The Mount: Time Running Short for the Homestead of Edith Wharton
By Alice Leccese Powers — February 28, 2008
Every time I venture near the Berkshires I intend to visit Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts.
[The Mount from the flower garden in Lenox, Mass.]
(Photo: David Dashiell/Wikimedia)
It was there that Wharton wrote her first book, The Decoration of Houses, about interior design and where she finished her novel, The House of Mirth.
Wharton designed The Mount, built in 1902, and put into practice many of the principles she espoused in The Decoration of Houses, including an enormous first floor gallery and a bedroom suite that accommodated her writing. As a Wharton fan, I’ve longed to see The Mount, especially as it has been substantially restored to Wharton’s original plans.
Now it may be too late.
Last week the Edith Wharton Restoration, The Mount’s administrative body, announced that the estate is in danger of foreclosure. It owes the bank $4.3 million and has defaulted on its $30,000 monthly payments. The foundation has to raise $3 million by March 24 or the estate will revert to the bank.
Ironically, the 35-room mansion has won awards for its preservation and attracts more than 30,000 visitors a year. What seems to have challenged its finances is the acquisition of Wharton’s 2,600-volume library from a British book collector. That coup cost $2.5 million and was supposed to be paid off in installments. However, the Edith Wharton Restoration has also defaulted on that debt.
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