Classic 19th-century whale tale Moby-Dick was published on this day in 1851. Author Herman Melville, who spent time on a commercial whaling ship before writing vividly about Captain Ahab's vendetta against an evil whale, composed much of his famous tome at Arrowhead, a Georgian-meets-Federal style estate in the Berkshires region of Massachusetts. Dating to 1780, the farmhouse required major renovations by Melville, who moved there after his pal, Scarlet Letter author Nathaniel Hawthorne, bought a neighboring property.
The eminent author added a porch, outbuildings, and a wing to the old house, and corresponded with Hawthorne about these projects. Melville ended up living at Arrowhead with his wife, four children, mother, and three of his sisters for the next 13 years. Inspired by the highland views, he completed four novels and numerous short stories (including one about the efforts of a wife to remodel an ancient farmhouse) during his time there.
A letter he wrote in 1850, shortly after moving from New York to Massachusetts, describes the appeal the property had for him:
"I have a sort of sea-feeling here in the country, now that the ground is all covered with snow. I look out of my window in the morning when I rise as I would out of a port-hole of a ship in the Atlantic. My room seems a ship's cabin; & at night when I wake up & hear the wind shrieking, I almost fancy there is too much sail on the house, & I had better go on the roof & rig in the chimney." Arrowhead is now a house museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.