Edmund Wilson House
The Edmund Wilson House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The hamlet of Talcottville "lies in a kind of trough between the lower ranges of the Adirondacks, visible from our house and a large very wild plateau originally known as the Lesser Wilderness and called simply Tug Hill," said Wilson, writing of the vast open fields around his summer home.
Originally surrounded by a bevy of outbuildings, the Stone House has only one outbuilding left — a small stone barn.
The house itself was built over a four year period of limestone quarried from the nearby Sugar River. At the time of its construction in 1789, the area was newly settled. To the struggling local farmers this must have seemed a grand residence. Indeed, true to the noble aspirations of the Talcotts, the house gives the appearance of an attempt to create an elegant Georgian mansion in the wilderness.
The two and a half story structure consists of a front portion almost square in plan, three bays wide and four bays long. There is a small longitudinal wing one story high at the rear.
Because of the square plan, the gabled roof is quite flattened. There are four corner chimneys. A Palladian window in each gable end gives a lovely airy feeling to the rooms under the eaves. Most of the sash and much of the glass appears old. There is a two-story porch running across the entire facade.
Inside, we find a graceful central stairwell with flanking rooms at the front and rear. Finely carved mantels grace the fireplaces, the rooms are well-proportioned and the whole feeling is one of gracious dignity.
"The Stone House" was the name the noted twentieth century literary figure, Edmund Wilson, gave to his old farmhouse in Talcottville; the house he made famous in the book "Upstate."
To Wilson, who was born in 1895, this house in its unspoiled setting became a symbol of the kind of life he valued but which in his lifetime was fast disappearing before the onslaught of industrialization; a life in which an intimate knowledge of the past provided stability in the present and guidance for the future; a life in which human beings had individuality, dignity and worth.
"Upstate" contains descriptions of the farmhouse, its environs, Wilson's memories, the history of the farm and of its owners and Wilson's very personal feelings about the place. He makes it clear that he considers this house to be focal point in his life, the pivot on which he swings. His book "Upstate" contains frequent references to his attachment to the Stone House. The following quotation is representative:
"I enjoy 'galvanizing' this old house into life, as I feel I have at last been doing, making it express at last my own personality and interests, filling it with my own imagination, yet feeling a continuity with everybody who has lived there, basing myself in some sense on them — the older I grow, the more I appreciate them. Intellectually and geographically I travel further from them, yet also now fall back on them, probably become more like them; feel more comfortable and myself here probably than any where else in the world."
Edmund Wilson was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1895. His writing career began in prep school with the editorship of the school newspaper. After attending Princeton University, he worked on the New York Evening Sun as a reporter. Subsequently, he was associated with The New Republic and The New Yorker.
Literary critic, social reporter, travel writer, poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, chronicler and historian — Edmund Wilson was the most distinguished man of letters of his generation. He was awarded the gold medal for essays and criticism by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Edward MacDowell Medal, the National Medal for Literature and the Emerson-Thoreau Medal.
The building of the Stone House was commenced in 1789 by Hezekial Talcott and finally completed four years later. The Talcotts were Tories who migrated westward after the Revolution, when a treaty with the Oneida Indians made settlement possible.
The Talcotts supplied newcomers to the area with grist from their mill and stone from their quarry. They speculated with their water rights to manufacturers. When the railroad by-passed Talcottville, their speculations failed; the settlement never grew into the New England town they had hoped for.
Wilson's great grandfather, Thomas Baker, who had married one of the Talcott sisters, sold the Talcott acres and created a feud within the family that only later marriages ended.
By that time, many members of the Talcott family had gone west or had been drawn to the city and much of the land had been sold. Eventually only the house and one barn remained. Wilson's father bought it in his wife's name from her uncle.
The Wilson family used the place for a summer home in Edmund's youth and the latter rescued it from years of mold and decay when he was middle-aged. The Stone House became Edmund Wilson's refuge from that time until he died in 1972.
Wilson, Edmund, Upstate: Records and Recollections of Northern New York. Ferrar, Straus and Geroux, New York, 1971.
Frank, Charles P. Edmund Wilson. Twayne Publishers, Inc., New York, 1970.
Knegel, Leonard, Edmund Wilson. Southern University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville, 1971.
Paul, Sherman. Edmund Wilson: A Study of the Literary Vocation in our Time. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1965.