The poet who penned “the fog comes in on little cats’ feet” moved to western North Carolina for the sake of the little goats’ feet. Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg and his wife Paula had lived for 17 years on Chicago’s foggy shores by Lake Michigan, but left it all behind in 1945. Flat Rock, NC, twenty-four miles south of Asheville, offered greener pastures and a longer browsing season for their Chikaming goat herd.
The Sandburgs paid $45,000 for 248 acres of land, a three-story, 22 room main house of over 9,000 square feet on a hill fronted by green pastures with various lakes, a barn complex and several outbuildings. Plenty of room for them, their three daughters, two grandchildren, their library of more than 10,000 volumes, and the goat farm operation. The hill approaching the house is steep and the climb ascends 100 feet over a third of a mile. Sandburg believed they had bought a “village” and Mrs. Sandburg a “million acres of sky.”
The name of home they purchased, Connemara, is Irish, meaning of the sea. Connemara is a region in the country of Ireland located on the northwest coast in the county of Galway, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The home was built in 1838 as a summer home by Christopher Gustavus Memminger of Charleston, SC, who later served as the secretary of the treasury for the Confederacy. After his death the property passed to the Gregg family and then to textile tycoon Capt. Ellison Smyth, also of Charleston, who named it Connemara in honor of his Irish heritage. The Sandburgs bought the estate from Smyth’s descendants and kept the name.
The Asheville area was familiar to Mrs. Sandburg because her brother, photographer Edward Steichen, had spent time there and recommended it as a place to investigate.
Sandburg died on July 22, 1967 at the age of 89. His wife followed ten years later. Both of their remains were cremated and their ashes buried at Carl Sandburg’s birthplace in Galesburg, Illinois beneath a large boulder named after Carl Sandburg’s first and only novel, Remembrance Rock. Connemara, meantime, was sold to the government and is now maintained as a National Historic Site by the U.S. Park Service.