Interiors: Den at “Slabsides,” John Burroughs’s rustic cabin, West Park, New York.

slabsides interior by daniel case

This very interesting room is part of an equally interesting house called Slabsides, which exists on a property known as Riverby in the town of West Park, New York, not too far from Poughkeepsie. The house, mostly a log cabin, was built in 1895 mostly from local materials, and you can see this room is furnished entirely with hand-made furniture which is also entirely local. The man who did this and who called this place home was John Burroughs, a writer and naturalist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He came from the same tradition of contemplative literary naturalists as John Muir and Walt Whitman, both of whom he knew well. These men liked to live and camp in close proximity to nature and were environmentally-minded, but whose environmental consciousness had a spiritual and expressive dimension rather than a strictly political one. Burroughs’s writings are similar to those of Whitman, Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson, though his writing has proven much less popular and visible than theirs.

Slabsides is an interesting place. If you look closely you can tell that a writer lived here. I suspect the huge tome on the desk is a dictionary, but look also at the books in the bookcase at lower left. There’s an ink blotter, very splotched, a few magazines, and a lot of photographs that appear to date from the period. Burroughs entertained guests here such as his friend Whitman and even President Theodore Roosevelt, whose efforts at environmental policy came very much from the same conservation tradition as Burroughs embodied. Burroughs also spent a lot of time here with his lover, Clara Barrus, who organized and published his papers after his death. Burroughs died in 1921 on a train. His last words were, “How are away are we from home?”

This photo is by Wikimedia Commons user Daniel Case and is used under Creative Commons 3.0 (Attribution)  License.
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1 Comment

  1. In his later years Burroughs spent many of his vacations travelling with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

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