument by Night. There is no charge for the event.
Visitors will see the results of years of preservation work on the house and grounds and a brand-new amphitheater for the park with improved accessibility and increased seating. “We began a multi-year preservation project of the Sandburg Home in 2015,” says Sarah Perschall, chief of visitor services and administration. “From 2015 to 2017, all of the windows in the house were repaired, repainted and reglazed, siding was repaired, the interior and exterior were repainted, floors were cleaned, plaster walls were repaired and the conservatory was completely rebuilt.” Work involved temporary removal of furnishings and Sandburg’s more than 10,000 books. The main barn and some outdoor structures were also renovated.
Born the son of Swedish immigrants in Galesburg, IL, in 1878, Sandburg traveled widely as a young man and became a social activist and champion of labor rights, making him a poet popular with the masses. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for his biography, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. In 1945, he and his wife Lilian moved to the historic Flat Rock home, Connemara.
There, she raised her prize-winning dairy goats and he continued to write, securing his second Pulitzer Prize for Complete Poems. He died at the home in 1967.
Each year, around 80,000 people visit the site that was preserved through the efforts of Mrs. Sandburg and the National Park Service (NPS). After Sandburg’s death, the Secretary of the Interior at the time, Stewart Udall, visited Flat Rock, walking with Mrs. Sandburg to the top of Big Glassy Mountain to discuss ways to preserve Sandburg’s legacy. That led to the home’s being authorized as a unit of the NPS on October 17, 1968.
“As a poet, he is a major influence on my work in both form and also topic, celebrating American workers and the struggles of everyday people,” Simms says. “Sandburg was truly a poet of the people.”
Redmond met and corresponded with the Sandburgs’ daughter Helga for many years. “I feel a kinship for Carl Sandburg and the land on which his home, Connemara, sits,” Redmond says. “There is a mystical quality that speaks to me.”
To learn more, visit NPS.gov/carl or call 828.693.4178.