The Los Angeles abstract painter Steve Van Nort and I took a long drive through upstate New York last week on our way to the Boy BQ street art festival in Rochester, which I shall report about in a subsequent dispatch.
One stop was the Old Stone House in Talcottville, N.Y., home of my hero and distant cousin, the great critic Edmund Wilson.
Built by the Tory Hezekiah Talcott in 1789, who was moving west from the victorious Americans, the house was purchased by Wilson's (and my) ancestor Thomas Baker. Wilson moved to the house in the 1930s and died there in his brass bed, moved down to the first floor, in 1972. It was here that Wilson wrote his greatest books, including The Dead Sea Scrolls and his study of the literature of the Civil War, Patriotic Gore.
Steve Van Nort and I found this unique dwelling in excellent shape, with the furniture exactly as it was when Wilson lived there (some of his books were still on a dusty table). We theorized that the house must still be in the Wilson family (Wilson's daughter, the painter Helen Miranda Wilson, now 62, had her most recent exhibition of luminous small colored grids at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in Chelsea last year).
The Old Stone House glistens in beautifully detailed gray limestone, with five reconstructed red brick chimneys and an exotic pantry filled with ancient furniture in the rear. There is a well in the back and a majestic chestnut tree.
Nearby are the crystal clear brooks and streams where Edmund Wilson picked wildflowers and cooled his feet, as chronicled in one of his last books Upstate and in his published diaries. Although registered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the house still appears to be in private hands. For this humbled critic, it is nothing less than Mecca.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).