A Backstairs Tour Highlights Life of Servants in the Golden Age
The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton in Lenox, Mass., has created a new Backstairs Tour that reveals details about the lives of servants who lived and worked on the property from 1902 to 1911, when it was occupied by Edith and Teddy Wharton. The Tour will debut during the Mount’s holiday hours on Saturday, November 30, December 7 and December 14, at 12 and 2 p.m.
Inspired in part by the PBS television series ‘Downton Abbey,’ whose creator Julian Fellowes has cited Wharton as a major literary influence, the Backstairs Tour will highlight the roles, relationships, living conditions, and working expectations of the 20 servants who staffed the house and property each summer while the Whartons were in residence. Like other Berkshire-based households during the Gilded Age, the Mount relied on the Whartons’ permanent staff as well as local residents for cooking, cleaning, driving, gardening, and other daily tasks. Many of the servants lived on the property: unmarried females lived on the fourth floor of the Main House, while families and unmarried males lived on the top floor of the stable.
“Visitors want to know how servants lived and how they interacted with those they served,” said house manager Anne Schuyler. “And while we might not know as much about many of the servants as we would wish, we do know that Wharton had an intriguing international staff, each with a unique story waiting to be told.” By all accounts, the Whartons treated their servants quite well for the times, and provided the latest labor-saving devices, including an Otis elevator. But, with its long hours and rigid rules, life in service was not easy, particularly for those on the lowest rungs of the servant ladder. “With this new tour, we hope to share a variety of those voices with our visitors, and to give them a glimpse into that world,” said Schuyler.
The Mount is located at 2 Plunkett Street in Lenox, Mass. The grounds are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with special ticketed events hosted in the Main House throughout the winter and early spring. For more information email [email protected], or call 413-551-5100.