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The Mount

In 1862 Edith Wharton was born into New York's highest society. The most that was expected from her was to look good and marry well. Thankfully, she had greater personal ambitions, and by the end of her life, she was known as a pulitzer prize winning author, philanthropist, and designer. The Mount, her home in the Berkshires, represents all the architectural philosophies outlined in her book, "The Decoration of Houses".

You can tell a lot about a person from their home, and this is very true of The Mount. Wharton's contemporaries were building vacation houses like The Breakers. Mega-mansions, filled with enormous halls and rooms, brimming with opulent extravagance. It's clear from the outset that The Mount's objective is not to impress the wealthy, but to encourage the intellectual. it was built for small scale entertaining, “Because there aren’t more than eight people in New York I care to dine with.”

In the years since Wharton has lived there, the building and grounds fell into serious disrepair. It's only been in the last decade that restorations have been underway, and there is evidence throughout the house of what could've come to pass. These little corners of decay give an interesting perspective on both the construction of the house, and how much work is involved in its upkeep.

The parking lot is near the stables and it's a nice walk through the grounds to the house, so pick a good weather day to visit. They're pretty casual about touring the house and grounds- you can join a guide, or wander at your own speed (which is a classy way to operate). the only room that is roped off is her library, due to the return of her 2,700 volume collection. The rest of the house has reproductions and donated furniture, which is most likely why it's so accessible to the public. Except for Wharton's boudoir, the second floor bedrooms remain undecorated and serve as biographical exhibition spaces. Don't forget to stop at the pet cemetery before leaving- like the rest of the estate, it's a charmer.

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