HARVARD — To the casual observer, the two New England utopian communities, Fruitlands in Harvard and Brook Farm in Roxbury, could not have been more different. One lasted seven months, the other seven years. One had less than 20 members, the other several hundred.
It takes a keen eye, such as Sterling F. Delano’s, to discern the similarities. Delano, author of the recently published “Brook Farm: The Dark Side of Utopia” (Harvard University Press), will give a lively, informal talk at Fruitlands on Sunday, Oct. 16, at 4 p.m. that will “underscore the ways in which these two communities resembled one another.”
Both, for example, put a high value on education and education reform. It is true Alcott barely had a chance to put his ideas into practice before Fruitlands folded, whereas George Ripley, founder of Brook Farm, made education a viable source of income and a model for future educators such as John Dewey. Still, the two communities shared a real commitment to experiential learning and equal opportunity for boys and girls.
What other common threads link these two high-minded communities?
Delano, an English professor at Villanova and a Trustee of the Thoreau Society, will discuss the links between these two memorable progressive social experiments and frame them in the Utopian Movement of the 1840s. In addition, he will give a brief reading from his new book, which tells the story of the financial stresses and class tensions that led to Brook Farm’s eventual demise.
Delano’s talk and book signing (free to museum members and $5 for all others) begins at 4 p.m. in the Picture Gallery at Fruitlands on the last Renewal Day of the season.
Against the backdrop of October leaf colors, Fruitlands is spectacular this time of year. Come for the day, have a picnic, have brunch at restaurant, roam the galleries, walk the labyrinth, enjoy the peace and beauty of a rare New England treasure, and dip into one or all the special offerings of the day.
At the gift shop, for example, visitors can taste and compare a variety of apple pies right out of Eileen Kronauer’s kitchen. The recipes come from her popular and engaging book “The Apple of Your Pie,” which includes the history and lore of apples, as well as a plethora of wonderful pie recipes. The tasting and book signing run from 1 to 3 p.m., when Kronauer will be on hand to share her knowledge of apples and their many virtues. Not to mention the fact that “Kronauer makes the best crusts,” according to the manager of the gift.
Meanwhile, at the Wayside, kids of all ages can immerse themselves in the stories and craft projects that reflect the museum’s early American collections.
With Fruitlands’ four galleries, hiking trails, Museum Store and restaurant there is something for everyone in the family, from kids to grandparents.
Fruitlands’ collections and site reveal the spirit and history of New England’s people and their relationship to the land.
For information, private guided tours, programs or membership, call (978) 456-3924 or visit www.fruitlands.org.