The History of Wellspring

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Named one of Electric Literature’s “8 best writing retreats that won’t break the bank,” Wellspring House was founded in 1999, by Ann Hutt Browning and her husband Preston Browning, Jr. Together, they had a vision to develop not just a space and lodging site for writers and artists, but also a place imbued with the serene interrelation between our human environment and the natural one.

For almost two decades, the house has been home to over a thousand writers and artists who have journeyed from various parts of America and abroad in order to find solitude and their artistic refuge at Wellspring.

And the rest is,
as they say, history…

Beginning Wellspring

In the summer of 1998, Ann and Preston came to Ashfield, MA to spend time with their second daughter, Sarah, who had just given birth to their first grandchild. They began looking for property in the area in order to stay close, but they had a hard time finding a house that felt ‘right’ for them.

During her search, however, Ann Hutt Browning came across an old carriage house, built in the 1880s which was not in great shape. She returned to her then-home in Chicago and asked Preston whether they might buy the property, renovate it, and turn it into a retreat for writers and artists. Preston was on the fence initially, but his daughter, Sarah, urged him on with the familiar line, “if you build it, they will come”. That Thanksgiving, Preston and Ann returned to Ashfield, MA and bought the house.

Ann had a vision. She spent her early mornings in the early winter of 1999, drafting renovation plans. They hired a contractor, and by August 1999, opened the doors of Wellspring to the public. They welcomed their first resident on Sept. 3, 1999.

Since then, Ann and Preston have welcomed writers, artists, playwrights, poets, and creatives of all types to the serene and idyllic site that is the Wellspring home. Though Ann passed away in 2011, Preston has carried on the vision that she first inspired.

Each year, the Wellspring house hosts a Poetry Reading Series which invites a writer to Ashfield, MA, for a special reading event. Recent writers have included: Ocean Vuong. Each week, residents in the house are invited to special in-house readings, and occasionally, Wellspring hosts a number of events for the public.

Growing Wellspring

In 2017, Preston began the Resident Writers Fellowship, allowing for a writer to live on site as a long-term resident and to help manage the property and scheduling. This year, John T. Howard, and his partner, Aubrey Crosby, join the Wellspring family as writers-in-residence. 

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Wellspring, Wellspring will be announcing a Residency Fellowship Contest, where applicants will have the chance to receive a free week-long residency at Wellspring. More to come. 

Poems from the Wellspring Anthology

AnthologyThis year, in celebration of Preston’s 90th birthday, and Wellspring’s 20 Year Anniversary, co-editors Arlyn Miller and Wendy DeGroat have published an anthology, Poems from the Wellspringa “love story” of poetry written by 43 poets reflecting on and commemorating their time at Wellspring.  Learn more here