have a sort of sea-feeling here in the country … My room
seems a ship’s cabin; and at
nights when I wake up and hear the winds shrieking, I almost fancy
there is too much sail on the house, and I had better go on the
roof and rig the chimney.” –
Herman Melville, December 1850
Arrowhead and the Berkshires inspired and nurtured Herman Melville.
In 1850, Melville impulsively purchased the Brewster farm of 160
acres. Named “Arrowhead” after the artifacts found
in the fields, the old farmhouse was soon filled with eleven members
of the Melville family – Herman and Elizabeth, their four
children, Herman’s mother and several sisters. It was a
busy, chaotic household.
Herman created a refuge from this chaos in his second-floor library.
Keeping to a regular writing schedule, he completed four novels
and many short pieces. The works Melville wrote at Arrowhead included
Moby-Dick, Pierre, The Confidence-Man, and such short stories
as “I and My Chimney,” “Benito Cereno,”
and “Bartleby the Scrivener.”
The view of Mount Greylock from Melville’s study window
was his inspiration for the white whale in Moby-Dick. He dedicated
his next novel, Pierre, to Mount Greylock. His short story, “The
Piazza,” begins at Arrowhead and takes a magical journey
to the mountain.
Melville lived, farmed, and wrote at Arrowhead for 13 years. Although
he was writing his best work, he was not making a living. As much
as Melville loved the Berkshires, he grew frustrated at the lack
of success of his writing career and found his debts mounting.
Pressured to find gainful employment, Melville decided it was
time to move his family from his beloved farm and return to New
York City. There he found work as a customs inspector at the New
York Customs House, a job he held for over 20 years. The man who
had sailed the world and written the greatest of American literature
now found himself confined to a job that paid four dollars a day.
He died in 1891.
Melville sold Arrowhead to his brother Allan who used it as a
summer home. Melville continued to visit Arrowhead through the
1880s. The Melville family owned the house until 1927. In 1975,
the Berkshire Historical Society purchased the house and began