Hingham History Moment: Elizabeth Coatsworth and “The Littlest House”



Photo Courtesy of Hingham Historical Society


by Deirdre Anderson, Executive Director

Growing up in Hingham, Elizabeth Coatsworth's 1946 book The Littlest House was a favorite for my sister, Clare and me. We would check out a copy from the Hingham Public Library and ride our bikes down Summer Street to marvel at the actual home featured in Coatsworth's book - 4 Green Street Court. Coatsworth, a Newberry Award winning author for her 1931 Children's Book The Cats Who Went to Heaven resided in Hingham on Cottage Street with her husband, author, Henry Beston and two daughters.

As you follow the simple adventures of Jean, Lydia and Mark, the children featured in The Littlest House, you enjoy familiar scenes from Coatsworth's Hingham Harbor neighborhood. Pen and ink drawings from Marguerite Davis (1889- 1980) the book illustrator from Quincy who collaborated with Coatsworth include images of the Old Grain Mill (now Liberty Grill) and the shores of Hingham Harbor. When the children grew more adventurous, they traveled South to Turkey Hill and Triphammer Pond. In 2011, at the auction of the estate of John P. Richardson, I purchased and donated to the Society an original pen and ink by Marguerite Davis used in the book of Jean, Lydia and Mark approaching the Littlest House.

Throughout the story of the The Littlest House, Coatsworth includes poems including this one about the advent of Spring:

Now is the time
When Robins call,
The fretful horse
Stamps in the stall
The cock claps wings
In orchards bare,
Under the hedge
Crouches the hare.

Now is the time,
Spring fires burn,
The air is sweet
With smoldering ferm,
And through the quiet
Hours of night
The gold-eyed frogs
Croak with delight.

2 thoughts on “Hingham History Moment: Elizabeth Coatsworth and “The Littlest House””

  1. In Elizabeth Coatsworth’s wonderful 1976 book“, Almost an Autobiography-Personal Geograpy” she writes of her beloved Shipcote, the lovely 18c. house overlooking the harbor on the northeast corner of Ship and Cottage Streets. In before her marriage to naturalist author Henry Beston, Elizabeth and her mother bought the Shipcote to be near sister Margaret and husband Morton Smith who lived in Hingham..


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