The Berkshires, MA Edith Wharton’s The Mount

Edith Wharton's home The Mount in Lenox, MA.

Edith Wharton’s home The Mount in Lenox, MA.

The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton (1862-1937), is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates her intellectual, artistic and humanitarian legacy. In 1902 Edith Wharton designed and built The Mount as a country retreat where she wrote both Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth.

Our guide Cecily shows Heidi the Poster of Edith Wharton's 40 first editions

Our guide Cecily shows Heidi the Poster of
Edith Wharton’s 40 first editions

Edith Wharton wrote 40 books over 40 years including novels, works on architecture, gardens, interior design and travel. In 1897, while living in Newport, RI, Wharton co-authored with Ogden Codman, Jr. her first major book, The Decoration of Houses (1897), a successful non-fiction work on design and architecture

She considered gardening and writing to be the most fulfilling activities in her life. She is quoted as saying: “Decidedly I am a better landscape gardener than novelist and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses the House of Mirth.” Quite a thing to say for the first woman awarded (in 1927) the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University. She also received full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It was heartening to know that in 2005 her books (2600 of them found in France) were brought to her library at The Mount. We toured the house and the gardens and what I hadn’t known was her great humanitarian work. She left The Mount and her husband (a very unsatisfying relationship) and moved to France in 1911 where she had previously spent much time and could live a “realer” life.

When World War I broke out she was in Paris and she plunged into relief work, opening a room for skilled women of the quarter where she lived who were thrown out of employment by the closing of workrooms. She also fed and housed 600 Belgian refugee orphans. In recognition France awarded her the Cross of the Legion of Honor and Belgium made her a Chevalier of the Order of Leopold.

After she left, The Mount became a private residence, then in 1942 the Foxhollow School for Girls and after it closed the mansion was vacant for several years until1978 when Shakespeare & Company used it as a dormitory and performance space (today they have a large campus with several stages and do extensive programming – shakespeare.org). Today the gardens and grounds have been restored, the house is in good shape and there are numerous Theater, Music, Lectures and Art programs for adults, teens and families throughout their season. Relatively new, is a site-specific sculpture exhibit installed by Sculpture Now a Berkshire based organization; through exhibits, presentations and free workshops in public schools expands the experience and knowledge of art in general and sculpture in particular to the Berkshires. Learn more about the vast programs, Edith Wharton and The Mount at edithwharton.org

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