THE WILSON’S HOME, BILL W.’S WRITING STUDIO, & LOIS’ GARDEN
On April 11, 1941, Bill and Lois Wilson’s moved into their first home of their own. They named it “Bil-Los Break” and later renamed it “Stepping Stones” as it became central to the history of worldwide recovery from alcoholism.
For forty years, the home, writing studio, and archives of the Wilsons, have been preserved by the Stepping Stones Foundation, which shares the legacy of this unique couple and their home, where they lived and worked from 1941 until their deaths in 1971 and 1988, respectively.
The New York State historic marker that stands at the edge of Lois’ garden states: “Here is the home of Bill and Lois Wilson. ‘Bill W.’ was co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous – 1935. ‘Lois W.’ co-founder of Al-Anon Family Groups – 1951.” The combination of Lois’ plantings, includes antique roses, dogwood trees, and more.
The home and surroundings reflect the spirit of the Wilsons.
Explore highlights below and in the Site Gallery.
The Dutch Colonial Revival style home built in 1920 is filled with about 10,000 original objects that belonged to the Wilsons. Items range from extraordinarily rare keepsakes to everyday items of yesteryear. The lived environment has the full range of one-of-a-kind memorabilia, heirlooms, and artwork as well as household items and décor from the 1800s and 1900s.
The first floor was the locus of A.A. and family activity. By day, the living room could be filled with drop ins enjoying coffee, cake, and ice cream. By night, it could be filled with live music, fellowship, and the glow of the fireplace as A.A. newcomers mingled with the Wilsons’ family.
Houseguests were a constant, so for most of the Wilsons’ lives as many as three bedrooms were dedicated to what were often long-term visitors.
Central to the kitchen is the table that came from Brooklyn. In his story in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill recounts sitting at the table in Lois’ childhood home as Ebby Thacher shared his story of recovery.
Upstairs is the birthplace of the formal Al-Anon Family Groups’ structure with Lois' desk greeting visitors as they crest the stairwell and enter the “Gallery,” which Lois said was “like a museum.” Built as a library and filled with the Wilsons’ books, Lois adorned the walls with memorabilia revealing the key figures, the roots, and the growth of A.A. for you to see.
At the far end of the Gallery, nestled behind curtains sewn by Lois, is the master bedroom. Inside the sunlit room is the antique bed in which Lois and her siblings were born. Here we imagine Bill and Lois enjoying coffee, quiet time, and prayer together and reading to one another.
The humble cinder block studio on the hill is a special place for people in recovery worldwide. Here Bill W. wrote books, articles, and speeches that presented the principles of recovery, unity, and service that remain vital to personal and family healing and group and fellowship continued existence.
An A.A. friend helped Bill build a place to think and write. He called it “the shack.” Legend has it that Lois referred to it as “Wit’s End” when people telephoned for Bill, she quipped “Bill is not home. He is at his ‘Wit’s End’.” The name stuck!
An important relic in the studio is Bill’s desk, complete with cigarette burns. He wrote chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous (“Big Book,” April 1939) sitting at this desk while working in Hank Parkhurst’s office in Newark, New Jersey. Bill moved the desk to Stepping Stones and wrote the iconic works the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (April 1953), A.A. Comes of Age, and the A.A.
Way of Life (As Bill Sees It). He also wrote thousands of letters, documents, and more than 100 Grapevine magazine articles.
The writing studio has a day bed and mementos, including the Serenity Prayer in several languages, photographs, and the cane and crucifix of Bill’s spiritual advisor Father Ed Dowling.
Lois' favorite pastime was gardening. She even enjoyed weeding!
Stepping Stones Archive contains Lois' diaries, which describe what she planted and where. This helps today's gardeners to maintain the flowers and shrubs that Lois liked. Lois even describes the Wilsons’ efforts to keep the groundhogs from destroying the vegetable garden, where they grew Lois’ favorite – rhubarb – and pumpkins for neighborhood children.
Garden highlights include the historic rose arbor with the beautiful pink blooms that adorn it and the Harrison Yellow Rose bush in the center of the garden. Lois transplanted the yellow roses from near her childhood home in Brooklyn Heights.
Fixed at the bottom of the garden is “Stone Henge” – the outdoor fireplace – a site of many festivities. Today, donations are being accepted for efforts to restore the fireplace as well as Lois’ beloved outdoor fountain.
Stepping Stones' grounds are 8.17 acres. The landscape includes evergreens brought from Vermont, a pair of apple trees they gave each other as gifts, ornamentals including a Kousa Dogwood, and more.
The Wilsons enjoyed walking outside in the evenings. Bill walked as many as 5 miles per day. He trudged in and out of the trails that wove through the estates and farms of yesteryear. He thought this form of exercise kept him in good health.
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