Designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902, The Mount is a fully-restored center for culture inspired by the passions and achievements of its creator. Three acres of formal gardens surround this elegant mansion in the Berkshire woodlands, which is one of the few National Historic Landmarks dedicated to women.
Edith Wharton is best known as one of America's greatest writers; she authored over 40 books in 40 years. She was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the first to receive an honorary doctorate from Yale University. Wharton was also a war hero in France during World War I. She traveled to the front lines and assisted refugees during and after the war. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor and the Belgian Order of Leopold for her service.
Wharton was also an influential figure in 20th century architecture and design. She designed her home and its gardens in a manner that valued balance, symmetry, and suitability in reaction to Victorian style and the excesses of the Gilded Age. Like Jefferson's Monticello, The Mount is an autobiographical house that expresses its creator's influence on architecture, garden, and interior design. Together with her literary legacy, it is a testament to Edith Wharton's extraordinary achievements.
However, after various occupants over the years, The Mount was in dire need of restoration. In 1998, Save America's Treasures founder and then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the historic structure, which drew public attention and doubled visitation to the site. Soon after this event, a $100,000 private contribution through Save America's Treasures helped jump-start the site's restoration. This critical gift was followed by a $2.8 million Save America's Treasures federal challenge grant, one of the largest awards given. It was matched by $1.5 million from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that without Save America's Treasures, the restoration of The Mount simply would not have happened," says Susan Wissler, the home's executive director. "It has been that important."
The economic impact of Save America's Treasures has also been significant, employing over 100 local contractors. Over the course of the five-year restoration, the economic impact has totaled $14 million. Save America's Treasures has continued its support of this flagship project beyond its restoration, selecting The Mount to be one of 24 projects to participate in a national partnership with HGTV called "Restore America."
Today, creative programming at The Mount reflects Wharton's core interests in the literary arts, interior design and decoration, garden and landscape design, and the art of living. Annual exhibits explore themes from Wharton's life and work. Plans are developing for a year-round Wharton Center on the Written Word to honor Wharton's achievements and celebrate the literary arts. The Mount has also launched the first annual Berkshire Literary Festival, a vibrant gathering of writers and readers in one of the most beautiful settings in the Berkshires.