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History of the MacDowell Club of Mountain Lakes

photo of Edward and Marian MacDowell
Edward and Marian MacDowell

Soon after the famous noteworthy American composer Edward MacDowell died in 1908, his wife, pianist Marian MacDowell, established the MacDowell Colony, a retreat for composers, artists and writers, in Peterborough, New Hampshire.  She also started dozens of MacDowell Clubs throughout the country to give artists the opportunity to perform and to provide support for the Colony.  The clubs encouraged participation in cultural activities by local citizens who were simply interested in the arts or who participated at an amateur level.

photo of log cabin in New Hampshire
Marian MacDowell in front of their log cabin in New Hampshire

Mountain Lakes was a small, newly developed community.  Because of its rustic beauty, many artists moved into the area: some as permanent residents and others as summer vacationers.  The MacDowell Club of Mountain Lakes was started in 1916 by Mrs. Lazelle Whitmore, a singer and friend of the late composer.  She invited some of her talented friends and neighbors to perform in her home.  Since there was no radio or TV at that time, musical entertainment was most welcome.  On their afternoons together, almost all of the charter members played the piano or sang.  Associate members were expected to give papers on musical subjects.

The group elected Katherine Fleming Hinrichs as its first president.  Her husband was a prominent conductor, and a colleague of Edward MacDowell at Columbia University.  As the years passed, the club enlarged its outreach to others in the area, including men, who loved music and the allied arts.  Today the organization has members from all over Morris and the surrounding counties.  After each concert, conviviality prevails as they linger over tea and refreshments.

Meanwhile, the MacDowell Colony has provided solitude and comfortable community living to talented artists who have achieved fame: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland, James Baldwin, Thornton Wilder, Studs Terkel, and Walter Burle Marx to name just a few.  Two local talents who have attended the Colony are screen writer Tom Popp of Mountain Lakes and composer Eric Chasalow of Whippany.  The Colony is situated on 400 acres of woodlands and meadows and consists of over 40 buildings including 28 secluded artist studios, a library, and a dining hall.

In addition to providing support for the Colony, the MacDowell Club of Mountain Lakes encourages young talent through its Florence Boughton Scholarship Competition for young artists (musicians under 20 and singers under 25).

On Oct 16 2006, the MacDowell Club of Mountain Lakes will celebrate its 90th anniversary.  Despite its venerable age, the organization has retained the atmosphere of friendly fellowship with which it began.

"Willing and Able" is a charming history of the club covering the years 1916 - 1946 which was written by Marcella Baldwin, former Club President.  Copies are available @ $25 each, ($10 of which is a tax deductible contribution to the Club.)