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Not Many People Know That The First Utopia In America Was Right Here In Massachusetts

Massachusetts has always led the nation in social progress and education, but did you know that the country’s first utopia was right here in the Bay State?

Located in West Roxbury, Brook Farm was an early attempt to create the perfect society. It was founded by Unitarian minister George Ripley and his wife Sophia Ripley in 1841. They had a vision of a community where everyone lived communally and dedicated themselves to a mixture of physical labor and intellectual pursuits. Sadly, the utopia did not meet a happy end.

So who were these people? Famed journalist Charles A. Dana and legendary author Nathanial Hawthorne were among the original residents. The residents of Brook Farm believed that by sharing the work of the farm equally, everyone would have enough time for pleasure and learning. They would share everything, from food to books. Each person would contribute to the community.

The farm attracted mostly intellectuals, but idealistic farmers and craftspeople came as well. They were all paid $1 a day for their work, physical or mental, and provided their services to the residents.

The Brook Farm school was particularly unique. Students were never punished, and there were no set study hours. Instead, children were encouraged to explore and cultivate their natural curiosity.

Unfortunately, the utopia was doomed. Though the members worked hard to keep things going, the farm slid into debt. The final blow came when the Phalanstery, the community’s planned grand hall, burned down just days before its completion. The Print Shop (pictured above) is the last historic building at Brook Farm. It was built in 1890, after the utopia had already crumbled.

The residents of Brook Farm eventually drifted apart and went their separate ways. Today, the farm is a silent reminder that even the best intentions don’t guarantee success.

For more surprising tidbits of Massachusetts history, check out these 10 bizarre and fascinating things that most people don’t know about the Bay State.

Sophia
Massachusetts native. Freelance writer and strawberry eater. Get in touch: smitrokostas@onlyinyourstate.com.