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 from May to October. Visitors are offered tours of the house and gardens.History
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 black 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.Recent difficulty
The Mount fell into financial troubles in February 2008, defaulting on payment of a $4.3 million bank loan as well as still owing money to private lenders. Foreclosure proceedings had been threatened and the president of the Edith Wharton Restoration group resigned. A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities allowed an extension on the bank loan until April 24, 2008. An emergency campaign was instigated to help raise the funds necessary to prevent foreclosure.
In May 2009 The Mount announced that a debt restructuring agreement with its principal lenders had been executed. The agreement reduced its funded indebtedness by $3.7 million—from $8.4 million down to $4.7 million.
The Mount is open for the summer season as of May 1, 2010. Upcoming events include a performance of Summer by The Wharton Salon, and the Berkshire Wordfest, a literary festival in late July.Paranormal Activity
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.
Currently, The Mount offers 'ghost tours' on Friday nights during the summer season. Staff members give tours of the estate, including the stable and the mansion.Other Berkshire Cottages/Museums
- Ventfort Hall
- Chesterwood (Massachusetts)