Millay’s Steepletop to Celebrate 100 years of “Renascence!
AUSTERLITZ, NY: Marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of her poetic career
Steepletop, the home poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived in for the final 25 years of her life (and the building in which she died accidentally at the age of 58) will be opening to the public on Friday, May 25 for its third full season as a Historic House and Garden Museum.
Owned and operated by the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, the house known as Steepletop is one element of a growing Historic House and Garden Museum on 205 acres of Millay’s Columbia County farm. For the past five years the Millay Society hasbeen offering new exhibitions each year in the former Ellis Studio across the road from the farm house and for the past four years they have been offering guided garden tours as well. Another element, the Millay Poetry Trail, opened in 2003. With this year’s tours of the house, the Museum takes a major leap into its future.
In addition to Millay’s private four-room suite on the second floor, the Millay Society is adding itsfirst major ground floor room, the dining room, to the tour. Containing amazing artworks Millay acquired in Europe, in the Orient and in America, the room also features her seashell collection and the heartbreaking story that goes with that collection. Toile drapes in a special 1763 Old Forge design will be on display along with the poet’s magnificent Havilland Limoges china and many other cherished personal items.
“It is most exciting to be opening this room to the public at this time,” said Millay Society ExecutiveDirector, Peter Bergman. “The very personal world of the poet is now joined by the more public Millay, a world not seen by anyone in over sixty years.” The other rooms on the tour – and there are eighteen guided tours each weekend – include her library, her work room and her bedroom.
An event of equal importance takes place this season as well. In 1912, one hundred years ago, Millay wrote a two hundred fourteen (214) line poem entitled “Renascence” and she entered it into a national competition. It was chosen for publication in “The Lyric Year” alongside poems by half a dozen other future Pulitzer Prize winners including Zoe Akins, Sara Teasdale, William Rose Benet and such well respected authors as Joyce Kilmer, Richard LeGallienne, Vachel Lindsay, Witter Bynner, John Erskine, Thomas Augustine Daly and Ludwig Lewisohn. She did not win the competition but the publication of the book made it obvious that a major injustice had occurred. She became more famous for not winning than she might have had she been chosen for first place. This was the beginning of a major career that would bring her the Pulitzer Prize in 1923, a fortune in royalties and speaker fees, an opera libretto commission from the Metropolitan Opera and a host of other awards as well as a personal notoriety as the guiding spirit of the Bohemian Roaring Twenties.
There are eighteen tours of the house offered each week beginning Friday, May 25, 2012. They will take place at 11:30, 12:30, 2:30 and 3:30 Friday and Monday and 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 on Saturday and Sunday October 15.
House tours are usually limited to a maximum of six (6) people at any one time. The price for these tours is $16 per person.
There are also eight garden tours each weekend leaving at 12noon and 3:00. These also cost $16, although combinations may be booked for only $25. Each tour takes approximately one hour and the ticket price also includes the special “Renascence” exhibit.
“We have a slew of special events this season, also, including poetry readings and open mike poetry, and even music events centered on the Millay poetry,” Bergman said. “A complete list can be found on our website at www.millay.org and our gift shop features both historic books and some unique items created just for us at Steepletop including the artwork of Stephanie Anderson.”
Tours are also available Tuesday and Thursday by appointment only and come at a higher cost. The “Century of Renascence” exhibit is open daily from 11am to 4:30pm except for Wednesday when the Museum is closed.
Millay, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for her poem THE BALLAD OF THE HARP-WEAVER, was born in Rockland, Maine on February 22, 1892. She was raised in Camden, Maine and was sent to Vassar College by a group of women who believed in her future. At age twenty she became famous for her poem RENASCENCE which was published in 1912. In 1919 she set the world on its ear with her anti-war play ARIA DA CAPO. She was the reigning queen of Greenwich Village’s Bohemian set until her marriage after which she moved to her 700 acre farm in upstate New York. She traveled extensively, created a series of special garden rooms at Steepletop, made history with her own radio show, her incredible record of book sales during the depression and her work for the US Government writing propaganda poetry during World War II. Her death on October 19, 1950 was a staggering blow to American letters. Her final works were published posthumously in 1954 under the title MINE THE HARVEST.
Millay’s sister, Norma Millay Ellis, inherited the property and kept it alive until her death in 1986 at the age of 93. She was involved in the 1981 Millay postage stamp which was dedicated at Steepletop. She created the Millay Colony for the Arts whose property still borders that of the Millay Society at Steepletop. Norma, an actress, can be seen in the documentary filmed at Steepletop by Kevin Brownlow,
MILLAY AT STEEPLETOP.
For advance reservations, call the Steepletop office at 518-392-EDNA (3362).
For people interested in volunteering, please send a note to
Millay Society, PO. Box 2, Austerlitz, NY 12017.