August 9th was the 160th anniversary of the publication of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, the celebrated transcendentalist’s ode to living in the natural world. Part personal experiment, part social satire, Walden was a slow-burning success that has since become one of the most iconic pieces of Americana literature. So, what (and where) is this famed place called “Walden”?
Not Actually a Pond
Though it’s known as Walden Pond, the body of water in question is actually a lake. Located in Concord, Massachusetts, it’s the type of lake referred to as a “kettle hole,” and was formed by receding glaciers over 10,000 years ago.
Owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson
At the time of Thoreau’s stay at Walden, the lake was on property owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson let Thoreau build a log cabin on the land and live there for two years, during which time Thoreau immersed himself in nature in order to reflect on humanity and society.
Thoreau and Emerson Weren’t its Only Famed Frequenters
In Walden, Thoreau made mention of watching Boston’s “Ice King,” Frederic Tudor, harvest the lake’s ice. In today’s world of automated ice-making machines this may seem a strange sort of profession, but Tudor actually made a fortune selling ice from Massachusetts to India, Europe and the Caribbean.
You Can Visit it Virtually
So well known has Walden Pond become after Thoreau’s reflection on his time spent there, a three-dimensional video game has been created so people everywhere can visit, too. In 2012 the American National Endowment for the Arts granted the University of Southern California $40,000 to create an online video game adaptation of Walden, in which players “will inhabit an open, three-dimensional game world which will simulate the geography and environment of Walden Woods.”
To learn more about Henry David Thoreau and his works, visit the Thoreau Reader online (or check out Walden from your local library!).
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