Monday, March 2, 2009

The Mount

Edith Wharton's Estate and Gardens
Stockbridge, MA

To prepare for our Berkshire trip I spent time searching the web for anything related to area house museums. Search results quickly lead to The Mount, the home of Pulitzer Prize winning author Edith Wharton. Information on the home proclaimed dire warnings of immediate foreclosure if financial problems were not favorably concluded. This infused the prospective visit with tension and a sense of urgency.

Many historic house museums do not take advance reservations and in my experience they certainly aren't necessary. House museums seem to be about as popular with the general public as small independent films, another interest of mine. But given our short window of opportunity I emailed the museum staff and reserved a tour time.

In order to assure ourselves enough time we dedicated the morning of our departure day to the tour. How wise this proved to be. Before even entering the mansion, the stable and gardens demand attention. The massive stable building with its high ceilings and multiple rooms has both a short introductory film offered in an auditorium type setting and a pictorial history of the home and its occupants.

There's a maple-lined walk up to the Mount and formal gardens are set behind it as you approach. The gardens were still in bloom when we visited but the bees warned against any particularly close inspection.

The house is designed so that as you approach you cannot view its beauty from afar but must enter the relatively small forecourt to gaze up at the four-story house. Two curved courtyard walls creating a small intimate entrance to the home embrace the front. Photographs you may see of the home on their website or in books that show the hill and gardens leading up to the house are of rear or side views. Any of these views are worth a picture.

The rooms in The Mount could have been used on the 1993 movie set of The Age of Innocence, a movie based on Edith Wharton's novel. While she designed the gallery to display her collection of objects d'art from her travels, every room has a feast of treasures for our eyes. Her boudoir is the most elaborately decorated room on the bedroom floor. But she did most of her writing from bed in the adjoining bedroom. You can glimpse back into the household management functions of the home by touring the service wing.

A recent view of the website showed some progress in attaining financial stability for the property and alluded to a new and exciting vision for The Mount. "While we will of continue to honor Edith Wharton and her significant contributions to literature, architecture, interior design and gardening, our goal is to expand our mission to encompass celebrating the literary arts in all their forms." What might that mean?

To support the home I recommend you visit but if that's not possible make a donation on line by going to

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful; I really can see it from your descriptions!