What would Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump make of Sinclair Lewis?
More to the point, what would he have made of them?
In accepting the 1930 Nobel Prize for literature — the first American to do so — Lewis (1885-1951) presciently observed that America is “the most contradictory, the most depressing, the most stirring of any land in the world today.” He won that prize for novels — “Main Street,” “Babbitt” and “Elmer Gantry,” among them — that skewered American commercialism and the cult of its celebrity.
But if Lewis had no qualms about sending up what we would call the 1-percenters, this bookish son of a strict Minnesota doctor also didn’t mind living among them. Witness his onetime Bronxville home, now on the market for $3,365,000.
Lewis moved there in the fall of 1933 with his second wife, Dorothy Thompson, the political columnist, and their young son, Michael. (His first marriage, to Vogue editor Grace Livingston Hegger, had ended in divorce in 1925, and their only son — Wells, named for the science fiction writer H.G. Wells — was killed in action with the U.S. Army in World War II.)
In a sense, Bronxville, where the Lewises lived for more than six years, represented a new chapter for the novelist. According to a 1940 edition of The Bronxville Review-Press, he and Thompson were familiar with the snug, tony village from appearances at The Bronxville Women’s Club. Lewis even substituted for his wife for a scheduled 1927 lecture. Three years later, Thompson took to the podium, predicting Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
Lewis himself would address fascism in his 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” about the election of a fascist U.S. president, perhaps the best-known work of his Bronxville period. You imagine him researching and writing it in the spacious library of the Bronxville home, with its floor-to-ceiling bookcases and windows that let in the greenery and stonework outside.
Lewis and Thompson’s house was designed by another Lewis — (Charles) Lewis Bowman, a Mount Vernon native and descendant of George Washington who created many of the stately Tudors that grace Westchester and Fairfield counties.
The Sinclair Lewis house, built in 1924, sits on ¾-acre of level property on the end of a quiet lane. Equally airy, elegant first-floor rooms open onto expansive terraces with formal gardens, an outdoor bar and a heated pool and cabana surrounded by flagstones, creating a magical setting for entertaining on any scale. The dramatic family room offers comfortable space for everyday relaxation.
The interior boasts light-filled views of the handsome property from every space, including the five bedrooms and five bathrooms — three full and two half-baths.
But it is to that library — with its wide oak plank floors, gigantic fireplace and lofty barrel ceiling — that the eye returns. It’s a perfect space for drinking in every season and cozying up with a good book, perhaps even one by the prophetic Lewis, who understood the wisdom of the French saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
For more, contact Kathleen Collins at 914-715-6052 or 914-620-8977 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.