James Merrill House
James Merrill was one of America’s great poets. Merrill and his partner, David Jackson, came to Stonington in 1954 and spent summers in the third floor apartments at 107 Water Street until Merrill’s death in 1995. Village life and the apartment itself inspired some of Merrill’s most important work, including The Changing Light at Sandover, his book-length epic poem.
Upon Merrill’s death, the Stonington Village Improvement Association (SVIA) became the beneficiary of the entire building. The SVIA’s decision was to leave the apartment and its furnishings intact, and to provide a place for writers to live and work. A group of Stonington residents and friends of Merrill’s began a program that made the apartment available to writers and scholars for residencies of various durations. The residency program has flourished over the years and since 2008 has offered a stipend. Thus Merrill’s gift to the community became a gift to writers as well.
Today, the apartment looks much the way Merrill left it. Local resident and literary executor to Merrill, J.D. McClatchy, generously donated the contents of Merrill’s apartment as well as much of Merrill’s library and record collection to the SVIA. The essence of the place, the singular décor, the famous wallpaper, the views, the light, the privacy, and Merrill’s spirit remain.
In the years since Merrill’s death, forty-six writers have used this space as a residence and retreat. They differ in age, experience, and approach, but all have been enriched by the opportunity to live and work in these inspiring rooms.
The Merrill Residents are encouraged to contribute in some way to the community. In addition to a reading of their work at the Stonington Free Library, the fellows provide workshops, and invite authors from outside our area to read in Stonington. The Merrill House Committee sponsors an annual James Merrill Lecture that features speakers of note from outside our area to give a talk or reading.
The Merrill House website, www.jamesmerrillhouse.org, provides detailed information on the application and selection process and current Merrill House activities.