(This post on The Mount Entrance and Gallery has been edited and updated in 2022)
Edith Wharton built her home in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts in 1902 when she was 40 years old, five years after she had written the seminal design book The Decoration of Houses with architect Ogden Codman, Jr. This was the first text book I read when I attended design school and it’s a great book to re-read on occasion. The design of the house was based on the precepts she and Codman set forth in their book – those of a return to classical architectural virtues of harmony, proportion and symmetry. While Mrs. Wharton did consult with architects and landscape designers, she was the guiding force behind every detail of the house. In photographs, the mansion looks quite large, but in person, it has a very human scale. It was a time when many wealthy New Yorkers were building their summer “cottages” in Newport, RI – such as The Breakers and The Elms. Houses built on a grand scale – mini Versailles and American-ized European castles. The Mount was built for real living. Edith Wharton sold the house in 1911, having lived there for less than ten years.
Originally set on 125 acres (now down to 49.5 acres), the house is set down a long winding lane. One first comes on the Georgian inspired stables, which is a beautiful building in and of itself.
In 2009 I took an extensive tour of The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. I took hundreds of photos to document this glorious European meets New England summer home of the first female winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for The Age of Innocence.
The Mount Forecourt, Entrance and Gallery is our first stop on the tour.
This is the forecourt space – a walled outdoor space that feels indoors when one passes through the main gate via the long wooded drive in from the road. Edith Wharton believed that the transition from outside to inside should be as smooth and easy as possible. She basically codified the “bring the outdoors in” concept.
In through the front door of The Mount entrance … (shame about that bare bulb! What would Edith say?) But just look at the brasses on the door!
Edith would say – put that glass globe back where it belongs!
And into the grotto-like Entrance Hall with stylized plaster work that emulated mossy walls and dripping water. The terracotta tile floor brings a definative Italianate feel to this space. The arched ceiling is simple and elegant, as is the softly glowing color palette.
Straight in front of the door is a statue of Pan by the sculptor Frederick MacMonnies. This bronze sits on the original fountain in the Entrance Hall. There’s an excellent article here on this sculpture and other works at The Mount.
Through the double French doors to the right is the main staircase of the home. The hanging lantern retains the outdoor feel of this lower level space.
The Main Staircase begins quite simply and becomes more elegant as one ascends. During the restoration and decorating of some of the public spaces, designer Libby Cameron was selected to do the Main Staircase. Note that the ground floor landing and first level of the stair is relatively simple, with horizontal panels painted a sunny yellow. However, the sassy leopard print carpeting on the stair hints at the extravagance to come!
We are now on the Main Floor Staircase landing and you will see that the wall moldings, the lighting and other details are now significantly more formal.
Here is a view through the arched door that separates the working areas of the Main Floor (Butler’s Pantry, service stair case that is adjacent to the Main Stair, etc.) You can see through the Main Stair landing into the formal Main Gallery.
And the glorious main Gallery, designed recently by Geoffrey Bradfield. Also based on Gallery spaces EW had seen in Italy, this is a space that allows access to all the main rooms on the Main Floor as well as provides excellent cross ventilation from front to rear of the house.
The terrazo and marble floor were polished to a high shine. The room straight ahead was Teddy Wharton’s Den and beyond that is the terrace on the side of the house.
How glorious is this light fixture?
A genteel place to rest.
And an image of the Gallery from EW’s day. Continuing in the Italian style, EW used this space as a display for her art and objets collected from her world travels. Note the crystal chandelier. This view is looking back towards the Main Staircase.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this photo tour of The Mount Entrance and Gallery.
You will also enjoy:
And my friend Barbara from My Dog Eared Pages visited The Mount in 2009 as well and wrote a wonderful post filled with lots of tidbits I entirely missed! Read it here!