Stepping Stones Achieves Landmark Status
The home of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder, Bill W. gets national recognition.
Lois and Bill Wilson probably had no idea that years after their respective deaths their modest home, now known as Stepping Stones, would be named a National Historic Landmark and receive Westchester County's proclamation that June 6, 2015 is “Stepping Stones Day”. Bill Wilson, better know as Bill W., is the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and his wife Lois W. is co-founder of Al-Anon. Much of the formative work of Alcoholics Anonymous took place in their now famous home.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual aid fellowship. Their primary purpose is to help alcoholics “to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.” In his own fight against alcoholism, Bill W. wrote one of the more read manuscripts in American history after returning from his service in the army, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. The book is also known as "The Big Book" containing the seminal "twelve-step method" used to treat addition. Bill W.'s legacy remained vibrant and glowing on this day of celebration and recognition.
Memorialized inside were thousands of mementos still in mint condition. Furniture, diaries, love letters, and photographs all stood out on display from years of an historic marriage, all kept tidy like the couple had just left for the afternoon. There was certainly good reason for an honor to be bestowed upon the grounds. Although the skies overhead remained dark throughout the opening ceremonies, the mood underneath suggested much sunnier conditions. And sure enough, the clouds parted by afternoon, shining down on the hundreds of patrons.
Executive Director of the Stepping Stones Foundation Sally Corbett proudly discussed the justified notoriety the estate was receiving.
“This is a milestone because only the elite historic sites, only about 2,500 around the country, have ever received a designation as a National Historic Landmark. So for the six structures, 8.5 acres, the archives, and 15,000 objects that Stepping Stones stewards to be recognized as that important to America is significant.”
As the Opening Ceremonies came to a close, visitors were given access to roam around the grounds for a picnic that would last throughout the afternoon. The house was kept open for anyone to peruse any of the treasures enclosed.
Adding to the aura of such a momentous occasion was the outpouring of emotion in the speeches that preceded the plaque unveiling. As Senator Latimer said so eloquently, “Something happened here that should be remembered forever. Today signifies that this is not just another nice house in a beautiful community, but that people lived here and did something of value. And it wasn’t just a value for their immediate neighbors. That’s what we’re honoring with the plaque.”
There may not have been any kind of marker when dawn broke. But what the tablet symbolizes is far greater than its explicit description.
“The plaque does two things,” Corbett explained, “it honors the work of Lois and Bill Wilson and their legacy. But it also honors the work to preserve their property, their home, and all of their memorabilia and other items within the site. The plaque isn’t only for Stepping Stones, but in a way it’s for all the people who care about the 12 steps and 12-step traditions around the world, whether it be people in 12-step organizations or their family and friends.”
Today AA reports an estimated 2 million members worldwide. And, if all 2 million couldn’t be at the international headquarters on Saturday, the rest were cheering from 169 other countries.
(Photo L-R front row: Mindi Rambo, National Parks Service; Margaret Griffith Strong Dettman, Bill Wilson’s great niece; Bedford Town Board Member Mary Beth Kass, Christopher Burdick (Supervisor), Frances Corcoran; Stepping Stones Executive Director Sally Corbett. Back row: NY Senator George Latimer; Stepping Stones Board President John Koster; Assemblyman David Buchwald; Bedford Town Board Member Don Scott.)