Hartford home of Wallace Stevens has new owners

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The former home of Wallace Stevens, the famed poet who penned many of his best known verses while working as a Hartford insurance executive, has been sold and will be used as a private residence after a failed push by his fans to memorialize the building as a museum or writers' residence.

Stevens, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, composed poetry as he walked daily from the spacious house to his office at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co. He lived there for more than two decades until his death in 1955 at the age of 75.

The six-bedroom house in a leafy neighborhood on Hartford's western edge sold on Sept. 10 for $430,000. The buyers, a married couple of doctors from Maryland, plan to keep the house as another residence for themselves.

"Our family greatly admires the poetry of Wallace Stevens, and the poet's past ownership of the house definitely adds extra meaning," the new owners, Emily Germain-Lee and Se-Jin Lee, wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Emotions over the sale have been mixed among Stevens fans in Hartford, where a group of investors had been trying to raise money to preserve the house as a memorial. Among the ideas that did not pan out was a proposal to the insurance firm that became The Hartford Financial Services Group to buy it as lodging for visiting executives.

"It was never going to be a tragedy if it went into private hands, presuming someone didn't tear it to the ground," said Jim Finnegan, president of the board for the Hartford Friends of Wallace Stevens literary club.

The only indication outside the house that it once belonged to a major American poet is a granite stone, set in a grassy boulevard across the street. It is one of 13 granite markers, each inscribed with a stanza from his poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," that the literary club installed in 2008 along the route Stevens walked.

Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, and worked for various law firms and insurance companies before moving to Hartford in 1916. He and his wife moved into the house in 1932. After he died, the house was bought by Christ Church Cathedral, which used it as a residence for ministers for decades before putting it up for sale.

The new owners declined a request for an interview about the purchase.

The minister who had been living in the house would allow the occasional Stevens fan to take a look around, Finnegan said, and after it went on the market many took advantage of the open houses to take tours.

"It was nonstop. I felt like it was a party there," said real estate agent Paula Ostop, who said most of the potential buyers had an interest in Stevens. "People were so excited to go through and take a look."