Born in 1879 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Wallace Stevens is best known as a resident of Hartford, Connecticut, where he lived for almost forty years, until his death in 1955; he is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery there. Stevens attended Harvard University in Boston, and in 1904 received a law degree from New York Law School. Stevens worked briefly as a reporter for the New York Tribune, but the exposure to crime and despair proved to be too much for him, and he turned to practicing law.
Stevens married in 1909 and relocated with his wife in 1916 to Hartford. Their first year there, they lived at 594 Prospect Avenue, then spent seven years in an apartment at 210 Farmington Avenue, where Stevens wrote his first volume of poetry, Harmonium. In 1932, Stevens bought a 1920s Colonial at 118 Westerly Terrace, where he amassed a library of leather-bound books, collected art, and kept a wine cellar. He cared for his rose and peony beds, and the holly bush he planted in honor of his daughter, Holly.
The city of Hartford and its surroundings left a lasting mark on his work, as shown in these lines from "Of Hartford in a Purple Light":
It is Hartford seen in a purple light.
A moment ago, light masculine,
Working, with big hands, on the town,
Arranged its heroic attitudes.
But as in an amour of women
Purple sets purple around. Look Mater,
See the river, the railroad, the cathedral..."
Stevens's home at 118 Westerley Terrace is now a private residence.