Merwin House (c. 1825)

Experience tranquility in the Berkshires

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

William and Elizabeth Doane purchased this handsome house in 1875 as their summer retreat. They named it “Tranquility,” as it overlooks a peaceful bend in the Housatonic River. During this period, Stockbridge, in the heart of the Berkshires, became a popular summer destination for New Yorkers like the Doanes. In 1900 they added a Shingle Style wing that wrapped around the back of the house and included a capacious porch overlooking the river.

The Doanes and their daughter, Vipont Merwin, traveled extensively, collecting European and American furnishings and objects to decorate their home. Merwin House today is both a museum of the family’s collection and the location of the Berkshires office of the Housatonic Valley Association, dedicated to protecting the Housatonic watershed.

Plan Your Visit

Location

14 Main Street
Stockbridge, Mass. 01262

Days & Hours

June 3, Aug. 5, Sept. 23, Oct. 21
11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Tours on the hour.

Last tour at 4:00 p.m

 

Admission

$5 adults

$4 seniors

$2.50 students

Free for Historic New England members and Stockbridge residents.

Directions

Take I-90 to Exit 2. Follow Route 102 west to Stockbridge. Merwin House is the seventh house on the left after the Red Lion Inn.

Parking

There is limited parking available in the Merwin House driveway. Street parking is available.

 

Contact Information

A House Called "Tranquility"

The Doane family's Shingle Style renovations altered what was originally a classic Federal-style structure.

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  • A House Called "Tranquility"

    The Doane family's Shingle Style renovations altered what was originally a classic Federal-style structure.

  • Parlor

    The Doanes removed the original stairway and central hallway to make a more open and spacious room, seen here.

  • The Heart of the Berkshires

    When the Doanes moved to Merwin House, the Berkshires were becoming the thriving summer destination we know today,

Merwin HouseA Modest Family Residence

The titles for this plot of land date back to at least 1781. The land passed through a succession of owners from 1781 until 1825, belonging at different times to a yeoman, a merchant, a goldsmith, and a cordwainer. The locations of any earlier houses built on the property remain unknown. Around 1825, Francis and Clarissa Dresser built the late Federal-style house that exists today. Clarissa Dowd Dresser was from Madison, Connecticut, and moved to South Lee, Massachusetts, in 1832 to teach school. Francis Dresser passed away only fifteen years after marrying Clarissa, leaving her with four small children to raise. Little is known about her later life in the house. As the nineteenth century progressed, the community around the house was changing rapidly.

With the introduction of the railroad in the 1850s, Stockbridge transformed from a quiet, rural community to a leisure destination for wealthy New Yorkers looking to escape the noise and congestion of the city.

Merwin House, Stockbridge, MA. Parlor.Summer Retreat in the Berkshires

The period following the Civil War through World War I saw the Gilded Age reach the Berkshires. Artists, writers, financiers, and industrialists flocked to the rural hills of western Massachusetts for seasonal escapes. During this time, Stockbridge flourished; elaborate summer mansions were built and residents and visitors were entertained by a golf course, casino, and other cultural attractions.

In 1875 William and Elizabeth Doane, wealthy New Yorkers, purchased Merwin House from the Dresser family to use as a summer retreat. As the Doane family grew to include two young daughters, Vipont and Elizabeth, they added a Shingle Style ell addition to the original brick structure and significantly renovated the Federal interior of the house in 1900. The additional space and updated interiors created a more comfortable summer retreat for the Doane family. After William Doane passed away in 1923, Elizabeth and their daughter Vipont continued to summer at the house.

Merwin HouseAn Established Home

Vipont married three times during her life. Her first husband, Ensign Newman Perry, died tragically in an accident while serving in the Navy in 1905, just two years after their wedding. In 1909 Vipont married Edward Webb, but their nine-year marriage was apparently never publicized until they divorced in 1918. In 1923, the same year William Doane passed away, Vipont married Edward Payson Merwin, a New York stockbroker with family roots in North Carolina.

Elizabeth Doane passed away in 1932. At that time her daughter Vipont and Edward Merwin decided to live in the house on a more permanent basis. After the sudden death of Edward Merwin in 1936, Vipont Merwin continued to live in the house for nearly thirty years. She lived there with two servants, Catherine and Albert Martinengo. The Martinengos became Vipont’s close friends and companions during these years. Vipont Merwin passed away in 1965 and is buried in the family plot in Stockbridge.

Merwin HouseBecoming a Museum: An Example of American Culture

Historic New England acquired Merwin House in 1966, shortly after the death of Marie Vipont deRiviere Doane Merwin, known as Vipont. It was her desire to leave Merwin House as a museum, as her will states, “as an example of an American culture which is fast becoming extinct.”

Property FAQs

Find out about accessibility, photography policy, and more.

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  • Can I walk to Merwin House from downtown Stockbridge?

    Yes, Merwin House is located at 14 Main Street, just a short walk from the shops and hotels in the center of town. Sidewalks on both sides of Main Street make it an easy and safe journey.

  • Where is the best place to park?

    There is limited parking available in the Merwin House driveway. Street parking is available along Main Street.

  • What else is near Merwin House?

    There are a number of attractions in the Stockbridge area. The Mission House, across Main Street in Stockbridge, offers an earlier perspective on New England’s history. The Norman Rockwell Museum is also located in Stockbridge. The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, located in nearby Lenox, offers a glimpse into the life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Main Street in Stockbridge also offers a number of shops, galleries, and eateries for visitors.

  • Can I schedule a private group tour of Merwin House?

    Yes, group tours of ten or more people can be arranged from June through December. Email us or call 617-994-6662 for more information.

  • Do I need to take a tour or can I just look around?

    All visitors to the house receive a guided tour.

  • Is the museum accessible to people with disabilities?

    A tour of any Historic New England property requires a considerable amount of standing and some walking. Merwin House has not been equipped with accessible ramps, elevators, or chair lifts. Folding chairs can be provided for visitors who would like to use them during a tour. We are glad to offer guests a visual tour of the museum. Visitors with limited mobility may be able to enjoy a first floor tour of the house and grounds. Service animals are always welcome. We encourage visitors with concerns to call ahead. We are happy to work with you to make your visit an enjoyable one.

  • Can I take photographs at Merwin House?

    Interior and exterior photography for personal use is allowed at Historic New England properties. For the safety and comfort of our visitors and the protection of our collections and house museums, we ask that you be aware of your surroundings and stay with your guide. Video, camera bags, tripods, and selfie sticks are not permitted. Professional/commercial photographers and members of the media should visit the press room for more information.

  • How do I become a member of Historic New England and get more involved?

    Join Historic New England now and help preserve the region’s heritage. Call 617-994-5910 or join online.

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