At ‘This Place in History’, we’re in Brattleboro with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.
“So we’re standing on the side of the road with this sign behind us that says Naulakha. Now what does that mean? That was the home of famed British author Rudyard Kipling. I don’t think many people know that he lived here for four years and wrote The Jungle Books. So we’re going to go up and take a look at his house,” said Steve.
“Rudyard Kipling was an English author. When he lived here in Naulakha, he was the most famous author in the world and he continues to be one of the most published authors in the world. He once said that he never got writer’s block, that he just had this deep well of imagination that he could draw off of anytime he wanted,” introduced Landmark Trust USA‘s Kelly Carlin.
“He spent the first six years of his life in India, that’s where his parents lived, while his father oversaw a museum. When he was six he was sent to England to live with a foster family so he could begin his formal education and he stayed there until he was 17, when he got his first job. And that’s when he really started blossoming as a writer. He eventually met his wife to be in England. Mrs. Kipling’s family was from Dummerston. He once said his most favorite places in the world were Bombay, India and Brattleboro, Vermont.”
“This is the only house he ever designed and built for himself. He built it to look like a ship. So it’s 90 feet long and just 22 feet wide. And he imagined he would ride his ship-house over the mountains of Vermont, having many wonderful journeys and writing about them which is exactly what he did,” continued Carlin.
“So we’re talking 1890s. He left in 1896 and he didn’t come back. Why is that?” asked Perkins.
“Actually they were headed back at one point. They traveled across the ocean to England and they were on their way back. Both he and his daughter contracted pneumonia. He recovered in New York and she did not. And without her and the connection she created for him to this house, he couldn’t come back again. So that was the end of it,” answered Tristam Johnson.
“They say he was heartbroken. He called her his little American, Josephine. And when she died, he just couldn’t bring himself to come back here again,” added Carlin.
“Well the house was on the market for quite a few years. Eventually, a local Brattleboro family, who was also a friend of the family, bought the house and really only used it as a summer residence. So when we purchased the house, over 25 years ago, it had been abandoned for 50 years. The entire south foundation has collapsed and there was a family of raccoons living in here. But all the furniture was still here, the books were still here, the curtains were still hanging on the windows. So it was like a time capsule,” said Carlin.
“The first room you walk into is the loggia, that was Kipling’s favorite room of all of the rooms of the house. He called that room the joy of the house. To the left of that is the dining room and the kitchen. To the right of that is Mrs. Kipling’s study and we’re here in Mr. Kipling’s study. This was where he could be the captain of his ship, so this is where he did his writing.”
“Above this room is actually the children’s room. He didn’t really think about the fact that the children were above his study when he designed his house and apparently the pitter patter of little feet was somewhat distracting. So he ended up taking all of the floorboards out and packing the floor with seaweed. And when we did the restoration on the house, that seaweed was still there.”
“So we have the children’s night nursery and day nursery and then the Kipling bedroom. At the other end of the house, we have the guest bedroom where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stayed when he came for a visit. Then at the end of the house is the servant’s bedroom. And then you can’t miss the top floor, that’s where the game room is. There’s a full size pool table up there and another room with some interesting museum pieces,” concluded Carlin.
“The Landmark Trust USA makes all of these historic properties available for rent for short-term vacations. We’re trying to preserve things that are culturally significant, historically important. So people come and rent this house for a weekend or a week and it comes fully equipped, fully furnished. It just needs the guests and whatever they’re going to consume,” said Johnson.
Interesting in a stay at Rudyard Kipling’s Naulakha? Click here.
For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.
To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historical markers, click here.
To contact Landmark Trust USA, call 802 254 6868, or visit our www.landmarktrustusa.org.