The Robert Frost Farm in South Shaftsbury,
known as "The Gully," was closely associated with
the poet's life and work between 1929 and 1938. While this was
his residence, he received two Pulitzer Prizes, in 1931 for
Collected Poems and in 1937 for A Further Range.
Frost wrote many of the poems found in the latter volume at
Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874,
in San Francisco, California. He was the son of William Prescott
Frost, Jr., a newspaper reporter from Lawrence, Massachusetts
and Isabel Moodie Frost, a former teacher who had been born
in Edinburgh, Scotland. Robert was eleven years old when his
father died of tuberculosis. Honoring a last request, the family
took the body back to Lawrence for burial. No funds were available
for the return trip and Mrs. Frost settled with her children
- Robert and his younger sister Jeanie - in Salem, New Hampshire,
where she earned a living for several years by teaching school.
Frost entered Dartmouth College in the
fall of 1892 but disliked formal study so intensely that he
left after only two months. During the next two years, he earned
a living in miscellaneous ways while sending poems to uninterested
editors. In 1894, to celebrate his first sale of a poem - "My
Butterfly- An Elegy" - he privately printed six of his
poems in a booklet entitled Twilight, an edition limited
to two copies, one for his fiancee Elinor White and one for
After his marriage in 1895, Frost taught
for two years at his mother's private school in Lawrence and
then spent the next two years as a special student at Harvard.
In 1900, for health reasons, he moved to a small farm in Derry,
New Hampshire, and conducted a small poultry business there
until 1905. Failing as a farmer, he taught various subjects
at Derry from 1905 until 1911 and then moved to Plymouth, New
Hampshire, where he taught psychology for a year in the New
Hampshire State Normal School.
By 1912 Frost had decided to devote his
main efforts to poetry, and fortified with the money obtained
from the sale of his Derry farm and an annuity of $800 left
him by his grandfather, he set sail for England with his family.
Settling first in Buckinghamshire and then in Herefordshire,
he cultivated the friendship of a number of English poets. Composing
a few new poems and selecting others written at Derry and elsewhere,
Frost prepared a volume for publication. Mrs. Alfred Nutt of
London brought out the first book, A Boy's Will, in 1913.
A second, North of Boston, appeared the following year.
The cordial praise given these poems
by British men of letters won him lasting friendships in England
and attracted the surprised attention of critics and editors
in his native land. When he returned to the U.S. in 1915, his
first two books had been reissued in New York and North of
Boston soon became a best seller. A third volume, Mountain
Interval, was published in 1916.
After his return from England, Frost
purchased a farm two miles west of Franconia in the White Mountains
of New Hampshire. In 1917 he accepted a position as Professor
of English at Amherst College. During the rest of his life,
Frost spent a part of almost every year teaching and working
in a college atmosphere. As his reputation grew, the demands
made upon him as teacher decreased, and he held a number of
fellowships at various colleges, all of which gave him a great
deal of freedom to pursue his art. His major appointments were
at Amherst (1917-1920, 1923-1925, 1926-1938, 1949-1963), the
University of Michigan (1921-1923, 1925-1926), Harvard (1939-1942),
and Dartmouth (1943-1949).
Throughout his life, Frost continued
to return to the New England countryside when the weather was
good and his schedule permitted. In 1920 he bought the Peleg
Cole Farm in South Shaftsbury, Vermont. Eight years later Frost
purchased a second property in South Shaftsbury, a 153-acre
farm known as 'The Gully." The main house, a one-and-one-half
story frame and clapboard Cape Cod cottage, was built about
1790. During 1929 Wade Van Dore helped Frost to renovate the
property for occupancy; a former corn crib was remodeled for
use as the writer's studio and a one-room frame structure was
moved to the farm and prepared for use as studio space as well.
The Frost family spent their summers there from 1930 until the
death of Frost's wife in 1938, and considered the farm their
During the period Frost lived at "The
Gully" he received his second and third Pulitzer Prizes.
He also held a position at Amherst College during this period.
The agreement with the college, however, was a very elastic
one, and Frost was free to lecture and even teach at other institutions.
In 1931, 1933, and 1935, for example, he taught for short periods
at the New York School for Social Research, and in the spring
of 1936, he gave the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard
University. Despite his academic schedule, Frost continued to
produce great poetry during the same period. Both his Collected
Poems (1930) and A Further Range were honored by
the Pulitzer Prize. Frost wrote many of the poems found in the
latter volume at "The Gully," among them "Built-Soil,"
"A Record Stride," "A Drumlin Woodchuck,"
and the humorous piece, "To a Young Wretch."
Following the death of his wife, Frost
spent very little time at "The Gully" although he
retained title to the property until 1944, when it was conveyed
to his daughter-in-law, his grandson, and the grandson's wife.
In 1940, Frost purchased the Homer Noble Farm near Ripton, Vermont
and until his death in 1963, spent the summer and fall of each
year there. Springs were spent at Cambridge, Massachusetts and
winters at the New England style bungalow that he built on rural
land at Coral Gables, Florida.
Robert Frost reaped more honors during
his lifetime than any other American poet before him. On four
occasions he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: in 1924
for New Hampshire, in 1931 for Collected Poems,
in 1937 for A Further Range, and in 1943 for A Witness
Tree. In 1939 he became the third poet in history to receive
the coveted gold medal of the National Institute of Arts and
Letters. In 1958 he was appointed Consultant in Poetry to the
Library of Congress. Frost became such a national institution
that he was asked to read a poem at the inauguration of President
John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. Perhaps the most eloquent
tribute paid to him after his death was made by a fellow poet,
John Ciardi, who said simply: "He was our best."
remained in Frost's family until 1963 when it was sold to the
artist Kenneth Noland. With the exception of the barn, converted
for use as the artist's studio, and the installation of various
pieces of abstract sculpture on the lawn, few changes had been
made to the farm. "The Gully" was designated a National
Historic Landmark in May 1968, and at that time retained a high
level of historic integrity.
Alterations made after 1979 by a new
owner, however, were so extensive that the buildings no longer
retained their historic appearance. The alterations did not
meet the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.
The landscape of the property, important in Frost's poetry,
retained much of its historic integrity, however.
Unfortunately, while the landscape was
important in Frost's life and work, the main house and its outbuildings
were the essential elements of the Landmark designation. Their
loss of historic integrity was not counterbalanced by the continued
existence of the surrounding landscape. The Landmark designation
of the Robert Frost Farm was withdrawn on March 5, 1986; the
property remains listed on the National Register of Historic
Two other sites associated with Robert
Frost were also designated as Landmarks in May of 1968. Both
of these - the Robert Frost Homestead in Rockingham County,
New Hampshire and the Robert Frost Farm in Addison County, Vermont
- retain their designations.