(LENOX, Mass., June 26, 2014) – Staff arrived at The Mount on Thursday morning to find that the torrential rainfall overnight had transformed Edith Wharton’s painstakingly restored gardens into a swamp of road gravel, crushed limestone, and mud. The historic maple-lined approach to the house, designed by landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, was completely eroded in many places and strewn with cobblestones and debris. The pathways leading to the gardens were stripped bare of nearly two feet of limestone, revealing the original foundations of quarry rubble laid by Edith Wharton over a century ago.
Thankfully, the 25 room mansion was largely unharmed, but the property was closed on Thursday and all events cancelled while staff worked on restoring access to the Main House for vehicles. It is expected that The Mount will reopen to the public at 10am on Friday morning.
“We estimate that the runoff created by the storm carried approximately twenty tons of road and pathway material into the approximately 100 x 110 foot French flower garden” said Mount executive director Susan Wissler. “About half of the garden is buried in up to six to eight inches of material. Based on the debris marks left on the plants and shrubs, it is clear that at some point during the night, the garden was completely submerged under water.”
For over a decade, the gardens of The Mount have been a highlight of the summer season for Berkshire tourists and residents alike. Initial restoration of the gardens was completed in 2005 at a cost of over $3 million. The walkways and beds of the original gardens were recreated through a combination of archaeological excavation and careful analysis of surviving letters and photographs from Wharton’s era.
Following winding trails across the property, visitors have been able to retrace Wharton’s steps through the vibrant flowered paths of her French garden, the straight rows of young linden trees of the Lime Walk and enjoyed a cool respite in the shade of the Italian walled garden. The damage sustained on Wednesday night is a serious setback to the ongoing efforts to preserve this writer’s retreat designed by one of America’s most famous authors.
“The damage sustained on Wednesday is the latest challenge in our ongoing efforts to preserve this national treasure. The necessary repairs will be extensive and costly, easily many thousands of dollars based on early estimates. I am heartened by the outpouring of concern and well-wishes from the community,” said Wissler. “Everyone wants to know what they can do to help. We are still gathering information and hope to have that answer by early next week.”
The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.
Each year, The Mount is host to over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.