James Merrill came to Stonington in 1954 and took up residence at 107 Water Street with his companion, David Jackson. 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.
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. A group of Stonington residents and friends of Merrill’s 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.
Today, the apartment looks much the way Merrill left it. The spirit of the place, the singular décor, the famous wallpaper, the views, the light, the privacy, and perhaps Merrill’s spirit remain. In the years since Merrill’s death, more than twenty-eight 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. To read a more complete history of the building, click here.
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.