The Mount (Lenox, Massachusetts)
Edith Wharton's The Mount
|Location||2 Plunkett Street, Lenox|
|Nearest city||Lenox, Massachusetts|
|Architect||Ogden Codman, Jr. and Francis L.V. Hoppin|
|NRHP Reference #||71000900|
|Added to NRHP||November 11, 1971|
|Designated NHL||November 11, 1971|
The Mount (1902) is a country house in Lenox, Massachusetts, the home of noted American author Edith Wharton, who designed the house and its grounds and considered it her "first real home." The estate, located in The Berkshires, is open to the public. The property was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
Today, The Mount is a cultural center and historic house museum, welcoming close to 40,000 visitors each year. The house is open daily from May through October for house and garden tours. Speciality Ghost and Backstairs tours are also offered. In the summer, The Mount hosts performances, music, lectures, and outdoor sculpture exhibits. Additional special events are hosted throughout the year.
The Mount's main house was inspired by the 17th-century Belton House in England, with additional influences from classical Italian and French architecture. Edith Wharton used the principles described in her first book, The Decoration of Houses (co-authored with Ogden Codman, Jr.), when she designed the house. She thought that good architectural expression included order, scale, and harmony. Its west (entry) elevation is three stories; on the garden side it is two stories with an opening out to a large, raised, stone terrace overlooking the grounds. The house exterior is a striking white stucco, strongly set off by dark green shutters, and rises from a quasi-rustic foundation of coarse field stone. Clusters of gables and white chimneys rise from the roof, which is capped with a balustrade and cupola. This main house is augmented by Georgian Revival gatehouse and stable, and a beautifully restored Lord and Burnham Greenhouse. Wharton's sometime collaborator, Ogden Codman, Jr., assisted with the architectural design. Wharton's niece, Beatrix Jones Farrand, designed the kitchen garden and the drive; Farrand was the only woman of the eleven founders of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Edith Wharton and her husband, Edward, lived in the Mount from 1902 to 1911. After the Whartons left, the house was a private residence, a girls' dormitory for the Foxhollow School, and site of the theatre company Shakespeare & Company. It was then bought by Edith Wharton Restoration, which has restored much of the property to its original condition.
The house is situated at the high end of its grounds. The original site was 113 acres (0.46 km2) of farmland, with another 15 acres (61,000 m2) later added. The current estate size is 49.5 acres (200,000 m2). Restored gardens include an Italian walled garden, formal flower garden, alpine rock garden, lime walk, and extensive grass terraces.
Today, in addition to being a historic house, The Mount is a major attraction in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. It has been featured in several high-end magazines including an 8-page spread shot by photographer Annie Lebovitz for Vogue's 2012 Fall issue with a forward by Colm Toibin. In recent years, The Mount has become a literary hub, hosting an array of events including readings, book launches, and panel discussions. Recent author appearances include: Tom Reiss, Megan Marshall, Lily Koppel, Adam Gopnik, Kate Bolick, Garrison Keillor, John Berendt. In 2014, The Mount will host Rebecca Mead, Rachel Cohen, Andre Dubus III, and Joanna Rakoff.
Edith Wharton wrote several ghost stories during her career, drawing on her own experience with and interest in the supernatural. As a child, she claimed to be "haunted by formless horrors" and as an adult she remained sensitive to the subject, until her late twenties. Later in life, she became more comfortable with the subject and would go on to write her own ghost stories.
In 1942 The Mount became part of the Foxhollow School for Girls, and residents reported unexplained noises and experiences in the living areas of the mansion. Following the school's closure in 1976, the mansion remained vacant for several years until Shakespeare & Company used it as a dormitory and performance space. Actors reported the same unexplained sounds and sightings of figures in period dress. In early 2009, SyFy television show Ghost Hunters filmed an episode at The Mount, and over the course of three days reported audio and visual evidence of activity, such as the sounds of footsteps in an otherwise empty room, and disembodied voices. They did a follow up episode in 2015.
Currently, The Mount offers "ghost tours" during the summer season. Staff members give tours of the estate, including the stable and the mansion.
- Ventfort Hall
- Chesterwood (Massachusetts)
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Berkshire County, Massachusetts
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Massachusetts
- List of Gilded Age mansions
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