Wilder and the MacDowell Colony

  • Thornton Wilder and Marian MacDowell and friends at the MacDowell Colony in 1952. (Left to right, Paul Nordoff, Thornton Wilder, Marian MacDowell, Nikolai Lopatnikoff and Margaret Widdemer.) Photo BY Bernice Perry, courtesy of the MacDowell Colony

  • Thornton Wilder with other MacDowell Colony fellows. Courtesy of the MacDowell Colony—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 11:23AM

Thornton Wilder was a teacher at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, when he first came to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough.

Wilder “desperately needed time from teaching,” in order to write,” his nephew Tappan Wilder said.

“Being able to be there X number of weeks and being able to be there alone when day turns to night – it was a vitally important part of his artistic life,” Tappan Wilder said. “To have those weeks alone was invaluable. He was a huge fan.”

Thornton Wilder was in residence at the MacDowell Colony in 1924, 1926, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1937, 1940, 1952, 1953.

He wrote a great deal of his second novel “The Bridge at San Luis Rey” at the MacDowell Colony in 1924 and 1926. Released in 1927, the novel garnered him his first Pulitzer Prize.

When he turned to playwriting in the 1930s, Wilder wrote parts of “Our Town” in Veltin Studio at the Colony in 1937. “Our Town” premiered on Broadway in 1938 and also won a Pulitzer.

While in residence at the Colony in 1940, he began his third and final Pulitzer Prize winning work, the play “The Skin of Our Teeth,” which he completed in various places around the globe.

Wilder was devoted to Marian MacDowell, who founded the artist colony with her husband, composer, Edward MacDowell, according to Jonathan Gourlay, Communications Manager at the Colony. Wilder often stumped for the Colony at fundraisers throughout the 1930s, according to his letters, Gourlay said.

When the Colony began awarding its annual medal for the arts, Wilder was the first to receive one, being awarded the inaugural Edward MacDowell Medal in 1960.

Meghan Pierce is Digital Editor at the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. She can be reached at mpierce@ledgertranscript.com. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram @monadnockbeat.