Saturday, April 5, 2008

Change at the Mount

Goings on at the Mount, Edith Wharton's place in the Berkshires, have been the subject of previous posts:

Mount Hopes Its Story Continues

House of Cards Or Life, Once Again, Imitates Art...

The single most important step toward saving the Mount has now occurred, Stephanie Copeland has been made an offer she couldn't accept - and resigned.

Let us hope that the good people still at the Mount can find a way to keep this wonderful house museum going. There are opportunities to make it more than a museum and they should be explored. This will probably be necessary for the institution to survive.

Further articles have appeared in the New York times and the Berkshire Eagle, but there is no point in gloating. The rumor mill has it that a piece will appear in the New Yorker. If this happens there will be another post on the matter.



From the Berkshire Eagle:

Tuesday, April 01 There is no questioning Stephanie Copeland's dedication to the Mount, as she was the driving force behind the restoration of the Gilded Age home and gardens of author Edith Wharton. For the Mount to have any chance of digging out of its massive debt, however, the president and chief executive officer of the Edith Wharton Restoration had to step aside, which she did over the weekend.

The Mount is $8.7 million in debt, half of it owed to Berkshire Bank, and all of it is in default. With the bank threatening foreclosure, Ms. Copeland has led a fundraising effort over the past five weeks that has raised about $570,000, which scarcely makes a dent in the organization's deficit.

It is understandable, particularly in this financial climate, that potential donors would be reluctant to contribute to the Mount in its struggle as long as the person who oversaw the building of its debt was still in charge.

Ms. Copeland resigned after the board of trustees made her an offer she couldn't accept,
one in which she would forfeit her role in administration and fundraising and remain in charge only of creative management at the Mount. While this action should have come sooner, this board, which is entirely new since late 2006, took the initiative that past boards had failed to take.

It is obvious that, as the board stated, the Mount's management structure needs an overhaul. In keeping with that, it needs to build ties with the Berkshire co
mmunity that are all but non-existent. If the board can find the right person or people to meet these challenges, the Mount may survive this trauma and remain an important part of the Berkshire experience.

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