Visiting the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock (History + the Best Things to Do)

Last Updated on September 23, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

The Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock (near Hendersonville) preserves the literary legend’s former residence (Connemara), where he and his wife Lilian lived for 20-plus years.

After Carl died in 1967, Lilian transferred the property to the US Government in 1968. The National Parks Service restored the house and has managed the property as a National Historic Site ever since.

Learning about Sandburg’s work and his final years in North Carolina is one of the many things to do today. You can also walk around the property, hike its five miles of trails, and visit the famed Connemara Farms Goats.

Before visiting this NC Bucket List-worthy place, we think there are a few things you should know. Our guide will cover it all, and here’s how we’ve organized it:

  • Who was Carl Sandburg? (His Life and Work)
  • Establishing the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site
  • Visiting the Carl Sandburg Home Today
  • Admission Information
  • Things to Do in the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site (Hiking Trails, Connemara Farms Goats, and More!)
  • Nearby Places and Things to Do

You can scroll ahead to a specific section or continue reading for an introduction to Carl Sandburg.

This post is part of our series on National Parks Sites, fun things to do in the Hendersonville area, and our favorite things to do in Western North Carolina.

Who was Carl Sandburg?

Carl Sandburg Home

On January 6, 1878, Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, and is best known for his work as a performer, poet, and writer—winning three Pultizer Prizes.

Along with his poetry, Sandburg worked as a newspaperman, local news reporter, investigative reporter, war correspondent, movie critic, and nationally syndicated columnist for five decades.

His literary start came while writing poetry in college. Sandburg’s first booklets were published by one of his favorite professors, Phillip Green Wright.

Meeting Lilian, Chicago, and The Chicago Race Riots

After finishing school, Carl held a series of different jobs for more than a decade. He was also a sought-after public speaker and even met his wife, Lilian Steichen, while speaking at the party headquarters of the Social Democratic Party of Wisconsin in 1907.

The couple married in 1908 and moved to Chicago a few years later. There, Carl worked as a journalist and wrote for business journals and socialist journals and newspapers.

One assignment led Sandburg to cover racial tensions, and his work caught the eye of a high-ranking official of the NAACP, Joel Spingarn. This led to the publishing of The Chicago Race Riots, July, 1919.

For that book and Sandburg’s support for the Civil Rights Movement, Sandburg was the first white man to receive Silver Plaque Award (1965).

Poetry and History Writing Acclaim

His wife encouraged him to continue writing poetry, and he received his first big recognition in 1914 when several of his works were published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.

His first collection (Chicago Poems) was published in 1916, and his Corn Huskers won Sandburg the first of his three Pulitzers in 1919.

Carl’s prose also earned recognition, including the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1940 for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.

Move to Flat Rock (Connemara) and Final Works

Carl Sandburg Home barn

In 1945, Carl and Lilian relocated to a 246-acre property in Flat Rock, known as Connemara. Mr. Sandburg spent the remaining 22 years of his life here.

Of course, he stayed busy, publishing more work, speaking throughout the country, and earning his second Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (third overall) with Complete Poems in 1951.

Sandburg was awarded the Robert Frost Medal in 1952 for his “distinguished lifetime service to American poetry.” In 1959, he gave an address at a joint session of Congress to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

Harvest Poems, 1910-1960 (1960), and Honey and Salt (1963) were his final published works. On July 22, 1967, Carl Sandburg died at Connemara of natural causes.

He left behind Lilian, three daughters, two granddaughters, and a massive legacy that his wife would quickly work to preserve.

Establishing the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Lilian deeded the property to the US Government in 1968, who enlisted the National Parks Service to manage it.

Following restoration efforts to the home and property, it opened to the public as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in 1974. Thanks to the Consolidated Natural Resources Acts of 2008, the property expanded by 115 acres for additional parking and a visitor center.

Visiting the Carl Sandburg Home Today

Carl Sandburg Home chair

The Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is open seven days a week, year-round, and only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Admission Information

Note that the Carl Sandburg Home is currently closed, but the grounds are free to enter.

Entrance to the park is free, but entry to the actual home requires a guided tour. Sandburg Home guided tour fees are the following:

  • Adults (16+): $10
  • Adults Aged 62+ and Interagency Pass Holders: $6
  • Ages 15 and Under: Free

Reservations are recommended since tours fill up fast. Reserving in advance lets you pick your preferred tour time.

Free parking is available at the entrance of the park. A Hikers’ Parking Lot is a half-mile down Little River Rd from the Visitor Parking Lot.

Things to Do

Things to do at the Carl Sandburg Home include hiking trails on the farm where Mrs. Sandburg’s raised champion goats.

Special events and ranger programs are fun for all age groups, and the park store is available for all your souvenir needs.

The Connemara Farms Goats

Carl Sandburg Home goats

While Mrs. Sandburg lived at Connemara, she operated a dairy farm here from 1935 to 1965.

The breeding program and champion goats she raised led to overall improvements in dairy goat farming. Overall, she raised three breeds: Saanen, Toggenburg, and Nubian.

And in fact, the goats at the house today are direct descendants of all three of Mrs. Sandburg’s breeds. 15 of these are kept on the premises at any given time.

You can stop and say “hi!” to the Connemara Farms Goats while walking around the property.

Hiking Trails

Carl Sandburg Home trails

There are about five miles of trails to explore at the Carl Sandburg home. The trails range from easy to moderate, and hikers will see quiet ponds, rock outcroppings, and the summit of Glassy Mountain.

  • Entrance Trail: Starts at the main parking area and crosses a bridge at the dam. The trail then goes up the hill towards the main house. This trail is the way to the house, so anyone who plans to tour the house can expect to use this one!
  • Front Lake Loop: This trail circles the lake and provides an alternate, steeper, hike option towards the main house and Memminger trail. 
  • The Memminger Trail: Mostly-level loop that starts and ends at the main house and wraps around Little Glassy Mountain.
  • Little Glassy Trail: Cuts through the middle of Memminger Trail and takes you over the top of the mountain. 
  • Glassy Mountain Trail: Climbs the far end of the Memminger Trail to the summit of Big Glassy Mountain. Hikers will get to experience great views and the open rock face of the mountain.
  • Spring and Orchard Trails: Wind through the agricultural areas near the main house. 

We also included these trails in our guides to hiking in Hendersonville and hikes near Asheville!

Visit The Park Store

The Carl Sandburg Home Park Store is operated by America’s National Parks, which works with the National Parks Service. You can typically visit the store from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm every day, except for major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

You’ll normally find the store on the ground floor of the Carl Sandburg Home, but since 2020, it has been serving as an outside pop-up.

Special Events (for Groups and Indviduals)

Another fun reason to visit the Carl Sandburg Home is for the special events and programs. Some of the biggest events include the Home’s Memorial Day Folk Music Festival, Sandburg Sing-alongs, and Christmas at Connemara.

When the house is open to visitors, park rangers will give special talks about cheese-making, offer historic grounds tours, and more!

Group Tours

The Carl Sandburg Home also hosts groups that include schools and homeschooled children (reservation info here), summer camps, and youth groups (reservation info here).

Adult groups of 10 or more people are also welcome, but the park requests that you make a reservation here before visiting.

Ready to Visit the Carl Sandburg Home?

With so many fun things to do, you can see why we think you should visit the Carl Sandburg Home.

Thanks to preservation efforts to the home, its surroundings, and the Connemara Goats, we think a visit here is one of the best things to do in North Carolina.

If you’ve visited before, we’d love to read your thoughts on this wonderful spot in Western North Carolina. If you haven’t visited yet, we’d love to know your first impression.

Either way, let us know in the comments below. However, before you tell us all about the Carl Sandburg Home, here are a few nearby places to check out.

Nearby Places and Things to Do

This wonderful national parks site is an easy day trip from Asheville, a great introduction to Flat Rock, and a short drive from Hendersonville. Both are among our favorite mountain towns.

Here’s a breakdown of what to do in each town.

Flat Rock

Apple Picking in Hendersonville orchards

Flat Rock and its Henderson County surroundings also form the heart of NC’s apple country. Some amazing apple orchards in the area include Sky Top, which has animals to visit, a playground to get those wiggles out, and apple cider donuts to devour!

Before or after your visit to the Carl Sandburg Home, there are some pretty great food options. Here are a few of our favorites:

Don’t forget to stop at The Wrinkled Egg before you head out. They sell unique gifts, local art, and pottery for you to take home.

Hendersonville (and Henderson County Neighbors)

Jump Off Rock Hendersonville North Carolina

Hendersonville is the biggest town in Henderson County, known for great wineries (and breweries), amazing apple orchards, and late summer’s Apple Festival (and apple picking, too!). We love walking around its downtown but also the fun things to do nearby.

Jump Off Rock is one of them, about 15 minutes outside Hendersonville in Laurel Park. From this easy-to-reach overlook, you can enjoy epic views of the valley below, a picnic, a sunset, or a romantic date.

It’s also one of the few great spots for hiking in the area, with a few designated trails open to everyone. Bearwallow Mountain is another great spot to go hiking in the area, but many people (including us) also love the awesome DuPont State Forest.

The latter park is home to a few of our favorite waterfalls, including Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, High Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.

We can keep going on and on forever about great things to do near the Carl Sandburg Home. However, you can find more about these places and more in these guides.

More Things to Do in Henderson County

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