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Updated: Jun 13, 2022

MacDowell is known as the first artist residency in the U.S. Its history begins in 1896, when Marian MacDowell purchased a farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire so her husband, Edward MacDowell, could have quiet place to focus on his art. Edward was an accomplished American composer who was fundamental in the formation of Columbia University’s School of the Arts. The stresses of his professional life weighed upon his creative mind but Hillcrest (the original name of the MacDowell property) provided a retreat where the MacDowell's, and their artistic colleagues, could commune with nature and each other.

Edward and Marian MacDowell. Image courtesy of MacDowell

In 1904, Edward’s health started to rapidly deteriorate after his resignation from Columbia and the MacDowells moved to their beloved farm full time. Edward expressed to Marian that Hillcrest’s stimulating environment of artistic collaboration and freedom should be preserved and offered to artists for as long as possible. In 1907, Marian initiated the process of turning Hillcrest into a full time space where artists were supported and nurtured.

Edward died in 1908. Marian made it her life's work to see her husband's dying wishes become reality. She was able to create a fund whose first donors included Andrew Carnegie, Grover Cleveland, and J. P. Morgan. This fund eventually gave sustainable life to the MacDowell Colony, which was run by Marian for over 25 years.

MacDowell ("colony" was removed from the name in 2020) now has 32 studios (each with its own significant architectural history) and has offered residence to over 8,000 multidisciplinary artists. 86 Pulitzer Prizes, 31 National Book Awards, 30 Tony Awards, 32 MacArthur Fellowships, 15 Grammys, 8 Oscars, 828 Guggenheim Fellowships, and 107 Rome Prizes have come out of MacDowell.


"MacDowell's mission is to nurture the arts by offering talented individuals an inspiring residential environment in which to produce enduring works of the creative imagination."

James Baldwin Library Interior. Image courtesy of MacDowell.