To create relationships that enrich the experience of recovery and preserve our history as the birthplace and childhood home of Bill Wilson.
To be the destination for people in recovery.
In his role as co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson was by far one of the most influential people of the 20th century. In creating this program, Bill has been instrumental in literally saving the lives of millions of people across the globe and created a transformative, universal support system for those in recovery. The Twelve Step program he and Dr. Bob founded continues to do the same in the 21st century.
Bill’s story starts with his birth in East Dorset on November 26, 1895, in the Wilson House, his paternal grandparents’ hotel in East Dorset, Vermont across the street from the train station He lived nearby for the first five years of his life. The family then moved to Rutland, Vermont, until his parent’s divorce in 1906. That same year, his mother made the decision to go to Boston to train as an osteopath. She left Bill and his younger sister Dorothy with her parents in their East Dorset home across the street from the Wilson House. The grandparents’ home, complete with Bill’s second floor bedroom, is part of the Wilson House property and open to the public.
Bill spent a happy childhood and adolescence in and around East Dorset. He hunted small game, fished in small streams and at nearby Emerald Lake, and learned to play the violin. His grandparents had the means to send him to the then-private high school, Burr and Burton, a few miles away in Manchester. He was class president, captain of the baseball team and played lead violin in the school orchestra. From this, one can perhaps gain an early glimpse of Bill’s drive to be the best at everything he did. During his senior year, following the death of a young woman with whom he was in love, he suffered his first bout with depression, which delayed his actual graduation for a few months following commencement exercises. While nobody could foresee what was to come, Bill Wilson went on to become the most consequential person ever to graduate from his high school alma mater.
When Bill attended Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, he frequently returned home to spend time with his grandparents. This is a pattern that would continue for the rest of his life. He and his wife Lois, who had her own connections to East Dorset, visited for extended periods of time every year. This was home. Naturally, when Bill died, he was buried here.
Today, East Dorset remains the small town of Bill’s childhood. The main street still contains most of the tidy colonial homes he walked among for so many years. . Stately Burr and Burton Academy, nearing its two-hundredth year of operations, and where Bill spent four formative years, is a stop for any visit. Emerald Lake, where Lois’s parents owned a summer cottage, is a beautiful Vermont State Park. The East Dorset Cemetery where Bill, his mother, sister, grandparents, and his wife Lois are buried in a family plot, is just a couple of minutes away and a pilgrimage for most Wilson House visitors.
Bill Wilson’s soul resides at the Wilson House, where he was born, where his work continues, and which remains at the heart of the town he never really left. Just as the Wilson House gave birth to Bill W, it remains a life-giving refuge for those in recovery. You will feel welcome, and leave enriched by the experience of your visit.