Merrill spent summers in Stonington until his death in 1995. Village life and the apartment itself inspired some of his most important work, including The Changing Light at Sandover, his book-length epic poem based on Merrill’s and Jackson’s communications with the spirit world by means of a Ouija board.
After James Merrill’s death in 1995, the Stonington Village Improvement Association (SVIA) found itself the unexpected beneficiary of the entire building. The immediate question was what would be the best use for the now-empty apartment that had been home to one of America’s most celebrated poets.
what would be the best use for the now-empty apartment that had been home to one of America’s most celebrated poets. The SVIA’s decision was to change nothing, to leave the apartment and its furnishings intact, and to provide a place for writers to live and work.
began a program that would make the apartment available, rent-free, to writers and scholars for academic-year residencies. Thus Merrill’s gift to the community became a gift to writers as well.
In the years since Merrill’s death, dozens of 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. In 2013, the building at 107 Water Street was awarded a listing on the National Register of Historic Places as an individual location. The James Merrill House was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 2016 “for its association with James Ingram Merrill (1926-95), one of his generation’s most acclaimed poets.”
During 2016-2019, thanks to generous grant support from the Hellen Ingram Plummer Charitable Foundation, a substantial conservation and restoration program was completed, including windows, climate control, and preservation of James Merrill’s books and artwork. Grant support for window restoration was also received from the 1772 Foundation.
James Merrill’s apartment is open to the general public four afternoons a year. At other times, visits may be arranged by appointment. Please contact us via our website for more information and directions.