Carl Sandburg Home

About the Sandburg Home National Historic Site

white house at atop a hill surrounded by shrubbery with three chimneys and a small old outbuilding/barn on far left of frame.
The Carl Sandburg Home Historic Site is a fun and educational roadside attraction with something for the entire family. Home Tours, hiking trails, picnic tables, special programs, and last but not least a barn full of goats.

In the 19th Century, Flat Rock, North Carolina was the summer playground of the rich and influential. Nicknamed “Little Charleston in the Mountains”, the population would swell starting in late spring with people fleeing the mosquitoes and heat of the Carolina Coast.

white house on top of hill looks smaller than it is pond in foreground with ice on top and a National Park Service interpretive sign with a picture of Carl Sandburg and the words "An American Classic" the rest of the writing is too small to read
The Sandburg home in Flat Rock at the top of a hill during late winter. The pond at the base of the hill is still frozen over.

It was here that Christopher Memminger chose to build his summer home. Memminger, a successful Charleston lawyer, would later become the first Confederate Secretary of the Treasury and was the chief architect of Jefferson Davis’ economic policies. In the 1830’s he built a Greek Revival mansion in Flat Rock and called it “Rock Hill” as it was on the slope of Big Glassy Mountain.

Paved bath over a bridge between a pond and a dam with the sandburg house visible in the left background.
From the parking lot the path to the Sandburg Home heads over the pond dam and up a fairly steep hill. Once at the top, you can visit the house, the many outbuildings, and the barn where the Sandburg Goats still live.

In the years after Memminger’s death, the house and surrounding acreage were bought and sold to number of wealthy families who continued to use it as a summer home. It was eventually sold to Ellison Adger Smyth, a textile magnate from South Carolina. He changed the name of the property form “Rock Hill” to “Connemara” after his ancestral district in County Galway, Ireland.

Carl Sandburg Makes his Home in the Mountains

Carl Sandburg Home close up - large white house from front with porch featuring 4 columns and a "T" style staircase. Large shrubs on the left of the house obscure just how large the home is.
Carl Sandburg Home From the top of the hill.

While Smyth was amassing his fortune, Carl Sandburg was hard at work honing his craft. Beginning his career as a reporter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he later served as a secretary to Emil Seidel, socialist mayor of Milwaukee. Sandburg and his wife Lilian later moved to Chicago where he was hired as a reporter by The Chicago Daily News. This is about the time he began writing poetry and won his first Pulitzer for his collection “Cornhuskers”. He also began working on his six volume biography of Abraham Lincoln that would later earn him yet another Pulitzer.

Three goats sleeping in a pasture at the Carl Sandburg Home with fencing behind them
Three of the Sandburg’s Chikaming Goats relaxing in the pasture behind the barn. The goats at the Sandburg Home Site are the descendants of the original prize winning goats raised by Mrs. Sandburg.

By the 1940’s Sandburg and his wife where living in Michigan and began looking for a new home in a warmer climate. Lillian Sandburg had begun raising a heard of prize winning goats that was rapidly expanding. She needed a more suitable location to raise her “Chikaming Goats” and her husband needed peace and solitude for his writing. They found both when they arrived at Connemara in 1945. “What a hell of a baronial estate for an old Socialist,” Sandburg is reported to have said when he first saw his new home. But he and Lillian moved in and set about turning this once lavish estate into a working farm and writers retreat.

red barn at the top of a hill surrounded by fences with goats in the pasture photo taken in winter so grass is brown
The Barn is where Mrs. Sandburg raised hew prize winning goats. Your visit to the Sandburg Home wouldn’t be complete without taking the short walk to Connemara Dairy.

During the following 22 years, Carl Sandburg would continue to write. He produced a third of his written works while living at Connemara and would go on to win his third Pulitzer. In 1965, while living in the home built by Christopher Memminger, the man considered to be the principle author of the Confederate Constitution, Carl Sandburg became the first white man to be awarded the NAACP’s Silver Plaque Award and was referred to as a “major prophet of civil rights in our time.”

multi story white house with a covered area near the side door and multiple chimneys
From the top of the hill, hill can get a true feel for just how large the Sandburg House is.

After Carl Sandburg’s death in 1967, Lillian Sandburg offered the farm in Flat Rock to the US Government to be used as memorial to her husband.

The Sandburg Home Today

The home and 264 surrounding acres are open to the public seven days a week excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The home has been turned into a museum featuring photographs, letters, maps, books, as well as Sandburg family belongings illustrating how they lived at Connemara in the middle of the 20th Century.

circular pond at the top of a hill with distant mountains in view above the trees
The Sandburg’s view from their Flat Rock home. Today, the guest parking lot can be seen at the base of the hill.

After touring the house, you can stroll around the other preserved buildings, most of them original to the property. Just outside you’ll find what was originally the kitchen but was converted into a garage when the Sandburgs updated the home. No visit would be complete without a walk to the barn where you’ll find the decedents of Lillian Sandburg’s goats.

two bat garage with french doors between bays
Stately Homes in the early 19th Century were built with detached kitchens in case of fire. When the Sandburgs moves into their new home in the North Carolina Mountains, they added a kitchen to the interior of the house and converted the original kitchen into a garage.

The 264 acres of the park include pastures, ponds, and small mountains. Over five miles of hiking trails run throughout including a 3 mile trek to the Glassy Mountain look out, one of the Sandburgs’ favorite spots. Picnic tables can be found near the main entrance.

small two door white wooden building with a red barrel on the right hand side and a ramp leading to a side window
Along with the house and barn, there are many more historic buildings and even at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. This building dating to the time of the Memmingers was originally used as slave quarters. Later after the Civil War it was converted to a washroom. When the Sandbergs arrived, they turned it into a chicken house.

You might want to plan your visit around some of the special events held at the amphitheater built by the park service. Visit the Sandburg House Online to find out about music festivals, sing-along, readings of Carl Sandburg’s poetry, or their special Christmas program.

long open ended shed with some equipment visible inside. a gravel path runs past
The Sandburgs used the old woodshed as storage for farm equipment. Some of the tools the used are still safely stored under its roof.

Fast Facts About the Carl Sandburg Home

Type:Historic Home and Park part of the National Parks Service
Admission:Free for grounds, trails and barn
House Tour: $8.00 Adults 16 and older; $5.00 Adults 62 and older; Children 15 and under free
Location:1800 Little River Rd, Flat Rock, NC 28731
Phone(828) 693-4178
Jump to map

Things to do at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site: Home Tours, Special Programs, Barn Tours, Hiking, Bird Watching, Picnic Tables

Map to Carl Sandburg Home