The Mount: Mansion & Grounds that Inspired Edith Wharton

As part of our recent weekend away to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, my husband & I stayed at the Seven Hills Inn which was right next door to The Mount. I found the two locations separately, but was thrilled to see that they were literally next door to each other! Not only did we thoroughly enjoy touring the inside of the home, but the grounds were amazing, and anyone was welcome to enjoy them (whether they went inside the mansion or not). If you are ever in the area, it is a gorgeous place to visit!

Historical Highlights

  • Edith Jones was born in 1862 to an upper class family from New York City, and as wealthy families do she spent much of her childhood years in Europe learning to love languages, architecture, art and literature – all passions that would shape the rest of her life. At a young age Edith showed great interest in literature in particular, and although it was not normally allowed for girls of that time period, she was granted access to her fathers library and thanks to the support from her governess published a volume of her own poems when she turned 16.
  • At the age of 23 (considered very close to “old maid status” in those days), Edith married Edward Robbins (Teddy) Wharton, initially splitting their time between New York City & Newport, Rhode Island. Newport was already full throttle into it’s own “Gilded Age” with the building of the “Newport Cottages”, such as The Elms and the other notable Newport Mansions, but Edith grew tiresome of the social scene. While the Berkshires were growing in popularity and would soon see their own Gilded Age boom (see Naumkeag as another reference!), it was a needed change of scenery and a way for Edith to pave her own way. In 1901 Edith & Teddy purchased 113 acres in Lenox, MA which would become The Mount.
  • Edith had co-authored a book The Decoration of Houses with a colleague, so it was a dream for her to start The Mount from scratch. She was involved in every detail – inside and outside, and privacy was a huge part of her design plan. She loved “classical balance, symmetry and simplicity” and designed rooms based on the function they would serve. The Main House was inspired by the Belton House in Lincolnshire, England while the the gatehouse & stable were built in the Georgian Revival style. She also designed an Italian walled garden, multiple formal flower gardens, a lime walk , a rock garden, multiple grass terraces and more. It became the ultimate place for Edith’s creativity to flourish, and they moved in September 1902.
  • Edith’s writing career took off at The Mount. Overall, she wrote 40 novels in 40 years, but many of her best-known novels were written within the walls of this home, including House of Mirth (1905) and Ethan Frome (1911).
  • Edith & Teddy’s time together at The Mount was not the fairy tale one may assume when looking from the outside in, which is so often the case, and their relationship crumbled. They were divorced in 1911, and sold The Mount in 1913. Edith moved permanently to France and continued to write, splitting her time between Château Ste.-Claire , a restored convent in the South of France and a villa in St.Brice-sous-Forêt just outside Paris. Edith won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921 with her novel The Age of Innocence, and in 1923 received an Honorary Doctorate from Yale. Edith died on August 11, 1937 in France.
  • The Mount, however, passed through a number of trials and tribulations to get where it is today. A private family purchased the house from Edith & Teddy, but in 1942 it became the Foxhollow School for Girls until it closed in 1976. Then, Shakespeare and Company made The Mount it’s home, hosting many theatrical performances on it’s grounds. And now the Edith Wharton Restoration owns the property, restoring it to its former glory and welcoming visitors, hosting events, and even creating a Writers in Residents program. I think Edith would love to see what is happening at her beloved Mount these days!

Favorite Spots

Gallery

After ascending the Main Staircase with Rococo-style paintings, you find yourself in the Gallery – a light, bright Italian inspired entryway to the main floor of The Mount. The archways and terracotta colored tiles with black and while marble brought me right back to Florence, Italy. The natural light from the row of windows in this room were perfectly suited to show off her art collection, which she changed it out frequently.

Edith’s Bedroom & Boudoir

Unfortunately the furniture in these rooms are not original (as Edith took her furniture with her when she moved to Europe in 1913), but it is very similar to what she she would have had. Edith did most of her writing in bed, so it was neat to see where such a prolific writer did her work. It’s said that as she wrote page after page, with her dogs at her feet, she would float the pages from the bed to the floor for her staff to pick up and put in order later that afternoon. The boudoir (second photo) is simply a gorgeous room, her private office where she would host dear friends.

Dining Room

This room is simply just pretty, and a place where I would love to dine! The room is so light & bright & airy, courtesy of the large windows and the two french doors that go out onto the back veranda. Edith despised two things in dining rooms, square tables and overhead lights, so you won’t see either in this room. Also note her design of dark murals on the wall of fruits and flowers, a nod to her belief that rooms should be decorated for how you plan to use them.

Kitchen

God knows I love a historic kitchen, and this one has all the bells & whistles. It includes a dumbwaiter, original ice box with huge ice pick, a 1905 coal stove and charm galore!

Grounds

The grounds of The Mount could be a completely separate post, or visit for that matter. In fact, my husband & I did the inside tour on Saturday and wandered around the grounds most of the day Sunday. We visited in early November and it was still magical – but I can only imagine just how beautiful it must be in full spring & summer bloom. Make sure to follow on Instagram for more photos of this gorgeous landscape!

Eye-Spy

  • Don’t miss the statue of Pan in the entrance hall, welcoming you to The Mount!
  • The Stable is a gorgeous building. While we couldn’t go inside during our visit, it typically hosts lectures, theater, music and more.
  • Don’t miss the display of Edith’s 40 novels in the library. Plus, over 2500 of the books in the library were actually owned by Edith, so take a peek!
  • I LOVED seeing Edith’s original Louis Vuitton luggage in the backstair luggage elevator – totally unexpected! They were custom made for her in Paris.
  • Make sure to look up before you descend down the stairs from the second floor, you get an glance of the inside of the cupola!

Visiting Tips

  • Make a day – or two! – of your visit here. The grounds are unbelievable, and I would return in a heartbeat just to wander around. They have a lovely trail map for you, which can lead you through the woods right down to Laurel Lake. We packed a charcuterie board and a small bottle of champs (it was our anniversary) and after wandering around the grounds all morning we settled down on a lovely knoll with a view of the lake and a view of the house. In the dumpster fire of a year that is 2020, this is a memory I will hold dear for a long time.
  • The indoor tour was very COVID friendly – it was self guided, but there were staff (in masks of course) on each floor who would answer any question.
  • There are ghost tours available – if you’re in to that (I’m all set!)

Top Photos

Below are some of my favorite shots of The Mount but I’ll be sharing more on our Facebook & Instagram pages! Enjoy!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Donna says:

    As always, I so enjoy reading your descriptions of the homes you view!
    This house I could easily see myself living in and thinking I was royalty!! What a life it must have been when times were good.

    Thank you for your narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

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