The Mount is a country house in Lenox, Massachusetts, the home of noted American author Edith Wharton, who designed the house in 1902. When she designed the house. She thought that good architectural expression included order, scale, and harmony. Today, in addition to being a historic house, The Mount is a major tourist attraction in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
The design of the Main House combined Edith Wharton’s philosophies and astute knowledge of design and architecture, with the professional expertise of her architects Ogden Codman, Jr., and Francis L.V. Hoppin. The exterior of the mansion, completed by Hoppin, was based on Belton House, a 17th-century English country house in Lincolnshire. The expansive terrace, on the east façade, was an Italian-inspired enhancement requested by Wharton.
The Mount’s interior, designed by Wharton and Codman, is informed by classic Italian and French influences, and based on principles expressed in their book, The Decoration of Houses (1897). The fundamental premise of that influential work is that interior decoration cannot exist independent of structure; that “architectural features …are part of the organism of every house, inside as well as out.”
The books on the shelves of the library are from Wharton’s own personal collection, purchased by Edith Wharton Restoration in 2005. The collection contains books from every period of Wharton’s life, written in English, French, German, and Italian. Included are a significant number of Wharton’s own works, many with corrections penciled in. There are books written by friends, many containing personal inscriptions.
The sunken Italian Garden uses serene tones of greens and whites which, combined with porticos and alcoves in the stone walls, creates a cool, shady respite from summer sun. The centerpiece of this garden is a rustic rock-pile fountain surrounded by white begonias. A gravel promenade of pleached linden trees, known as a Lime Walk, connects the Italian Garden to the more formal French Flower Garden. The French Flower Garden’s rectangular pool is surrounded by beds of annuals, perennials and shrubs creating vivid but orderly burst of colors. Wharton loved phlox, stocks, lilies, hydrangea, dianthus, delphinium, and dahlias, all of which still grace the flower beds.