The Mount: Edith Wharton and the American Renaissance


Kay Davis
University of Virginia
© 2001-2003


Edith Wharton > Wharton's Homes > Ogden Codman Jr. > The Decoration of Houses >
Life in the Berkshires

Life in the Berkshires

The Berkshires, a mountainous region extending throughout western Massachusetts, was a summer and autumn resort community in the mid- to late nineteenth century.

Inspired by the pastoral landscape, wealthy families from Boston and New York purchased farms there and transformed them into country estates. The estates of this new American aristocracy resembled country seats in Europe.

Giraud Foster's Bellefontaine was modeled after the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Anson Phelps Stokes's Shadowbrook was a Tudor-style home. William Douglas Sloane's Elm Court was designed in the Shingle style. (30)

Anson Phelps Stokes's Shadowbrook

"Inland Newport"
By the 1880s, the Berkshires had become known as the "inland Newport," a place where families made rich by industry resided each summer.

Like Newport, Lenox and the surrounding towns of Pittsfield and Stockbridge drew a community of writers and artists, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Herman Melville, and Daniel Chester French. By 1900 this list would include Edith Wharton.

The Whartons' New Home

Edith and Teddy Wharton began summering in the Lenox, Massachusetts, area in the late 1890s, visiting Teddy's mother at her Lenox home, Pine Acre, or staying at the Curtis Hotel. During the summers of 1900 to 1902, they lived at The Poplars, a summer cottage in Lenox. (31)

In 1901 the Whartons purchased a 113-acre plot of land called Laurel Lake Farm from Georgiana Sargent, watercolorist and distant relative of painter John Singer Sargent. (32)

A turn-of-the-century photograph shows the couple standing proudly on the rock outcropping that would become the foundation for their new home.

Wharton's on Property
Edith and Teddy Wharton
at the Site of The Mount

The site commanded a view of Laurel Lake, and beyond, the Tyringham Mountains.

View from The Mount
View from The Mount

Writing to her friend Sara Norton the summer before moving into The Mount, Wharton said, "Lenox has has its usual tonic effect on me, & I feel like a new edition, revised & corrected, in Berkeley's best type." (33)

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