MacDowell Colony

MacDowell Colony
MacDowell Colony
Colony Hall and Sigma Alpha Iota Cottage
Location: 100 High Street, Peterborough, New Hampshire
Built: 1908
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#: 66000026
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHLD: December 29, 1962[2]

Coordinates: 42°53′24″N 71°57′18″W / 42.89°N 71.955°W / 42.89; -71.955 The MacDowell Colony is an art colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, U.S.A., founded in 1907 by Marian MacDowell, pianist and wife of composer Edward MacDowell. She established the institution and its endowment chiefly with donated funds. She led the colony for nearly 25 years, against a background of two world wars, the Great Depression and other challenges.

Over the years, an estimated 6,000 artists have been supported in residence, including the winners of at least 61 Pulitzer Prizes. The colony has accepted writers, poets, playwrights, artists and composers.

Stays average four to five weeks and are limited to two months. Room and board are free, and some residents receive help with travel expenses as well. Each artist is assigned one of 32 studios for personal use available on a 24-hour-a-day basis. Each studio is a separate building with power, heat, simple amenities, lunch delivered, and no telephone. Artists allow interruptions by invitation only. In nearly every case, the studios are out of view of each other.

The colony is a community of between 20 and 30 artists, who generally share breakfast and dinner in a common dining room. They frequently engage in group activities in the evenings.

The colony was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.[2][3]

In 1997, the colony was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[4]


Notable works


The composer Edward MacDowell was one of the first seven members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He believed that interdisciplinary associations among artists were valuable.

In 1896, Marian MacDowell bought Hillcrest Farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire, as a summer residence for herself and her husband. She had always been careful to give him a quiet room for his work. Edward MacDowell found that the New Hampshire landscape enhanced his work of composing music.

The couple formulated a plan to provide an interdisciplinary experience in a nurturing landscape by creating an institutionalized residential art colony in the area. In 1904 Edward MacDowell began to show signs of a mental illness or dementia that ended his composing and teaching career. He died in 1908.

In 1907 Marian MacDowell deeded their farm to the Edward MacDowell Association, and founded the MacDowell Colony. The first guests were Helen Mears, a sculptor, and her sister Mary Mears, a writer. Marian and friends raised funds among a wide variety of people for the colony, which was supported by former U.S. President Grover Cleveland, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the financier J. P. Morgan, and other prominent people, as well as many others across the country. MacDowell said the most consistent support came from women's clubs and professional music sororities.

  • see MacDowell Club (New York)

At the age of 50, MacDowell began lecturing to women's groups to raise funds, resumed her performing career and became a noted interpreter of her husband's work.

The first residents came in 1907. Through the years more separate studios were built. MacDowell began by inviting applicants personally, but had consigned the admission process to a committee by the 1920s. The program continues in dozens of buildings scattered over 450 acres (1.8 km²) of land.

Medal Day

Every year, the colony presents the Edward MacDowell Medal to an artist who has made a significant cultural contribution. Residency at the colony is not a requirement. Medal Day is one of the rare occasions when the colony is open to the public. The ceremony includes a keynote speech, after which the artists open their studios to visitors.[5]

Property-tax exemption dispute

The colony, a non-profit organization, enjoys the status of a charity, entitling it to exemption from local property taxes, among other things. However, in 2005, the town of Peterborough's selectmen (local-government executives) decided to challenge MacDowell's charitable status and billed the colony for a "payment in lieu of taxes". A lawyer for the town argued that "the colony certainly benefits its artists-in-residence, but that doesn't strike us as being the general public."[6]

The colony's board of directors paid the bill, then successfully challenged the charge. A 2007 Superior Court opinion found that the MacDowell Colony, by promoting the arts, was a charitable institution, a ruling that was upheld by the Supreme Court in a subsequent appeal.[7]:p13 The appeal court found that "Contrary to the Town's assertions, MacDowell's articles of incorporation oblige it to use its property for its stated charitable purpose."[7]:p11


Further reading

External links

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  • MacDowell, Edward (Alexander) — orig. Edward Alexander McDowell born Dec. 18, 1860, New York, N.Y., U.S. died Jan. 23, 1908, New York City U.S. composer. He started piano lessons at age eight. While in Germany for further study, he impressed the composer Joachim Raff (1822–82) …   Universalium

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  • New Hampshire — New Hampshirite /hamp sheuh ruyt /, New Hampshireman. /hamp sheuhr, shear/ 1. a state in the NE United States. 920,610; 9304 sq. mi. (24,100 sq. km). Cap.: Concord. Abbr.: NH (for use with zip code), N.H. 2. one of an American breed of chestnut… …   Universalium