What to Do at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site


Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Grant

The Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site preserves the final residence of famed American poet, writer, journalist and singer Carl Sandburg. Located in Western North Carolina, this site provides a glimpse into the mind, heart and family of the “Poet of the People.”

You can visit this home, walk the grounds of the 270-acre farm, tour the house, and see the active goat farm. For literature and history buffs, this site is perfect for a deep dive into the world of Sandburg. There are trails for folks looking to stretch their legs. For parents, Connemara Farms allows your kids to see and interact with the herd of dairy goats first established by Sandburg’s wife, Lilian “Paula” Steichen Sandburg.

The barn at the farm at the Carl Sandburg Home
The barn of Connemara Farms

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Who is Carl Sandburg?

When Carl Sandburg died, then President Lyndon Johnson said “Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America.”

Sandburg won three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his extensive biography of Abraham Lincoln and two for his poetry. His poetry was known for tackling the social issues of the day as well as eschewing the rigidity of verse used by his contemporaries. 

The writing room at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
Carl Sandburg’s writing room, where he wrote about a third of all his published pieces.

He also wrote children’s stories, like Rootabaga Stories, which focused on developing American fairy tales.   

Rootabaga Stories
Rootabaga Stories
Sandburg, Carl (Author); English (Publication Language); 192 Pages – 04/01/2003 (Publication Date) – Clarion Books (Publisher)
$7.99 Amazon Prime

Visiting the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

The Carl Sandburg Home NHS is located in Flat Rock, NC, about 40 minutes south of Asheville.

While the grounds of the park are open daily year-round, staffing limits the house/visitor center to Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., depending on the season. The farm is open every day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

The Carl Sandburg home
The Carl Sandburg home

Most folks can visit this park in about two hours.

Parking at the Park

When you arrive at the Carl Sandburg Home, you will find a small main visitor parking lot. There are a few spaces for RVs but not trailers. This lot fills quickly and was completely full when we visited on a Saturday in June. 

If you keep going about half a mile, you will find the gravel Hikers’ Parking Lot, which is where we parked. You can also park across the street from the main lot in the Flat Rock Playhouse parking lot but only if there is not a performance scheduled for that day. 

The road to the Carl Sandburg Home
Walking the road to the Sandburg Home from the Hikers’ Lot

If you park at the playhouse or the main lot, you will walk up a 0.3-mile trail to get to the home. Unfortunately, as of August 2022, there is a detour around a failing dam which adds a steep additional 0.4 miles to the walk to the home. The National Park Service is in the process of repairing the dam but there is no estimate when it will be repaired. The park does offer a shuttle when staffing allows due to the closure of the bridge and dam.

If you park at the hikers’ lot, the walk is a level 0.4-mile walk to the farm. Regardless of where you park, you’ll do a little walking to reach the farm, so just keep that in mind.

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.
“Under the Harvest Moon” by Carl Sandburg

Touring the Carl Sandburg Home

In order to tour the Carl Sandburg Home, you must book your tickets in advance (up to 30 days) on recreation.gov. The tours have a per-person cost even if you have an America the Beautiful Pass. While admission to the park is free, house tours are not covered by the passes.

Once you have tickets for the tour, you need to be at the home at least 15 minutes before the tour and the park recommends arriving at one of the parking lots at least 30 minutes before your tour to make sure you have plenty of time to make it to the house. 

The dining room of the Carl Sandburg home
The dining room of the Carl Sandburg home

The tour winds through the home, including upstairs, which is rare in historic homes! As we toured the home, we got to see the original furniture and hear stories of the Sandburgs’ lives at the home and the history of the house.

The house predates the Sandburgs’ arrival by more than a hundred years. It was originally built by a wealthy Charleston, SC politician as a summer home and was called Rock Hill. It was not until the third owner, who bought the home in 1900, was the name changed to Connemara after his ancestral home in Ireland. 

Carl Sandburg's bedroom
Carl Sandburg’s bedroom, surprisingly devoid of books

The Sandburgs bought the home in 1945, partly for the climate, partly so Paula could raise her award-winning goats. The Sandburgs lived in the house until Carl passed in 1967. Carl wrote a third of his works at this home. 

The things that struck us most about the tour were the bookshelves, which permeated pretty much every room, and the fact the Sandburgs lived here with their children and grandchildren. While the home is large, it is not THAT large! 

If you are wondering if you should do the tour of the home, the answer is most certainly yes. We learned so much about Sandburg and his life here. 

THERE is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.
From “Wilderness” by Carl Sandburg

Getting in Touch with the Goats of Connemara Farms

In addition to preserving the home, the National Park Service maintains a historic herd of dairy goats at the farm. We toured the farm, which goes into detail about Paula’s passion for raising goats. 

The barn not only is active for the goats, but it also houses several exhibits on Paula’s legacy and the goat farming operations. Outside, you can walk out in the pasture and can even brush a goat! Seriously, the National Park Service and the volunteers allow guests to grab a brush and brush the goats. It is pretty cool.

Most years, the farm breeds the goats and you can expect kids in the spring. This year, though, the herd was too young to breed and at capacity, so no baby goats for Bonnie to fawn over (she thinks all baby animals are “so cute!”).

Where to Stay (Or Not Stay) 

Were we to do this visit over again, we would stay in or around Asheville. It is an excellent city with a lot to see and do. You could also tie this in with a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Due to the schedule we had, we ended up staying in Winston-Salem, which is about 2.5 hours away, at Tanglewood Park. Originally, we were going to stay much closer to the park but between scheduling our tour and driving south from Shenandoah National Park, we ended up in Winston-Salem.

Read more about our visit to Shenandoah National Park here.

That said, the campground was excellent and we would certainly stay there again. While our site was quite unlevel from front to back, we were able to make do fairly well. If our camper was longer, we would have had some serious difficulty with that site, however. 

Still, the campground was convenient to plenty of restaurants and the Interstate, and the campsites and bathrooms were clean. The WiFi was a bit spotty, so not a great place if you have a lot of work to do. But, we have added it to our list of places we would return to. Also, it is not far from Guilford Courthouse National Military Park if you are looking to fit in another park!

Read our full campground review on RV Life here.

Final Thoughts on the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

With its location in the mountains, the Carl Sandburg Home NHS is certainly a scenic park. Additionally, it offers a variety of things to see and do, making it an interesting stop for many different people.

We really enjoyed the house tour. Both Bonnie and I learned a lot about an American poet whose prose captivated the country. We also got to tour the farm and pet some goats, which was really cool! 

Inside the barn at the Carl Sandburg Home.
Bonnie checking out an exhibit on the award-winning goats raised by Paula Sandburg (Carl’s wife).

We can easily see why this site would become a favorite place to spend a weekend afternoon just meandering through the farm and walking the trails through the woods.

If you’re in the area, it is certainly worth the visit! 

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2 thoughts on “What to Do at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site”

  1. Hey!
    Love this issue but particularly the Carl Sandburg stop. Serene setting both in the photos and poetry. Grant, your writing is a great accompaniment. Well done.

    And, Bonnie?????? a natural brushing the goats!

    A great issue. ❤️


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