Visiting The Mount — Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox, MA

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

Living in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley gives me access to amazing array of day trips within a 2-hour radius, from the frantic energy of New York City, to the bucolic elegance of the Berkshires, where a group of culture-rich towns and villages are set amidst a modest mountain range in western Massachusetts.

As a regular visitor to the Berkshires, one of my favorite places to visit is The Mount in Lenox, the stately mansion designed and built by Edith Wharton, who took possession of it in 1902.

Though she didn’t live here long — only ten years or so — it was in that interlude that she wrote her breakaway first novel, The House of Mirth (1905) and the haunting classic, Ethan Frome (1911).

Plan your visit to The Mount

Make sure to plan your visit, since hours vary by season. Go to The Mount website for all the pertinent information. There are great events to attend all year round, including readings, lectures, music, and more, so explore the calendar as well.

The Mount
2 Plunkett St, Lenox, MA 01240
(413) 551-5111

A full flowering of talent at The Mount

The years Wharton spent living at The Mount saw a full flowering of her various talents, and the cementing of her literary reputation. She designed the home and gardens, a showcase of her love and talent for architecture and formal landscaping.

But these weren’t carefree years for her, as she was unhappily married to Edward “Teddy” Wharton at this time. Teddy suffered from acute depression, and it was during this period that his mental state deteriorated. The couple divorced in 1913.

The Mount is open from mid-May through the end of October each year, so plan your visit accordingly. It’s a place you can visit more than once; on my recent (probably third or fourth) visit, I learned even more about Edith Wharton, thanks to the informative tour. Visitors can also enjoy an annual temporary sculpture exhibition arranged thoughtfully on accessible areas of the grounds.

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

Here she is — the masterwork of architecture. The architects listed are Ogden Codman, Jr., Francis L.V. Hoppin, and Edith Wharton herself. I believe the tour guide mentioned that the home is 16,000 square feet. The area on the left is the servant’s quarters.

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Edith Wharton's kitchen at The Mount

At the lower level of the servant’s quarters is the kitchen. Since the building went through many hands over the years, this is likely a reproduction. You can be sure that the kitchen isn’t an area in which Wharton spent any time.

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Edith Wharton's library at The Mount

A centerpiece of the home is the library. In it are many fine first editions of some of the world’s classics. At left, you can see a photo of Wharton sitting at the desk in this library.

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Edith Wharton's bedroom at the Mount

A photo showing Wharton posed at the desk in the library notwithstanding, our tour guide let us know that she preferred to do her writing on a bed desk in this lovely bedroom. I can’t say I blame her! This looks like the coziest place to write.

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Edith Wharton's gardens at the Mount

Looking out the bedroom window, and indeed all the windows on that side of the house, gives a view of the formal gardens. My last visit was in late October, so the colors were fading and the flower gardens were well past their season.

Plan your visit wisely if you’d like to enjoy the garden in full bloom; given the New England climate, the peak would be from July through mid-September.

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Edith Wharton's dining room at the Mount

The formal dining room has a table with room for only six. Edith Wharton wasn’t that much of a people person, and perhaps, given the unhappy state of her marriage during these years, wasn’t given to hosting large parties.

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Edith Wharton's finances

Money was a constant theme in Wharton’s life, as much a factor for those who have much, as she did, as it is for those who have none. It’s fascinating to compare the value of early 20th century dollars with that of today’s.

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Edith Wharton's innermost room

Some of the fascinating exhibit displays on the top floor of the Mount feature Wharton’s original manuscripts and other writing. Her family money, as well as the substantial money she earned as an author, allowed her certain freedoms not available to women of her time. But money didn’t, as the cliché goes, buy happiness.

As this display points out, she tended toward unhappy (and occasionally tragic )endings and lost chances in her novels and stories. Her characters “yearn for someone to join them in that innermost room of the soul.”

Isn’t that what most of us engage in a lifelong search for? Wharton’s own search, if not for happiness, but for meaning and human connection, permeated her writings. Perhaps that’s why her work has remained relevant and universal.

5 Responses to “Visiting The Mount — Edith Wharton’s Home in Lenox, MA”

  1. Joan, thank you for your kind comment. I live within 2 hours of The Mount (in a slightly different direction from your son), and feel like I’m due another visit. It’s funny, I do have a regular reader names Dena, so I just figured she had sent you here! But now I remember chatting with you on the Literary Ladies FB page.

  2. Oh my gosh, your research on Edith Wharton’s life at “The Mount” is fabulous. The pictures brought back wonderful memories of my time there. Her gardens were exquisite. I loved the cemetery she had for her furry animals. I especially love her library, I felt her presence there when I visited.

    My son is lucky to live in Brewster, NY, so it’s just a 2 hour drive to Lenox. Tanglewood is another favorite in Lenox. Visited there often when I lived in the Boston area for many years. Thank you so very much for sending me this Dena. I appreciate it so much.

    • Thank you for this kind comment. I look forward to many return visits to The Mount, a truly special literary landmark.

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