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McClatchy-Tribune  07/18/2014 1:04 PM ET
Wallace Stevens Home Back On Market After Plans For Purchase, Museum Fall Through [The Hartford Courant :: ]

July 18--A vision for establishing a museum in Wallace Stevens' Hartford home won't turn into reality now that a major investor has pulled out of the project.

Alison Johnson, who led the five-member investor group, confirmed Thursday plans to turn Stevens' home on Westerly Terrace into a modest museum honoring the poet had been shelved and were unlikely to be revived.

"I had a call on Monday morning from one of the five consortium members, who told me that he was very sorry to say that he was withdrawing his offer to put up $100,000 as one of the investors in the consortium," Johnson said in an email.

Further, Johnson said, "He said that he had also changed his mind about letting the projected house museum use his collection of Wallace Stevens' furniture and paintings."

The group had agreed to buy the property July 1 at the asking price of $489,900.

Johnson declined to identify the investor. But previously, Johnson had said one investor, Stevens' grandson, Peter Hanchak of Virginia, still owned some of Stevens' furniture and paintings. The group had hoped to return those items to the house.

When reached Thursday, Hanchak declined to comment.

Johnson, author of "Wallace Stevens: A Dual Life as Poet and Insurance Executive" and the website http://www.wallacestevensbiography.com, said the group had hoped to show another side of Stevens, sometimes considered solitary, even prickly.

"It is of course with great disappointment that we cannot move forward on this project," Johnson said. "The Wallace Stevens home is a wonderful house with beautiful interior wainscoting and paneling, and I'm sure some family that purchases it will be delighted with their new home."

Johnson said a home inspection did not reveal any major flaws and was not a factor in the decision to halt the group's plans.

Paula Fahy Ostop, the listing agent with Ellyn Marshall & Associates/William Raveis in West Hartford, said the property at 118 Westerly Terrace has returned to the market with at the original asking price.

The house has been owned by Christ Church Cathedral since Stevens' death and was used as a deanery. The church decided to sell it because its priests now prefer to live in their own homes.

The investors had planned to hold the six-bedroom, 1920s Colonial for 18 months, in hopes of raising $500,000, enough to transfer the property to a foundation that would oversee the museum and its maintenance.

Stevens was praised as a "poet's poet" as early as the 1930s, but he kept a low profile in Hartford, virtually unknown to his neighbors. Stevens was known to compose poems in his head while walking to his job as a vice president at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co., now The Hartford Financial Services Group.

Stevens, who lived in house from 1932 until his death in 1955, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and National Book Award.

A few years ago, The Hartford Friends of Wallace Stevens, a group of poets and poetry lovers, created a tribute to Stevens in the city.

They erected 13 knee-high granite stones -- each with a verse of Stevens' widely known poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" -- along his walking route from home to office. One of the stones is on a grassy boulevard across the street from the house.

Jim Finnegan, the group's president, said the Friends had also tried to interest corporations and area colleges in acquiring the house, with no success.

Finnegan said the museum plan was the last hope to preserve as many interior features as possible as they were when Stevens lived there.

"Oh well," Finnegan said. "I hope the house finds a suitable buyer."

 

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