Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Helen Epstein fills in the blanks on the history of the historic home in Lenox of famed American novelist Edith Wharton.

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The Mount, the historic home in Lenox, Massachusetts, of famed American novelist Edith Wharton, is facing foreclosure.
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"Mount faces loan crisis: Facing foreclosure by Berkshire Bank, the Edith Wharton museum must raise $3 million by March 24[, 2008]."
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, February 23, 2008

LENOX — The president of The Mount, the historic home of famed American novelist Edith Wharton, said that Berkshire Bank is threatening "imminent foreclosure" against the Plunkett Street tourist destination but has given the organization until March 24 to raise $3 million.

Stephanie Copeland, who also serves as The Mount's CEO, said yesterday that the nonprofit missed a $30,000 scheduled mortgage payment on Feb. 11 — a first-time missed payment — and that the bank sent a certified letter putting the organization on notice.

Copeland would not provide a copy of the bank's letter, and bank officials could not be reached late yesterday to comment on the foreclosure notice.

Last April, the bank recorded a mortgage of $5.245 million against the property, reflecting an amendment and consolidation of two prior loans.

Copeland said The Mount had met all of its payment obligations to the bank until February.

"We just ran out of cash," she said.

She said Berkshire Bank is now looking for evidence of the organization's fundraising capacity to satisfy shareholders that "we are a performing loan as opposed to a nonperforming loan.

"We have been talking to the bank all along and were in discussions with the bank about our circumstances, and they were very cognizant of the situation. They were aware when we were running short of funds."

In a prepared statement released to the media, Copeland said that The Mount "is faced with imminent foreclosure, which could result in its being closed to the public forever. In response, it is making an emergency public appeal to protect this National Historic Landmark through the Save the Mount campaign."

According to a 2007 search of foreclosure deeds filed in Massachusetts last year, nearly 30,000 foreclosure actions were initiated against borrowers last year; approximately 7,500 properties actually were sold at auction.

A foreclosure auction can take months to accomplish and first requires a filing with the state Land Court. In this case, a 30-day "workout" period has been allowed.

Copeland said she personally has raised $100,000 this week. She said an anonymous donor has agreed to contribute matching funds, to help restructured debts with "major creditors" and bring The Mount to financial stability.

She said the increasing financial strains have resulted because many contributions and grants received by The Mount are "restricted gifts," for specific purposes, and cannot be used to pay for general operations or debt.

The Mount has an annual budget of about $2 million, and last year had its best year ever, Copeland said, when it received $1 million from visits to the site and program fees.

It turned to bank loans and lines of credit in recent years for a combination of reasons, including restricted fund problems and revenue slowdowns that arrive with winter.

Yesterday, it was not clear what The Mount's total debt load was.

Copeland, who took no harsh tone against Berkshire Bank, noted that "this is a very bad time for banks."

"We are using the circumstance to reach out to everyone and turn it into a fundraising opportunity, for people to demonstrate that people want this monument to remain a public monument.

"If sold at auction, it will be lost forever to the public," Copeland said.

She said The Mount, ideally, needs $1 million in unrestricted funds each year on top of its program and visitor revenues. Increasingly, the cost of operating the estate has gone up, with maintenance, fuel costs and employee wages and benefits.

"What's alarming is how difficult it is to raise these unrestricted funds in the situation we are now in," she said. "The bank needs a demonstration that we can raise $3 million, to prove that The Mount is an institution with the capacity to do that."

The property, which was in disrepair until about 1998, has been restored through major capital improvement efforts over the years. Copeland said $13 million has been raised in the past 10 years through contributions.

In 2006, The Mount acquired Wharton's lifelong collection of books for $2.6 million from George Ramsden.

Richard Guy Wilson, a professor of architectural history at the University of Virginia, added yesterday in a statement: "The Mount is quite simply one of the greatest architectural treasures in America. It is fundamental to an understanding of not just Edith Wharton but of American design sensibility of the time. The house, interior and grounds reflect Edith Wharton's own and very personal sensibility."

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At a glance ...

The Mount, built in 1902, was Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton's estate and gardens. Located at 2 Plunkett St., Lenox, Wharton (1862-1937) made her home there from 1903 to 1908.

She designed the 42-room estate and gardens, guided by the design principles she put forth in her book, "The Decoration of Houses."

The Mount, which sits on 49.5 acres and is operated by the nonprofit Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., is a National Historic Landmark.
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SOURCE: edithwharton.org.
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2/23/2008
Helen Epstein (Lexington, Massachusetts) writes:
I'm writing to correct the impression your article leaves that the Mount was in a state of disrepair until 1998. In fact, Shakespeare & Company, the theater in Lenox was responsible for rescuing The Mount a decade earlier, a story that I documented in the early 1980s in The Boston Review and then in a small book titled The Companies She Keeps: Tina Packer Builds a Theater. The rescuers were then ousted from the premises they rescued. As a writer myself and fan of Edith Wharton and a writer , I'm irritated that this part of the history of the Mount is ignored or "written out" by its current occupants and, as a consequence, by your reporter. I would welcome more reporting on how the management managed to incur such a large debt.

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A Boston GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Wharton's house of worth"
February 27, 2008

WEALTH and social position were major themes of Edith Wharton's famous novel "The House of Mirth." So it's a cruel irony that the Mount, the gracious home in Lenox where Wharton wrote the book, faces foreclosure.

Wharton, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of over 40 books, designed the home and had it built in 1902. She called it her "first real home" and lived there for nearly a decade.

Now a museum, the Mount is facing a dire deadline. Unless the Edith Wharton Restoration, the nonprofit that owns the Mount, can raise $3 million by March 24, the bank will step in. These sad circumstances echo those of Lily Bart, the genteel heroine of "The House of Mirth," who also faced financial disaster as she struggled but failed to find her footing in the well-heeled heights of New York.

But life need not imitate art completely. The Edith Wharton Restoration is seeking donors to save the Mount. Small gifts can help show diverse support for the institution, and large gifts will provide badly needed stability. An anonymous donor is prepared to match the $3 million, creating a pool of $6 million. With this money, the organization could restructure its $4.3 million bank debt.

In part, the Mount is a victim of worthy ambitions. Restoring the home and the garden improved the site, but also drove up insurance and maintenance costs, according to the nonprofit's president, Stephanie Copeland. And using a private loan made by an individual, the organization spent £1.5 million (about $2.6 million at the time) to purchase Wharton's library from a British book dealer. It's an invaluable acquisition, but it added to the debt load - especially now that a sinking dollar has pushed up its annual payment. The organization has been able to start paying back this loan. Like other struggling homeowners, the Mount is also a victim of the economy. It has a mortgage with a fixed interest rate, but there's an adjustable interest rate on its $3 million line of credit. Rising rates, coupled with the difficulties of fund-raising in slow economic times, took a toll.

To reassure donors and prepare for a healthier future, board members must ask tough questions about whether the organization overextended itself in its borrowing. The evidence suggests that it did.

The Mount also needs more board members who can provide more oversight, make their own generous gifts, and ask others to do the same. The nonprofit also needs to build its endowment, now worth only about $100,000.

It's a precious thing to be able to walk through the worlds of individual writers, to stand in a room that they stood in and wonder what they thought. The Mount is worth saving not for Wharton's sake, but for the benefit of countless current and future readers who will be able to stand at this intersection of real and imagined life.

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"Struggling Mount in need of an angel"
By Clarence Fanto, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle
Thursday, February 28, 2008
LENOX, Massachusetts

It may take a miracle to save Edith Wharton's estate, The Mount, from foreclosure by Berkshire Bank. The national landmark — listed as a project of the public-private partnership Save America's Treasures — is drowning in a geyser of red ink totaling about $9 million — substantially more than previously reported.

The crushing burden includes $4.3 million owed to the bank, $2.5 million to donor Robert Wilmers, who helped fund the acquisition of the famed author's 2,600-volume library in 2005, $885,000 to George Ramsden, previous owner of that collection, $1 million to Webster Bank (described as a "friendly" loan secured by a major supporter), and the rest to miscellaneous creditors.

A scheduled $30,000 mortgage payment to Berkshire Bank was missed on Feb. 11; the Edith Wharton Restoration's annual operating expenses have been $2 million and its earned income was nearly $1 million last year, a 20 percent increase from 2006. The gap was closed by borrowing from an additional line of bank credit.

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Only Stephanie Copeland, the president, and four of the 11 full-time staff members remain at the gate-house offices of the 50-acre property; the six others, plus two part-timers, were laid off last Friday. Two of the survivors are in charge of property maintenance and security — "after $13 million has been invested in the property, you need to take care of the investment," she reminded this interviewer on Monday. (Copeland maintains a one-room studio office-apartment in New York City to connect with the organization's base of supporters; the facility is sublet during the summer months.)

Unless $3 million can be raised by March 24 — an amount that would be matched by an anonymous donor waiting in the wings — The Mount eventually will be padlocked and put on the market by the bank. Copeland hopes for a major gift of up to $1 million, followed by smaller but still significant contributions.

Acknowledging that The Mount is perpetually underfunded and lacks an endowment, she declared: "We're not going to make it unless we find donors who are going to be enormously generous and make the difference." About 30,000 people visited the site last year.

Copeland maintained that "the bank would be very happy and would do everything it could to prevent foreclosure if we are able to demonstrate that we have the power and the ability to raise substantial funds because it will be able to convince shareholders and regulators that 'this is not a poor investment, this is a company that can make it.' "

"We will always be looking for an angel," Copeland admitted. "A non-profit is always hand-to-mouth until that angel comes in and put up adequate funding." She and her five-member board are seeking a group of "passionate citizens" to float a lifeboat. But even if that happens, she cautioned, "there isn't the funding to keep it running. Now, if you've got it saved, you have to run it, take care of it."

Any regrets or second thoughts? The organization's president acknowledged that the campaign to pay the debts for the acquisition of the library collection "stumbled and faltered. . . .But it was so seductive to borrow the money to buy the books; that was going to bail us out."

"I think that would be my one regret," she suggested. "When someone offers you two-and-a-half million dollars, you might have said you're not ready to receive it. That didn't enter my head, but I wish it had because I didn't have the infrastructure in place to mount the campaign."

She pointed out that, after much discussion, the board agreed that the collection should be acquired for the author's home — "it's her soul, it belongs here."

But she rejected the notion that the imminent foreclosure threat could have been averted if only the organization had come up with the relatively modest $30,000 mortgage payment. "We had no money left!" she insisted. "It's not just paying the bank. . . . We have a lot of other creditors and debt. Just to raise money to pay the bank — it can see you're starving to death. . . you're a non-performing loan because you're going to go under, even if you pay us."

Why the public secrecy until the bank lowered the boom?

"Up until the weekend before the payment was due, we were trying to raise the money, to make that payment, to keep the lights and the phone on, paying insurance, meeting the payroll," Copeland responded.

She was amused by the suggestion that the Mount's chances of a savior compare to Mike Huckabee's chances of becoming the Republican presidential nominee.

"We have a much greater chance, let me tell you," she laughed. "That's because I know people who have the capacity to help, who want to help — there are enough people out there who would not want this monument to pass into private hands. . . . When I came here in 1993, people were saying to me, 'Edith Wharton, why save that place?' A lot's happened since then."

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She is counting on potential supporters' recollections of Hillary Clinton's 1998 visit to jump-start the restoration effort and Laura Bush's appearance to celebrate the arrival of the library collection in 2006 — "we were the darling of the press."

Copeland stressed that pledged contributions will not be collected unless and until The Mount can successfully restructure its debt to the bank. "It's a marvelous opportunity for somebody who has the kind of money it takes to make a difference, to save a major American monument to a major American. And to put their name on it if they want, to get recognized!"

Not naming rights, she hastened to add, then chuckling at the interviewer's mention of Donald Trump

— "he could put his name on it if he gave enough. . . but he would probably develop it into a gambling casino."

Despite that note of levity, it's a not-so-wonderful life right now, unless there's an angel waiting in the wings. Make no mistake; Copeland and other Wharton devotees are counting on a Hollywood happy ending.
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Clarence Fanto is a regular Eagle contributor.
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Mountainous problems
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Saturday, March 08, 2008

The extent of the financial problems facing The Mount, detailed in today's Eagle by Ellen Lahr, will cause even the most zealous advocate of the Lenox-based institution to worry about the future of the nonprofit institution. Questionable decisions, admirable but unrealistic ambitions, a largely absentee board of trustees and a line of credit long enough for the Edith Wharton Restoration to hang itself with have put the historic house and gardens of the iconic author in serious jeopardy.

The Mount is in default to all of its major creditors, with $4.3 million of its $7.7 million debt owed to Berkshire Bank, which will begin foreclosure proceedings unless it can raise $3 million. CEO Stephanie Copeland is a proven fundraiser who raised $13 million over 10 years to renovate and restore much of the Gilded Age home and grounds, but this is a formidable task given the extent of the debt in a tough economy and links to the Berkshires that are not as strong as most other county cultural organizations.

Just as the state is having trouble finding money for the upkeep of its pricey road and bridge projects, the Mount has had difficulty meeting operating expenses after completing its ambitious restoration work. While Ms. Copeland says the Restoration has an international audience, it may be that the author doesn't have the contemporary cachet to draw sufficient paying customers to Lenox. The Mount has had to meet daily expenses by using or borrowing donor funds, a recipe for trouble.

The $2.5 million purchase of Edith Wharton's personal library in 2005 certainly enhanced the Mount but also contributed to its growing debt. A fundraising plan to finance the purchase never got off the ground and the British bookseller, who has not received his second payment, can legally reclaim it. As the Mount made purchases and dipped into funds to meet growing operating costs over the last five years, Berkshire Bank extended its credit. The Bank may yet find itself with the Mount on its hands.

Two years ago, the Mount's six-member Board of Trustees, less than half the size of the typical nonprofit board, was reduced to one when the others bailed out on what they apparently concluded was a sinking ship. The newly constituted board includes a member of the British House of Commons, which attests to the Mount's poor Berkshire connections. The Mount made enemies when it evicted Shakespeare & Company from its summer home at the Mount, but it is had had time to repair that damage. Competition for funding among nonprofits is heated, and the Mount doesn't have the connections that its Lenox and Stockbridge counterparts can boast.

Ms. Copeland may yet pull the Mount out of the red and we hope she does, as the Berkshires are a better place with the Mount. If she does, the organization will need to put together a larger board with financial acumen and local connections. The Mount is in the Berkshires, but it must become more of the Berkshires.

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"Mistakes were made at Mount"
By Alan Chartock
The Berkshire Eagle, Weekly Political Column, Op-Ed
Saturday, March 08, 2008
GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts

I recently received a letter from a man for whom I have immense respect. He is a major part of our business community and he is very bright. Whenever he writes or calls me, I listen carefully.

He is really upset about the threatened foreclosure of The Mount, the historic home of Edith Wharton. He reminded me that I run a major company (WAMC) with an $8 million budget and insisted, "If you filled in a structural deficit with borrowing instead of fundraising, you'd be fired in a heart beat."

He noted that the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office's Division of Public Charities publishes a handbook for nonprofit leaders. Their first duty, he says, is to make sure that their organizations are on sound fiscal footing.

Pointing a finger at the current administration and the small board that runs The Mount, he says what everyone else seems to be saying: "The Mount is obviously worth saving ... but not without serious structural changes."

It really does make one wonder. We at WAMC go through a major audit each year. The auditor reports to the Board of Trustees who ask very pointed questions. One wonders whether the board of The Mount was doing the same thing.

This isn't the only mail I've received about The Mount. Said one writer, "What The Mount needs is not a last-ditch effort to send good money after bad, what it desperately needs is new leadership."

The thrust of this letter is that the board of The Mount is too small and too distant. Others have called me and suggested that more Berkshire County folks should be included on the board so that those closest to home would be involved.

There are other problems. For example, there is the way in which we are told that a major donor is out there ready to match received funds, which may mean several million dollars. I'm sure it is true, but for some, the story strains perceptual credulity. If the wolf is at the door, you would think the mystery donor would put up the relatively small amount of money that the bank demands on a regular basis.

There are boards on which the founder or top leader does not like to risk dissonance. The consequence is that the board is kept small.

Finding people who are willing to serve is not always that easy.

Then, too, The Mount has another problem and that is the matter of an understandable mission. If your local fire department asks you for money, you may well give it. You know that we need a local fire department. Ditto your hospital. If our little Fairview in Great Barrington closes up, we are in big trouble. If the college to whom you owe your career asks you to kick in, you do it. Same thing with your religious institution.

It is true that The Mount brings in tens of thousands of people each summer. Far-sighted business people will recognize that it is in their interest to bring more tourists to the area.

A group of history buffs and town folks from the Great Barrington Historical Society have come together to make the newly acquired Wheeler House into a town museum. But after an initial burst of success, that project has run into some road blocks. Unlike the Edith Wharton board, the Great Barrington Historical Society has taken a great interest in the project, brought in a professional fundraiser and tried to include all the town stake holders in it. That's smart.

I recently spoke to one successful not-for-profit executive who wanted to know why people would give to something from which they were not getting a direct benefit. Said my not-for-profit friend, "Why would anyone give to a house?"

Well, not so fast. These are not just any houses. They are museums. They show how people lived at another time. They give us yet another reason to be proud of our Berkshire homes. New York City has the Statue of Liberty, we have these gems.

The problem, at least in the case of the Edith Wharton restoration, is that mistakes have been made.

The advice I would give is to play it straight, point to the place's successes, don't do silly things like putting family on the payroll and build a Board of Directors that can afford to help in a big way. It is essential that mistakes are corrected lest we lose a tremendous part of the Berkshire cultural scene.
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Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.
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"Mount of piling debt"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Saturday, March 08, 2008

It came as no surprise to the trustees of the Edith Wharton Restoration last month when Berkshire Bank delivered notice that foreclosure proceedings against The Mount would begin unless the faltering nonprofit could raise $3 million by March 24.

The Mount's financial troubles — now totaling more than $7.7 million to several creditors, including $4.3 million owed Berkshire Bank — raised red flags as early as March 2006, when an outside audit questioned whether The Mount could continue "as a going concern."

Today, the historic summer home of the famous Gilded Age novelist is now in default to all its major creditors.

In 2006, faced with daunting debt, all but one of the board's half-dozen trustees quit.

The new board — assembled in late 2006 and willing to inherit The Mount's financial challenge — brought sharp business minds, ambitious turnaround plans and money connections in places like New York and London. But no board member is a Berkshire resident — one has a weekend house here — and only one carries a broad institutional memory of The Mount and its CEO, Stephanie Copeland.

Copeland, who has been CEO since 2001 but has worked at The Mount since 1993, was heavily focused on raising restoration funds for Wharton's historic house and gardens. But as is the case with other nonprofit organizations in the area, operational fundraising has proven daunting in recent years.

But the Mount's debt level appears unique compared to other nonprofit operators here.

"It's out of control," said one veteran of nonprofit administration in the county.

Asked yesterday to reflect on her oversight of the purse strings, Copeland replied that she would never have ignored obligations to pay insurance, maintain its buildings and meet other operating costs.

"I definitely felt obligated to delivery quality and I think we have done that extremely well, considering how little we had to work with in manpower and money," Copeland said.

Yesterday, she had an update: The Mount has raised $500,000 in donations since the "Save the Mount" campaign was launched on Feb. 24 with the foreclosure threat. The Mount has 16 days to raise the rest — $2.5 million — to satisfy Berkshire Bank's demand, and Copeland said she's leaving no fundraising stone unturned. An anonymous donor has agreed to match the funds The Mount raises, Copeland has said.

A big boost came this week with an e-mail blast to about 1,500 people who have previously supported or visited The Mount, she said.

'Nerves of steel'

But a Mount employee, who was laid off with seven others last month, said Stephanie Copeland has "nerves of steel and is willing to walk a really tight line to get where she thinks she ought to go. And she overextended things way too much. It's been a lot of wishful thinking."

Copeland led the charge in raising $13 million over 10 years to renovate and restore The Mount, where work is still incomplete. But raising funds for an operating budget that grew from six figures in its early years to $2 million today has been hampered by donors' desire to give "restricted funds," or cash for specific purposes, said Copeland.

She said she has not focused heavily on local charitable donations, as the Edith Wharton Restoration has an international audience from which to draw.

But Copeland conceded that, after The Mount's controversial decision to evict the Shakespeare & Co. theater company from its summer home at The Mount years ago, "nobody would touch us with a 10-foot pole."

Some of that bitterness remains among potential donors, according to local nonprofit insiders.

To keep going, The Mount has repeatedly dipped into or borrowed heavily from its restricted donations in recent years to pay operating bills, according to financial documents obtained by The Eagle. Copeland said that money was not tapped without donors' approval, and some, but not all, has been repaid.

Simultaneously, borrowing has skyrocketed.

The new board that assembled in 2006 believed The Mount's red ink could be turned around with creative fundraising, educational programming and a broader role for the Plunkett Street estate.

They said they envisioned an organic farming organization that could be operated in partnership with area farmers and local schools, said board members Gordon Travers, who joined the board in 2006, and Hannah Burns, who joined last year, also from New York City.

Last year, with some fresh business guidance from the board, The Mount's admission revenues reached a record high. But an ambitious fundraising campaign last year never gained traction, said Travers, who has a vacation house in New Marlborough.

Now, Berkshire Bank's generosity in repeatedly extending credit to The Mount has become its biggest financial burden. The bank has the power, in theory, to take over the expansive estate.

Referring to the bank's foreclosure notice, Travers said, "It has been a long time coming."

Of the board that resigned, he said, "These were people who had historic ties to The Mount in the late 1990s, and they felt uncomfortable and not able to engage in the type of fundraising that was projected at the time, to cover the debt and operating expenses."

Travers, who has restructured businesses in the past, had been excited about a bright future for The Mount when he signed on. He said this week, "I now know why they asked me to be on the board."

Travers joined with Lord Christopher Tugendhat of London, an investment banker, Wharton fan and House of Commons member.

Also joining then was Sandra Boss, an American business consultant based in London, who is now interim board chairwoman of The Mount.

Those three board members in 2006 each delivered $50,000 in contributions with their arrival, according to The Mount's financial records and audit reports. But their money made little dent in the troubles.

Plan falls through

An elaborate fundraising plan to finance the repayment of The Mount's $2.5 million purchase of Edith Wharton's personal library from British bookseller George Ramsden in 2005 never materialized last year as planned.

Instead, The Mount was forced to focus first on its Berkshire Bank debt.

Ramsden gave The Mount 10 years to pay back $900,000 in connection with the Wharton book collection. The Mount paid him in 2006, but Ramsden did not receive his second payment last year.

Robert Wilmers of Buffalo, N.Y., a bank executive and philanthropist who financed most of the book collection with a $2.5 million loan, was to be paid in full by Dec. 31, 2007. He has not been paid; he declined a request for an interview this week.

Lien secured

In a phone interview from Great Britain, Ramsden was circumspect about the outstanding debt owed him.

"They've been in touch, and we're on very friendly terms," he said. "I'm just concerned they get out of their difficulty and that this one piece of American heritage remains intact."

Ramsden has a secured lien on the famed Wharton book library, which he can reclaim if he is not paid.

In December, said Travers, "a donor pulled back, after seeing the (The Mount's financial) books. The debt burden was so great compared to revenues that people didn't want to put money down a hole."

The Mount's leaders say Berkshire Bank has been supportive and generous toward The Mount, and has been apprised of the situation. Travers, who said he is serving on his first board of trustees, said he is committed to "transparency" with lenders.

Travers and Burns, who works at Lehman Brothers in New York, said the board should, ideally, have 15 to 20 members, including local ones.

"It is not unrecognized that as a board we don't look good compared to other institutions out there," he said, of the board's size and shortage of Berkshire-connected members. "We are competing with a lot of others institutions in the Berkshires."

Foreboding reports

Financial reports prepared in 2006 by the independent accounting firm Lombardi, Clairmont & Keegan of Pittsfield were foreboding.

The firm's report is included with The Mount's financial disclosure forms, which are routinely filed with the state Attorney General's office.

According to the report, The Mount's net assets had decreased by $177,600 in the year ending March 2005, and by nearly $950,000 in March 2006. That time period covers the $2.5 million purchase of the Ramsden book collection.

To meet its bills, according to the audit report, The Mount had dipped into $500,000 in restricted funds to cover operating costs, and its overall liabilities exceeded assets by $4.8 million.

Meanwhile, Berkshire Bank had increased a line of credit to $1.82 million.

Along with a projected budget deficit for the upcoming 2007 fiscal year, those factors "create an uncertainty about the organization's ability to continue as a going concern" said the report.

Then, in March 2007, the annual audit raised an even bleaker number: The Mount's net assets had dipped by another $1.2 million. Liabilities were up to $6.03 million; again, the organization had dipped into restricted funds.

The Berkshire Bank note was increased again, to $3.745 million, with far tighter terms this time. Future pledges from the planned fundraising effort last year were to be used to repay the bank debt, and other restrictions were imposed.

Copeland said the contributions of donors will not be processed until The Mount is able to work out its deal with the bank.

"We've had terrific response by the community to this emergency," she said, of local support for The Mount. "I am heartened by it."

Hannah Burns said of the board, "We take the issues quite seriously, and we want to bolster senior management in both operations and finance. We have to separate the business from the creative."

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"Support Mount's effort to find way"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I don't know what went into decisions made at The Mount over the past several years, so I'll stay away from commenting on what might have been done better, or what should be done going forward. I'll leave that to the creditors, board and management.

What I do know something about though, is the value that The Mount has added to our community and to our economy. The restoration of Edith Wharton's cottage has created a preferred destination for sophisticated travelers the world over, travelers who are interested in literature, interior design, architecture, history, preservation and gardens — key demographics for our tourism economy.

Through my work, I know that the staff at The Mount has hosted an international conference on historic gardens, and has convinced Bryn Mawr College to hold an alumni education program in the Berkshires, just two examples among many of how The Mount has helped raise the profile of the Berkshires. And, of course, we all know that two first ladies have visited this significant property, providing our region with the kind of publicity that can reach around the world.

The Berkshires is blessed with many cultural treasures; an "embarrassment of riches" is a phrase I've heard used. The appeal to visitors and residents alike lies in this abundance. Let's hope that The Mount can find a way to right itself, and keep its unique contribution to our community alive. Perhaps with our help and support, it will.

BRIAN BUTTERWORTH
West Stockbridge, Massachusetts
The writer is chairman of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, director of sales, The Red Lion Inn and the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA.

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"Explore ways to rescue the Mount"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In a Feb. 29 op-ed column about the financial crisis at the Mount, Richard Woller describes Edith Wharton as "a minor 20th century novelist and socialite" and makes the claim that "The Mount cannot possibly achieve its goals in a fiscally responsible way because the general public is just not that interested."

Edith Wharton was and remains one of the best-selling American authors ever. In a career stretching over half a century, she wrote more than 40 books, hundreds of short stories, won the Pulitzer Prize and the French Legion d'Honneur. She was the first woman to be granted an honorary doctorate by an American university. She created a series of fascinating houses and gardens. As an author, an American, and a woman, Edith Wharton's legacy is so rich that dismissing it can only be done in ignorance. As a community, we owe it to ourselves to keep her work alive.

I absolutely agree with Mr. Woller that it is unrealistic to think that receipts from private donors and visitors will be enough to keep up the Mount. He's right to argue that it's too big a project for local benefactors and the tourists to sustain. But does that mean it should be scaled back? What part of The Mount do you scale back? The library? The house? The garden? The landscape?

Given Wharton's national and international reputation, Stephanie Copeland's notion of focusing her fundraising efforts beyond overtapped Berkshire donors has been unfairly criticized. These efforts must be expanded. The town of Lenox, the commonwealth, and the federal government have a real interest here too. Think of the Colonial Theatre restoration — a worthy project, probably even more unrealistic than The Mount — which was made possible only by the state's underwriting very extensive tax credits. A permanent relationship might be made with a larger institution. Yale already holds the bulk of Wharton's papers.

Last summer I designed a modest (and quite inexpensive) exhibit for The Mount. I was in the process of preparing another exhibit when news of the Wharton Restoration's woes appeared in the papers. What inspires me to write this letter is not the hope of getting more work out of The Mount (emphasis here on the word "work"), but rather my experience of how rewarding it has been to read, study and share Edith Wharton's work. We all need more of her kind of energy and vision, and maintaining The Mount is a good place to start.

CARL SPRAGUE
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

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Lenox, Massachusetts
"Mount leader steps down: The organization's trustees believe they should restructure and reorganize management"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, March 31, 2008

LENOX — Stephanie Copeland has resigned as president and chief executive officer of the financially troubled Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., declining a management position that would have limited her role at The Mount to "creative programming."

Copeland, since Feb. 24, has been leading efforts to raise $3 million to avert a foreclosure action by Berkshire Bank. Of The Mount's $8.7 million debt, all of which is in default, $4.3 million is owed to the bank.

About $570,000 has been raised thus far, and The Mount has been preparing to reopen for the summer season, when revenues should begin increasing.

According to statements released yesterday by The Mount and its trustees — an entirely new board since late 2006 — the board believes that it should restructure and reorganize The Mount "to broaden and deepen the management structure, in terms of both fundraising and financial oversight."

After consideration, a decision arose to separate those functions from the creative aspect of leading The Mount, which Copeland had led since 1993 as CEO, in charge of administration, fundraising and creative programs at the home of the 19th-century novelist, Edith Wharton.

"The trustees offered Ms. Copeland the creative leadership role, which we believe was ideally suited to her talents," according to the board statement. "We are sorry that she did not accept this role going forward, and her creative genius will be missed."

"Stephanie has been a tenacious and inspired leader," said Mount Chairman Sandra Boss, who lives and works in London and who is one of five board members. "She saw the beauty and potential of The Mount when others saw merely a sagging, hopeless structure surrounded by unruly overgrowth. Against all odds, she saved the property and put it prominently on the cultural map. Despite The Mount's current financial difficulties, we owe her our tremendous gratitude. Without her efforts, The Mount undoubtedly would have been lost long ago."

Copeland's resignation was effective Friday.

The trustees will proceed tonight with a public meeting arranged by the Lenox Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Selectmen to discuss The Mount's precarious financial circumstances and to outline their vision for its future as a broader cultural resource. The meeting will be held at 7 at Town Hall.

The new trustees have not laid blame for The Mount's fiscal crisis at Copeland's feet in recent months.

The Mount's $8.7 million total debt — and a potential foreclosure of the 40-acre property — reflect financial issues that evolved over a number of years, under the auspices of several boards whose members were responsible for fiscal oversight.

Although Copeland led a successful fundraising drive that raised more than $13 million for a capital campaign that transformed The Mount into its historical splendor, she also embarked on an ambitious plan to purchase the private library of Edith Wharton from a British bookseller.

That purchase came with the high price of $2.6 million, for which The Mount borrowed all the money needed for the purchase in 2005. That debt is all now in default; a fundraising campaign that had been tied to that book deal fell through last year.

The announcement of Copeland's resignation came yesterday via e-mail from Susan Wissler, vice president of The Mount. Neither Copeland nor Wissler could be reached last evening for comment.

"With regret, the Trustees have accepted her resignation," the statement said.

Seven people were laid off in January after The Mount missed a $30,000 payment to Berkshire Bank, leaving just a handful to run the operation and maintain the expansive property.

"We just ran out of money," Copeland said at the time, describing the challenges of raising funds for operational purposes at the historic house.

Tonight, the trustees will provide more details on the future of the nonprofit.

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Lenox, Massachusetts
"Ideas on The Mount: The return of Shakespeare & Company is among the possibilities that were discussed at last night's meeting on the future of the site"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, April 01, 2008

LENOX — Apparently, the historic home of novelist Edith Wharton does indeed have a local fan club.

And with a most cautiously tentative olive branch offered by the artistic director and founder of Shakespeare & Company, The Mount just might, possibly, have a modest theatrical revival in its near-term future.

That, and other potential "maybes" depend on whether The Mount's trustees, and willing donors, can forestall a pending foreclosure on the 40-acre Plunkett Street estate, which is saddled with more than $8.7 million in debt, $4.3 million of which is owed to Berkshire Bank.

Some 80 people attended a standing-room-only meeting at Town Hall last night to hear the prognosis for saving The Mount from the brink of financial collapse. They also offered a string of suggestions.

One by one, people stepped to a central microphone to make suggestions to two board members, Gordon Travers and Hannah Burns, and to Susan Wissler, the last remaining administrator at the historic house.

The Mount's longtime president and CEO, Stephanie Copeland, had a seat in the audience, but her role was a quiet one. On Friday, she resigned from her position after rejecting a restructured position that would have limited her role to "creative programming" while financial, fundraising and administrative functions are parsed out to others.

Copeland was greeted at the meeting with hugs and good wishes from friends. Travers gave his formal thanks from the trustees for Copeland's tireless work leading the restoration of The Mount.

After an overview of its precarious finances, and some hindsight commentary on what mistakes might have been made in borrowing so heavily, the trustees pledged to work tirelessly on behalf of Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. They said they will run the organization with Wissler, with hopes that some local people will join the board of trustees, which has just five members — none of whom live here full time.

The trustees asked for volunteers to work the phones. They asked for ideas, for leads to raising money and for money itself.

A half-dozen or more people spoke, with both sentimental and practical suggestions. One woman, from Pittsfield, walked to the microphone with her knitting project in hand.

"I am knitting a prayer shawl, and I would like to make it big enough to wrap around The Mount," she said, of the historic house she loves.

Then came some hard suggestions.

Ask 15 rich New Yorkers for $1 million each, to save The Mount, said a Lenox woman. Go door to door in the Berkshires and ask for donations large and small, suggested an Otis woman, who agreed to help with fundraising. Improve the Web site, so people can get more information about financial issues.

Then came Tina Packer, founder and artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, which, for 23 years, called The Mount home, with its much-loved outdoor performances of "Romeo and Juliet" and "Midsummer Night's Dream," and its summer performances of the plays of Edith Wharton.

It was Shakespeare & Company, she reminded the audience, that moved into the derelict old mansion in 1981 to establish its theater company, bringing The Mount its early admirers and its audience for the historic Wharton home.

It was Shakespeare & Company that founded Edith Wharton Restoration.

But a bitter legal dispute led to Shakespeare & Company's eviction; the theater company found its new home at the former National Music Foundation property less than a mile away and took along with it many of The Mount's donors.

The Mount was left to operate as a historic house museum, though with some programming for writers and poets, with a schism of bitterness over the eviction that even Copeland agreed made fundraising difficult.

"The first 19 years, it was a hell of a struggle," Packer said of the tenure at The Mount. "But the community was with us all the way."

For The Mount to survive, it needs creative programs and lively activities, she said.

"You are strangers to us," said Packer, to Burns and Travers, "and what I would love to know is how are you going to make Edith Wharton part of the community? Should we come back and do the plays again?"

The 2005 purchase of the Edith Wharton library collection — a $2.6 million deal, with borrowed funds — was ambitious, she said, "but the library doesn't hack it. I want the library there, but the actors in the woods belonged to the paper. Where is the energy for the day-to-day artistic things?"

Travers, who was asked to join the board in late 2006, said he had no interest in being on the board of a historic house museum. He wanted a place with exciting programs and vibrant goings-on.

"That's what keeps me going, and I don't want to lose this battle," he said. "I don't see any reason why we could not cross-pollinate."

"We're up for talking about it," Packer said.

"Hear, hear," applauded Ralph Petillo, who heads the Lenox Chamber of Commerce.

The discussion took a darker turn when a former employee, John Maturevich, took the microphone and said that Copeland's resignation was "the greatest thing that's been done." He then called for the resignation of Wissler, who said she has been asked to stay on and hopes to apply for one of the management positions being defined by the trustees.

Travers intervened as the commentary deteriorated into personal offense.

Laura Walton, a five-year employee now in charge of the gardens, said she has seen The Mount "literally blossom like a flower in the last two or three years," for which she credited Wissler.

The Mount's fiscal crisis erupted in late December and early January, when the organization ran out of money and missed a mortgage payment to Berkshire Bank of about $30,000.

The bank has extended to April 24 a deadline for The Mount to raise $3 million to bring the organization back on square footing.

Since February, Copeland has led an emergency fundraising effort that has so far brought in $580,000. No gifts will be processed until the bank is satisfied with fundraising.

The trustees, in a prepared statement yesterday, noted that Copeland led efforts to gain several preservation awards and recognition for the historic estate.

Among those are the Charles W. Eliot II award, in 2003; the Victorian Society in American's Preservation award, in 2004; and the Preserve America Presidential Award, presented by the president and first lady in 2005.

The trustees' goal also is to open The Mount for the summer visitors' season, if the bank agrees to a further deadline extension and fundraising shows results.

"By opening The Mount, we are sending a positive message in the face of the current crisis, and, more tangibly, we will seek to structure the season so as to, at a minimum, cover all operating costs (exclusive of debt service) during the summer months."

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Lenox, Massachusetts
"Wissler takes lead at Mount"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, April 02, 2008

LENOX — As The Mount's board of trustees seeks to build financial and volunteer traction from a community meeting that drew dozens to Town Hall on Monday, Susan Wissler is now at the helm of the Edith Wharton Restoration Inc.

"It's come out clearly, Monday night and (yesterday), that this is the logical step," said Gordon Travers, a Mount trustee, after meeting yesterday with staff at the historic home of author Edith Wharton. "The people who do the work here have all along looked at Susan as their leader. To say she's in charge is stating what's been the case for a long time."

Wissler takes over in the wake of Stephanie Copeland's immediate resignation on Friday. Copeland was The Mount's CEO and president for 15 years.

The Mount's vice president since 2001, Wissler is now in the position of running the day-to-day logistics of an organization deep in debt and operating only at the behest of its key creditor, Berkshire Bank.

She is preparing a budget for the summer tourist season — a scaled-down, cost-conscious season — assuming further leniency by the bank and other creditors.

But heavy work is waiting, and The Mount is understaffed.

Yesterday, Copeland's assistant resigned, leaving the entire organization with three employees; a dozen had been employed there until January.

The nonprofit has no money to advertise its summer season, or for brochures or programming. It will be a summer of basic mansion and garden tours, led, hopefully, by those summer employees willing to return despite the uncertain conditions.

As yet, there is no money for some of the heftier tasks of preparing the buildings and grounds for visitors. Berkshire Bank will determine if, and when, to give the green light on those expenditures.

"The primary role will be trying to keep things together day to day, and moving forward on the logistical end," Wissler said. "We are hopeful to persuade the bank to allow us to mount the season, and we must persuade staff to come back under uncertain circumstances."

Issues involving The Mount's emergency fundraising remain delicate. Copeland had been working hard to raise the $580,000 generated thus far to satisfy the bank's $3 million demand by April 24.

Some of those "irons in the fire" could be lost with Copeland's resignation, Wissler acknowledged.

"A lot of giving is based on relationships as much as the cause itself," she said. "It's realistic to say there are prospects we will lose because of (Copeland's) departure but there are others who will support the institution, notwithstanding that she is gone."

Despite The Mount's woes, and her own tenure there during years of fiscal decisions that now, in hindsight, were high-risk actions — Wissler has the support of her staff and trustees.

"Susan is the perfect person. She is cool and unflappable," Travers said.

Travers said he expects to have a hands-on role in coming weeks, along with Hannah Burns, who was in town Monday and yesterday.

"The leadership team is the board and Susan," he said. "And you have a board that is much more engaged than the usual board."

Board members and Wissler met yesterday with employees for what Travers called a "pep talk."

That meeting followed a public forum on Monday to air The Mount's fiscal status — an $8.7 million debt, a pending foreclosure action for $4.3 million owed to Berkshire Bank, and an April 24 deadline to raise $3 million, and its future plans to survive the crisis and expand The Mount as a local and national resource busy with programs, education and events for children.

"But the staff is excited and energized, and everyone is going to be putting their shoulder to the wheel, picking up the slack, and they are excited about our views of opening up dialogue with staff and management," Travers said.

"They have many suggestions and have long wanted to have a dialogue where their ideas were taken seriously. They are absolutely a terrific group of talented people who can do many different things."

As part of the management restructuring of The Mount, he said, Wissler would be a "legitimate contender" for finance director. But for now, "she's in charge, and she's calling the shots."

The facilities director for the 40-acre estate and historic mansion, which was restored with a $13 million fundraising campaign led by Copeland, Ross Jolly said that yesterday was the first time he has ever had the chance to meet with board members, to swap ideas and concerns.

"I don't know what it's like at other institutions, but Stephanie was kind of a buffer between our day-to-day activities and dealings with the board," he said. "All I can say is, under the present circumstances, having direct contact with the board, and hearing their ideas about the future, has everything to do with my sense of security and energy for staying the course."

He said Wissler has his full support.

Copeland, who has been the public face of The Mount and its mission for 15 years, quit her job Friday, declining a newly structured position that would have limited her role to "creative programming." She has not returned messages seeking comment on her decision to step down.

On Monday night, a former employee of The Mount took the microphone and asked Wissler if she, too, would step down, given the management issues that have arisen in recent years during her tenure.

But Wissler gave no such agreement and said she takes full responsibility for her own management of operations there.

"I hope to be able to participate as a candidate for one of these positions," Wissler said. "I leave it to the trustees."

As for suggestions floated Monday that Shakespeare & Company might use The Mount as a venue for some of Edith Wharton's plays — the theater company, when it occupied The Mount as a tenant for 23 years, did just such shows — nothing has been decided, but both sides like the idea. The theater company now occupies the former National Music Foundation property on Kemble Street, about a mile away.

Jeremy Goodwin, a spokesman for Shakespeare & Company, said it is too soon for any decisions on such a collaboration.

"If there is an opportunity to do some programming that make sense for both of us, we would love to talk about it," Goodwin said. "Everyone knows that The Mount is inextricably bound up with the legacy of Shakespeare & Company, and it sounds like a good idea."

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"I Publius: Ripped from the headlines"
By Alan Chartock, The Berkshire Eagle, A weekly political column
Saturday, April 05, 2008
GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts

"Wissler Takes Lead at The Mount"

The Mount's new head person, Susan Wissler, is a nice lady. She's up front with the press, but she's got her hands full. I got a kick out of Shakespeare & Company founder Tina Packer's appearance at the recent public meeting. Here's the way I remember it from back in the day. Shakespeare & Company was at the Mount. They wanted to fix it up. They realized that the federal money to do that couldn't go to a presenting organization, but had to go to a preservation group. So, with a wink and a nod, Tina dispatched some board members to sit on a dormant nonprofit board that she and her husband had formed at the Edith Wharton restoration. There was hell to pay when that very board threw Tina and her group out on their Shakespearian derrieres.

There is nothing worse than a Tina scorned.

I love her, but I have been on the other side of her wrath, and it isn't pretty. So I laughed my head off when Tina stood up at the Mount meeting the other night and suggested that maybe Shakespeare & Company would be welcomed back to the Mount. At the time, I wrote that the Mount was wrong, wrong, wrong to throw Shakespeare & Company out - you can look it up. I'm still not sure whether Tina was pulling their chains or if it was a real proposal. It appears to me that Tina knows that Shakespeare & Company is going full steam ahead on a very successful capital campaign for their own campus.

On the other hand, having Shakespeare & Company back at the Mount, even part-time, can only help things. For one thing, they would attract people from all over the world. The Mount would be a living entity, not just be an old house that a famous author once called home. After all, two dead authors are better than one. It would make a class operation even more classy.

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"The Mount: Trustees hopeful financial help coming"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, April 07, 2008

LENOX — The coffers of Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. grew by $30,000 this week, after the trustees held a public meeting to air the organization's fiscal status and to appeal for financial help to prevent a foreclosure at The Mount.

Total donations topped $600,000 on Friday, said Gordon Travers, a trustee of The Mount, who appeared to answer questions on Monday with others.

He said he hopes that this week's donations signal growing awareness of The Mount's predicament.

Employees at The Mount, the historic home of novelist and playwright Edith Wharton, are making tentative plans to open the museum house for the season, but Berkshire Bank will decide whether to allow more time.

The bank holds a $4.3 million mortgage on the historic 40-acre property and historic mansion, and the loan is in default. The bank has given The Mount until April 24 to raise $3 million; a matching grant is said to be in the wings from a donor, divided over the next five years.

The trustees hope that the bank will extend the fundraising deadline, if The Mount can cover the costs of its scaled-down operations with admission fees during the summer months.

The delay would allow more time for fundraising as well, particularly if visitors take an interest.

Travers said a total of $35,000 in donations had been received this week. But he said $5,000 in donations had been withdrawn, apparently due to the resignation on March 28 of Stephanie Copeland, The Mount's longtime president and CEO.

Copeland, who had been responsible for much of the money raised since the emergency fundraising campaign began in late February, rejected the trustees' management restructuring plan, which would have limited her position at The Mount to "creative programming," eliminating her role in development and administrative tasks.

In the aftermath, her assistant also quit, and the organization is now operating with just three full-time employees: Susan Wissler, who had been vice president and is now running the operation, and two facilities employees, who are readying The Mount for a tentative opening.

The Mount had 11 employees until January, when a mortgage payment was missed.

Copeland has declined to comment to The Eagle on her resignation.

However, in a statement to The New York Times on Wednesday, Copeland was quoted as saying that, because there is no money to fund the development and financial management jobs defined by the trustees, she would have wound up doing all the work, "without the authority of being president and CEO."

She also said she has been disappointed by the board's inability to raise sufficient money.

"The responsibility of a board is to be the development committee," she told The Times. "They sign off on a vision, and then they commit to the funding of it."

She added: "You can only succeed as well as your board succeeds, and that to me was always an enormous frustration. I failed to rally our board to become fundraisers."

The new board, a five-member group that Travers acknowledged is far too small for its mission, replaced an earlier board whose members quit in late 2006. The earlier board members all quit, in the face of growing debt, which exceeds $8.7 million.

The new board is composed of business executives based in New York and London. They joined the trustees when Copeland was planning a $30 million fundraising campaign to cover the cost of the $2.6 million purchase of the Edith Wharton library from a British bookseller in 2005.

The purchase was made with borrowed funds, and the loan given for that acquisition is now in default as well; the fundraising plan did not materialize.

Travers declined to comment on Copeland's remarks and again declined comment on decisions made by a prior board of trustees. This week he said there are no plans to fill vacant positions during the fundraising period; the board will handle as much work as possible.

He said he was unsure whether the new donations this week emanated directly from Monday's meeting, and Wissler could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Travers said the trustees are planning a "significant event" in New York in May, aimed at reaching "large potential donors."

"This past week, we have had the enormous challenge to steady things," said Travers, referring to Copeland's departure and the public meeting.

The Mount has an annual operating budget of approximately $2 million.

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"Finger-pointing at Mount"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Tuesday, April 08, 2008

We learn from The New York Times that former Mount president and CEO Stephanie Copeland believes that the board of trustees, by not coming up with the funding to fulfill the vision they signed onto, failed to meet its responsibilities (Ms. Copeland is evidently not speaking to The Eagle.) There is certainly plenty of blame to go around for the Mount's default of a $4.3 million mortgage to Berkshire Bank, which has given the organization until April 24 to raise $3 million to avoid foreclosure, and its other debts, but Ms. Copeland's argument that the board's job was to, in essence, "stop me before I spend again" rings hollow coming from the person who was the Mount's top executive. Ms. Copeland's admirable legacy in bringing the home and gardens of Edith Wharton back to life is at stake along with the Mount, and even though she has resigned, it remains in her interest to do what she can in a positive way to help the Edith Wharton Restoration raise the needed capital to remain afloat.

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"Time is right for Packer idea"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Saturday, April 12, 2008

As a friend of Shakespeare & Company since its arrival at the Mount in 1978, I have followed the news about the Edith Wharton Restoration's financial disaster with heart in mouth.

The great Tina Packer's noble proposal that theater at the Mount might be revived is a propitious opening for renewal. Her Shakespeare has been the only U.S. theater in the class of the Stratford Festival in Ontario and the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. The landscaping and the house renewal the Restoration has done at the Mount will afford settings for great theater.

The banks can't be eager to foreclose on historic properties in the present market. It is a time of promise for a project like Packer's.

THOMSON LITTLEFIELD
Lenox, Massachusetts

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"$50K gift to Mount gives hope"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, April 17, 2008

LENOX — An anonymous Berkshire County benefactor has donated $50,000 to the financially strapped historic home of novelist Edith Wharton to pay for reopening costs at the historic site.

Whether The Mount opens as usual in late May, however, is a matter to be decided by Berkshire Bank, which has threatened to foreclose unless the nonprofit organization raises $3 million by April 24, one week from today.

However, unlike other donations being held as pledges until the $3 million goal is met, this recent gift is available immediately, if the bank agrees to an extension, said Susan Wissler, vice president of Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. since 2001 and now at its helm.

"This gift is a huge boost, and it allows us to ready ourselves in the event that an agreement can be reached with The Mount's creditors," Wissler said. "With these funds, we are able to roll the plane out of the hangar and onto the taxiway, and to at least start up the engines.

"The estate, with the gardens in full bloom, is the most effective fundraising tool that we have," she continued. "I am hopeful that our creditors will agree."

The Mount's emergency fundraising campaign has now raised more than $725,000 from 1,100 donors, Wissler said.

The organization's predicament — nearly $9 million in outstanding debt, including a $4.3 million mortgage and line of credit in default — has drawn attention from The New York Times, from online publications and from The New Yorker, which will publish a story on The Mount's troubles in its April 28 issue.

The Mount ran out of cash in January and laid off most of its 11 employees; at the moment, Wissler and two groundskeepers are working at the property. The five-member board of trustees also is at work attempting to raise money to meet the fundraising goal.

Wissler took the reins after the March 28 resignation of Stephanie Copeland, president and CEO since 1993. Copeland quit after the trustees restructured the management operation and offered her a role limited to "creative programming."

The gift this week was given in honor of Wissler, "as a vote of confidence in (her) leadership abilities going forward and in appreciation for many years of outstanding service to The Mount," according to a statement from The Mount.

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Capital News 9, April 25, 2008: "New life for historic landmark"
By: Ryan Burgess, {Covering the Berkshires out of Albany, NY)

LENOX, MA - "It's everyday, raking, blowing all the leaves, cleaning all the sticks up, everything like that," said The Mount groundskeeper Nick Soules.

His job is to keep the gardens at The Mount looking perfect. That's something he loves doing, but doesn't take for granted.

"I did get a call somewhere, I believe around February or so, that they were foreclosing the place and I was out of a job, along with six or seven other people," said Soules.

But with spring, comes new life.

"They just needed someone to come back and help because we are planning on opening and I'm glad they called," said Soules.

He's happy this National Historic Landmark in Lenox, called The Mount, is staying open, at least for now. Its bank has threatened foreclosure because of $4.3 million of debt. But like the budding gardens surrounding the mansion, spring has sprung new life.

"Our creditors are happy with the progress we've made. We've raised over $800,000, almost $250,000 over the past 30 days, in fact. That was sufficient progress that our creditors have decided it makes sense to allow the campaign to continue," said The Mount Executive Director Susan Wissler.

That's the second deadline extension for the former home of famed American Novelist Edith Wharton. This time, it's until May 31. By then, the bank wants to see another $2.5 million raised, or onto the auction block The Mount will go.

"First, we've got to get this problem solved, which is to get on firmer financial footing with our creditors. Then we will immediately turn our focus to long term, perpetual stability," said Wissler.

Getting deadline extensions hasn't been a problem for The Mount. But unless they can raise another $2.5 million, not only will the doors close, but everyone working here will be out of a job.

"I'd like to stay here. I really like working here and I take a lot of pride in keeping the place up," said Soules.

He's proud of keeping these gardens clean -- and hoping he'll still have a job here long after these tulips are done for the season.

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"New life for historic landmark"
There's new life for a major cultural landmark in the county that's been facing foreclosure for months. Ryan Burgess caught up with leaders of the historic destination to find out more.

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http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/114809/new-life-for-historic-landmark/Default.aspx
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"Literary icon's home in dire straits: Foreclosure looms as The Mount struggles for donors"
By Sarah Schweitzer, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 25, 2008

Its manicured glory has been restored and its prized books returned to its library shelves. But the decade-long restoration of The Mount, Edith Wharton's palatial Lenox estate, cost a small fortune and operating costs have accrued. This week, the house narrowly avoided foreclosure after a local bank issued a month's reprieve on a mortgage payment.

The Mount has failed to make monthly $30,000 mortgage payments since February. With little income while the museum is closed for the winter, The Mount has no immediate prospects for making the payments on the mortgage and other debts and has been relying on creditors' forbearance. Museum officials say they can get out of the trouble by restructuring debt, but so far they have struggled to raise the money needed for the maneuver.

The fall from grace for the stuccoed grand dame of the Berkshires is the stuff of a Wharton novel, with critics accusing The Mount's overseers of overreaching in an effort to join the ranks of the country's elite literary landmarks.

Trustees say The Mount's ending has not yet been written. They say they have redoubled their fund-raising, with a renewed focus on New York, where Wharton spent much of her childhood and an oft-used literary backdrop for her works.

"Edith Wharton was, after all, a New Yorker and wrote some of her great stories about New York," said Gordon Travers, one of five interim trustees, and a New Yorker himself. "We need to focus much more on New York than we have historically, so that New York can participate on a basis that correlates to the importance that New York played in Edith Wharton's life and novels."

New York's support of The Mount has been vigorous in the past, with some 80 percent of private donations coming from New Yorkers since 1993, said Stephanie Copeland, the recently resigned president and chief executive of the nonprofit that runs The Mount. Copeland said she spent many weeks in New York drumming up potential donors in winter, when The Mount is closed to the public.

But Travers said The Mount must tap into richer veins of wealth than it has in the past.

"There's a lot of money that has been made on Wall Street, but we haven't really attracted it," he said. "We are looking to expand our audience dramatically. There is a significant amount of donative potential in New York."

The Wharton estate is in august company in Massachusetts, where there are 12 literary museums, more than in any other state, and more than 250 preserved author homes and significant literary sites, according to the Massachusetts Center for the Book, which promotes books, libraries and the Bay State's literary heritage. Although Wharton lived in Massachusetts for less than a decade after marrying a Boston banker, she used the state as a setting for her novels "Ethan Frome," "Summer" and "The Fruit of the Trees."

Sharon Shaloo, the book center's executive director, said the trustees should not count out Massachusetts support.

"We need to embrace her as a Massachusetts writer and support what The Mount can be for the Commonwealth," Shaloo said.

For Wharton devotees, and there are legions of them, The Mount is special, perhaps even sacred. "People in the Edith Wharton Society regard it as a place that one must make a journey to at least once in a lifetime," said Carole Shaffer-Koros, treasurer of the Edith Wharton Society, which has about 450 members. "They regard it as a touchstone to understanding Wharton."

Others say its significance ought not be overstated.

"It was somebody's country home," said Louis Auchincloss, an author and Mount supporter who said her grandmother knew Wharton.

Auchincloss said that although Wharton wrote "The House of Mirth" and possibly "Ethan Frome" at the Mount and oversaw the house's design in excruciating detail, her time there was not always happy. She separated from her husband, and the two quarreled about the house's fate before she decamped to France, he said.

"She adored the house," Auchincloss said. "Every inch of it is what she wanted, but it didn't work out for her to live there."

The Mount's financial predicament dates to the 1990s when officials began a $13 million restoration of the dilapidated house. Attention to detail was painstaking; an analyst studied the multiple layers of paint in Wharton's sitting room to recreate an original color palette.

Although donations covered the cost of restoration, operating costs outstripped revenue, said Susan Wissler, acting executive director of The Mount. Then, in 2005, The Mount spent about $2.6 million to acquire Wharton's 2,600-volume library from a British book dealer. Mount officials had hoped to recoup the cost with donations, but the effort fizzled.

The Mount currently owes about $8.5 million, including $4.4 million to Berkshire Bank, the lead creditor, Mount officials said. If The Mount is able to raise $3 million, an anonymous donor has agreed to match the sum. So far, the Mount has raised more than $800,000 since February, but that money cannot be used to pay the mortgage, officials said. The museum, with a recent donation of $100,000 that can be put toward operating costs, is scheduled to open May 9.

The challenge going forward, Copeland said, might lie in convincing people to donate for operations. "Donors are much more inclined to give to a restoration project," she said. "People do not like to give to operations."
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www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/04/25/literary_icons_home_in_dire_straits/
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"October climax set for The Mount"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

LENOX — An agreement between The Mount and its creditors has staved off foreclosure and a May 31 deadline that would have forced Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. to raise $3 million by the end of the month.

Instead, the historic home of the Gilded Age writer will be open to the public all summer without a threat of foreclosure by Berkshire Bank. The new fundraising deadline has been set for Oct. 31.

Susan Wissler, The Mount's acting CEO and president, said the spirits of the staff were high after they received word of the reprieve Monday. And if opening weekend was any barometer (The Mount opened on Friday), then Wharton's fans are pulling for the home to make it through the financial crisis: Wissler said attendance was up 50 percent from average opening weekends and nearly $8,000 in revenue was generated during the first three days.

"We hope that was a strong harbinger of what's to come," Wissler said. "A lot of the customers were talking about our situation. We had a couple fly in from Seattle just to see The Mount."

This marks the third time since February that Berkshire Bank, which is now owed nearly $4.4 million in mortgage and line-of-credit debt, has extended the date for the non-profit to raise funds.

The Mount owes a total of nearly $9 million to its creditors, which also includes another bank and two individuals. More than $875,000 has been raised during its emergency "Save the Mount" fundraising campaign, and $240,000 of that money has come within the past month or so.

That means the nonprofit would have to raise roughly $2.1 million over the next five-and-a-half months to avert foreclosure and help restructure its mortgage debt. If the $3 million is raised, an additional $3 million in matching funds has been pledged.

Berkshire Bank President and CEO Michael P. Daly said his organization is pleased with the progress that The Mount and its principles have made in the last few months.

"They continue to do all that they said they would do," he said. "But this is a private matter ... between our institution and a private organization."

Daly said the bank continues to do its job of balancing the fiduciary responsibilities of its shareholders and members with being a responsible member of the community, and allowing The Mount to pay back its mortgage within a reasonable timeline is part of that.

Gordon Travers, a trustee of The Mount who has been in negotiations with the group's creditors, said the reprieve is symbolically important.

"I think, given the bleak situation, this sends a strong message that we are determined to work through these problems," he said. "We are fully engaged with all of our creditors, and they have been willing to work with us."

Wissler and Travers said generating an appealing season for patrons will be part of the mission to climb out of the crisis.

"This relieves us of the month-to-month burden," Travers said. "It's a long window to raise the funds, but there's no guarantee that we will be able to raise this money. It does give us time, though."

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"I Publius: Progress at, prospects for, The Mount"
By Alan Chartock, Saturday, August 02, 2008
GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts

The very lovely Roselle and I recently attended a wonderful presentation at The Mount. Two New Yorker illustrators, Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz, did a fabulous job humorously describing their wonderful work, which includes the second-most-viewed New Yorker cover of all time.

In fact, their presentation may have been one of the most entertaining afternoons I have spent in the Berkshires — and that says a lot, considering what we have going for us. Meyerowitz is the brother of Great Barrington's own "Sproutman," Steve Meyerowitz, who is well known to many of us. He was early into local agriculture, all the rage now.

Anyway, as we sat there in the little theater, a top guy on the organization's board (a restructuring guru), Gordon Travers, stood up and filled everyone in on how things are going at The Mount and the dire straits in which the organization finds itself. To recap: The Mount, a vital cultural resource in the Berkshires, is now under more enlightened leadership. Unfortunately, it is still saddled with a massive and inexcusable debt of approximately $9 million. The board needs to raise $3 million just to get out from under the immediate threat of closure. More than $1 million has been raised, and the board has announced that an anonymous donor is willing to match the next, crucial $3 million.

The banks (mainly Berkshire Bank) to whom they owe the money have been patient and quite wonderful. They set strict deadlines for The Mount to have the debt repaid and, at the last minute said, "OK, you're getting there; we'll give you some extra time." The problem is that while I am sure there is an anonymous donor, the anonymity brings with it a bit of a credibility issue. It's understandable that the donor wants to remain anonymous. Some people just prefer to keep their generosity private.

Maybe they don't want everyone else hitting on them. Maybe they don't want people to think they are showing off.

I know all about this, having thanked many anonymous contributors to WAMC. It's great when we can use their names, but if they ask us not to, I like to give as much information about the donors as possible. I ask permission to say, "A wonderful man from Sheffield" or a "top actress from Williamstown." That way, people understand that there really is such a person. If The Mount did a little bit more of that, the credibility issue might be alleviated.

I know a few cynics who believe that if there were such a generous donor, he or she would have put up the $3 million back when the banks were first threatening to close things down. One very credible inside source told me that the reason the person didn't want to be named is that $3 million would not have solved the problem and the donor was waiting to see if The Mount could come up with the necessary $3 million match before going forward.

The less people know, the more they make stuff up. One theory I heard was that the banks themselves promised to forgive half the money owed them. The Mount says the donor is a person and that the bank theory is not true. It doesn't really matter — I absolutely believe there is such a donor. I just think that The Mount will have to figure out a better way to play it.

One of the strikes against The Mount is people's perception that it's just a house, albeit one a famous author once owned. It's just hard to get folks to give money to a house. That's why my eyes opened up when I heard that the trustees had expanded The Mount's mission. Instead of just being a beautiful house with beautiful gardens, The Mount is going to become a retreat and center for authors, along the lines of Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. It's also going to become a center for Wharton scholars.

Another of the gripes about The Mount is that it spent too much money to buy Wharton's library. But now people can visit The Mount to see Wharton's own comments in her own books. If every English major gave a small amount to support this new mission, success would be all but assured. Just think of the fact that a great author's house would be used as a jumping-off point to generate more great writing.

It's a sensational idea. Of course, you'll all remember that at one point The Mount was the home of Shakespeare & Company — until the theater was expelled so that The Mount could be more pure. As I opined at the time, that was a very bad idea. Now the Mount is back on track with an expanded mission, and that's good for us all.
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Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.
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"Hope for historic home: Mount's debt eases with late-summer spike in attendance"
By Ellen G. Lahr, Special to The Berkshire Eagle, Friday, September 26, 2008

LENOX — High society novelist Edith Wharton, if she were alive today, might find herself in unlikely company — among millions of ordinary Americans whose homes are burdens of big, bad real estate debt. Her troubles might be fodder for yet another book.

But for Wharton, there would be reasons for hope. At The Mount, Wharton's money-strapped historic house museum on Plunkett Street, the summer months were marked by a late season spike in visitors, an operating deficit that has improved dramatically, and a cautious optimism that The Mount will work out its troubles and stave off foreclosure action from its key creditor.

Though The Mount's leaders won't reach the $3 million fundraising target by Oct. 31 required by Berkshire Bank, $1.3 million has been raised through the "Save the Mount" campaign launched last winter, and more is anticipated in coming weeks, said the Mount's acting president, Susan Wissler. She said the chances are good that a donor will agree to step forth as well to match what funds are raised by Oct. 31.

While 22,000 visitors came to see Wharton's house and gardens during the summer, fundraising donations slowed during summer months — just about $300,000 in donations came in, compared to the $1 million raised between January and June — as The Mount's continued operation and pampered gardens perhaps gave an illusion that the crisis had abated, Wissler said.

But she said she is optimistic that Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. will survive its troubles with a long-term debt restructuring. The Mount has also met its $70,000 per month in interest-only payments to creditors this summer, as required by a short-term deal reached last May, which allowed The Mount to open for the summer season.

Payments to George Ramsden, the British bookseller who sold Wharton's private library collection to The Mount in 2006 for $2.6 million in 2005, are now nearly current, said Wissler.

"We've got the beginnings of a positive story to tell," she said. "Under the circumstances, and without any money for advertising revenue, it was a great summer. Not to say the road ahead won't be difficult, but every month I feel more optimistic."

But there is that pesky debt, and it's big: Nearly $9 million is owed to four key creditors.

Fall of the house of Wharton

The house of Wharton tumbled into financial trouble in late winter, when the nonprofit Edith Wharton Restoration Inc. ran out of money. Berkshire Bank sent notice of its intent to foreclose after The Mount had fallen behind on its payments of more than $4 million in bank loans; payments to other creditors had also lapsed, or had never commenced, as with Ramsden.

About half the staff was let go, the former president quit, and a "Save the Mount" campaign was launched by its small board of directors, which, despite local interest, has not yet expanded beyond a half-dozen members.

"I hope within the next two to three weeks, we will be able to announce specific terms of a long-term restructuring," said board President Gordon Travers. "Obviously we'd have to continue fundraising against any restructuring."

Berkshire Bank, noting the leadership measures taken by Wissler and The Mount, extended two deadlines to maximize fundraising opportunities during the summer months, and observers in the local financial community were certain that Berkshire Bank would do what it could to avoid taking possession of a historic house museum that lacks modern amenities, has high upkeep costs, and uncertain resale prospects.

Michael Daly, president and CEO of Berkshire Bank, said in an e-mail message last week that he had no comment on The Mount's financial dealings with the bank. The bank typically does not comment on individual client matters.

But Travers said the board is confident enough with the future to proceed with a business plan for development of the Wharton Center for the Written Word, an on-site institute that would draw high-profile writers of all genres to a summer festival perhaps as early as next year. Funds are being contributed for the hiring of a business consultant specializing in feasibility studies and planning for nonprofit organizations, said Travers.

"The Mount will no longer exclusively be a house museum," Travers said. "We believe there's a thirst for this type of programming, and it's absolutely essential and appropriate going forward."

Historic house museums, with high upkeep costs and the challenge of drawing a wide range of visitors and repeat customers, are struggling to keep afloat nationwide — the nearby historic home of Mark Twain in Connecticut is also in financial trouble — unless they offer unique programs that provide something beyond a house and garden tour.

According to Wissler's count, 22,000 visitors came to The Mount this summer season, and another 6,000 are anticipated through Oct. 31.

While this summer's budget included no funds for advertising, The Mount attracted plenty of publicity due to its plight, particularly when paired with the similar troubles facing the historic home of Mark Twain, as examples of historic house woes.

Publications as varied as Architectural Digest, Newsweek, The Washington Post, and Financial Times noted The Mount's story, and Garrison Keillor plugged the historic site at his June "A Prairie Home Companion" broadcast from Tanglewood.

Other Berkshire nonprofits have encouraged visitors to stop in, Wissler said.

Wissler said the CBS "Sunday Morning" show is visiting on Sept. 30, the same day as a group of school children, to do a segment about The Mount.

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"Mount's cautious optimism"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Monday, September 29, 2008

No government bailout will be coming for The Mount in Lenox, but the Edith Wharton Restoration has made impressive strides in digging out of a massive debt on its own. After a good summer in terms of attendance, the Mount's operating deficit has been substantially lowered, the $1.3 million raised through the "Save the Mount" campaign begun last winter has raised hopes that a donor will push the total to the desired $3 million by October 31, interest-only payments to creditors are being met, and the payments to the book-seller who sold Edith Wharton's private collection to the Mount two years ago are nearly current. The $9 million debt is a major concern, but plans for the Wharton Center for The Written Word, an on-site writers' institute that will enable the Mount to be more than a house museum at a time when house museums everywhere are struggling financially, affords optimism for the long-term future. The Mount, like the author herself, shows resilience.

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"Saving The Mount"
By Clarence Fanto, Special to The Berkshire Eagle
Sunday, November 09, 2008, LENOX, Massachusetts

She may turn out to be the savior of The Mount, the former home of novelist Edith Wharton that has been threatened with foreclosure since last winter over $9 million in debts.

Susan Wissler is seeking a solid financial footing by expanding the mission of Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., which owns the estate built in 1902. Wharton lived there until 1911.

That includes creating a new "Wharton Center for the Written Word," that will offer literary conferences, workshops and movies to the public, opening a terrace "cafe" to the public evenings in summer, and keeping the house open for tours on weekends through December.

Wissler was named interim executive director on March 29, after longtime chief Stephanie Copeland declined a Board of Trustees offer of a lesser position. In August, "interim" was removed from Wissler's title.

Although a six-month lifeline floated by The Mount's creditors, led by Berkshire Bank, expired on Oct. 31, "the threat of foreclosure has been forestalled as a result of the steady progress we've made this summer," Wissler said this past week. "Our banks and creditors have concluded that it makes the most sense to give us additional time to work out long-term restructuring plans.

"Those discussions are ongoing, and we're making progress. At the same time, some major foundations have scheduled site visits in the coming weeks and we're hopeful that they'll agree to support our efforts. It's a positive initial sign."

Wissler anticipates a long-term financial restructuring plan to emerge within the next 30 days.

Berkshire Bank had been seeking a $3 million payment to clear the way for restructuring. An intense fundraising effort has raised about $1.35 million since March. The Mount's annual operating budget has been trimmed by about $200,000 to $1.7 million; revenues for the year so far are about $625,000.

"Without an endowment, the property will never really be safe," Wissler emphasized.

Wissler, 48, is a native of Oxnard, Calif., and the daughter of the late Rear Adm. John Wissler, who, as a Navy test pilot, made some of the first landings on aircraft carriers.

Her mother, Brooke, was a military spouse and is living in California. Susan grew up as a "Navy brat," shuttling every two years among homes at military bases on the East Coast, Hawaii and the Philippines.

Though she visited the Washing-ton, Jefferson and Madison historic estates in northern Virginia, she describes her exposure to Edith Wharton as "no more or less than the average American high-school teenager."

After attending Stanford Uni-versity, she graduated from Brown University with a degree in psychology; Wissler then obtained a law degree from Columbia Uni-versity and is admitted to the bar in Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut.

For nearly a decade, she was a mergers-and-acquisitions attorney at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, a major international law firm in Manhattan.

"I cut my teeth on the big deals, great training for just about anything," she said, "because anything after that in terms of stress is easier."

After weekend visits to a friend with a home in Stockbridge, she "fell in love with the Berkshires." Following a divorce, she "ditched the high-powered legal career" in 1995 and relocated to a 25-acre, hilltop "hobby farm" known as the Knobit in Red Rock, N.Y., near Canaan.

There, she and her partner operate an informal rescue shelter for animals in need of homes. Their growing menagerie includes six goats, a very large pig, a horse, nine dogs, several cats, guineas and peacocks.

"That's the balance to my day." she explained. "When I get home, it's all about the animals."

After helping a citzens' group fighting to set some limits on the Prime Outlets project in Lee, she worked on trusts and estates with attorney David Katz of Katz, Murphy & Greenwald. Following the death of her father and of Katz within the same year, Wissler left the legal profession in favor of landscape gardening and decorative painting during 1999 and 2000.

Wissler first visited The Mount to see a Shakespeare & Company production long before the troupe was evicted from the site in 2001. In September of that year, following an introduction to Stephanie Copeland by a mutual friend, she was hired as chief operating officer.

"It was love at first sight for me," she recalled. "I think the property is magnificent and it gives me such pleasure to walk the grounds. Stephanie and I had a good working relationship."

Their first joint project was planning the Wharton Centennial in 2002 to celebrate the reopening of the mansion, which had been largely restored by that time.

"Although we only recently went public with it, the financial struggle has been a very hard and difficult road," Wissler acknowledged. The restoration of the mansion and gardens has cost about $14 million, including $3.5 million for the 3-acre formal gardens.

The $2.5 million acquisition of the Wharton library in 2006, at a price above the appraised value, failed in its intended purpose, she said, to help raise significant funds for The Mount through an "adopt-a-book program."

"As a concept, I think there's probably still a lot of validity to that," Wissler says now. "But the structure at the board level and at the management level never was there; we just didn't have the muscle to do anything with it. The acquisition didn't push us over the edge, but it certainly made things more complicated going forward."

Several board upheavals complicated the challenge of meeting a growing gap between revenue and operating expenses while donations were declining.

Active recruiting is under way to expand the current five-member board.

Still pending is $250,000 in cosmetic work on the bedroom floor. And the stables would be re-adapted as a "programming space and multipurpose facility while maintaining the integrity of the structure," Wissler said.

Wissler has pursued a major outreach drive to the local community by presenting a family day and opening an evening cafe to enable people "to experience the house as if it were their own at the perfect hour, right around dusk."

The Mount will be open Fridays through Sundays through Decem-ber.

Still to come is "The Wharton Center for the Written Word," offering literary conferences, workshops and movies to the public. Strategic planner and preservationist Anthony Wood is preparing a $25,000 study for presentation to foundations.

"My hope, long-term is that the grounds are open like Central Park for people to come for free, to use it and to love it, while the buildings become the revenue-generator," said Wissler, gratified that "visitors feel almost instantly at ease because of the informality and graciousness they find.

"I know there are a lot of people out there rooting for us," she said.

"That's been a huge boost. The season has been strong and I'm feeling a lot of affection from the immediate community. I'm not much of a worrier, and in my heart of hearts, I think we'll succeed."

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Lenox, Massachusetts
"New artistic director at Shakespeare & Co.: Shakespeare & Co. names Tony Simotes"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Friday, January 23, 2009

LENOX — One of the founding members of Shakespeare & Company who performed as Puck during the troupe's maiden season in 1978 has been selected as its new artistic director.

Tony Simotes, 57, a theater professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was named artistic director of the Lenox-based foundation Thursday afternoon and will join the Company on June 1.

He's taking over for founder Tina Packer, who will remain at the Company but will devote her time to fundraising, acting and the long-term vision of the theater.

"I am humbled and honored," said Simotes in a telephone interview from his home in Madison. "I'm giving up a dream job, but this just feels right. Shakespeare & Company is a magical place."

Simotes also serves as director of the college's University Theater.

Packer said Simotes was one of three finalists who were selected from a group of 32 potential candidates.

It was in 1978 when Packer asked Simotes, a former student of Packer's and a graduate of New York University's theater program, to help her and about a dozen other thespians start the Company at The Mount.

"He's just very down to earth and a very funny man," Packer said. "Very practical. We know each other well."

Simotes went on to have a long career in theater, television and film, with roles in "Terminator II," "Hot Shots," and "Father of the Bride 2."

Simotes also is a combat/fight director and a choreographer. He has returned to Lenox a number of times over the years to direct shows, including 2006's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and last year's "Othello."

"At Shakespeare & Company, there was always a growing sense of what the craft could be, about where we could take it," he said. "It was about challenging ourselves as artists."

Packer, who formed the troupe with just $3,500 and has turned it into a renowned theater company that topped $5 million in revenue last year, said the decision to step down "was not bittersweet but a bit of a relief."

"From my point of view, I have so much bloody work," she said. "With this, I can focus on acting and raising money. We're known in the Northeast, but we'd like to move it to being a national organization."

Packer said she also plans on devoting time to writing a book about the Company.

For Simotes, coming back to the Berkshires has extra special meaning — it was at a 2002 gala inside Founders' Theatre that Simotes met his wife, Lucy, a Fitchburg native.

"We're looking forward to building a life in the Berkshires," he said.

Simotes, who grew up inside his family's grocery store in Joliet, Ill., lived in The Mount during that first year of the Company.

"When the only place I lived in the Berkshires was Edith Wharton's house, it's tough. I said to Lucy, 'Sorry honey. We're not going to live in a mansion.' "

Simotes will be in charge of setting the seasonal performance calendar, casting, hiring, and education and training.

Packer said the Company is at $8.2 million in its $10 million capital campaign and should reach the goal by October. Simotes inherits from Packer a foundation with 50 year-round and 200 seasonal employees, one that last summer opened the $7.5 million Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre and extended its season to 10 months.

"What makes this solid is that Tina is not going away," Simotes said. "She has been one of the great inspirations in my life, and I'm looking forward to helping her set a vision for the Company."

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Lenox, Massachusetts
"Is The Mount haunted?" (video) - "The Mount will be featured on an upcoming episode of 'Ghost Hunters'", Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, March 16, 2009

The Mount will be featured on an episode of the Sci-Fi channel's "Ghost Hunters" on March 25, 2009.
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www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_11925790
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Berkshire County, Massachusetts
"Shakespeare & Co. trims staff, salaries"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, March 18, 2009

LENOX — Shakespeare & Company is laying off seven employees, reducing two others to part-time, and instituting a 10 percent pay cut for the remaining 41 year-round staff as part of a restructuring plan to save $900,000.

Theater officials announced on Tuesday that the company's budget will go from $5.6 million for the current fiscal year to $4.7 million for the fiscal year that begins on April 1.

In addition to layoffs and payroll reductions, the three founders of the 32-year old theater group will each lose eight weeks of pay in order to prevent further layoffs and reductions, according to artistic director Tina Packer.

"We want the blooming thing to survive," said Packer, explaining why she, Director of Education Kevin G. Coleman, and Director of Training Dennis Krausnick decided to forgo salaries for nearly two months.

Packer added that she "hates laying people off," but she and Managing Director Nicholas J. Puma said the budget cuts are necessary "for both our short- and long-term fiscal heath."

The layoffs and spending cuts come after Shakespeare & Company had the highest box-office revenue in its history last season. But the company said ticket sales and fees from education and training programs can't carry a performing arts group alone, and the erosion of corporate and individual donations have drained money from the troupe's coffers.

Meanwhile, Shakespeare & Company needs to raise another $1.2 million toward a $10 million capital campaign that is paying for a new production and performing arts center.

Packer said theater officials considered delaying the expansion of its production season from nine months to 12, which includes using the new facility, "but if it's there and not used, we still have to pay for it."

Shakespeare & Co. once tried reducing the number of productions in a season to save money, but Packer said the move failed.

"We tried that six years ago during our last fiscal crisis," she said, "and box office income dropped, reducing our net profit."

For now, the popular "Fall Festival of Shakespeare" is unaffected by the cuts. Packer said grants and other revenue sources will continue to finance the annual program that has theater staff work with nearly a dozen high schools to stage Shakespeare's plays.

However, she said, some schools may find themselves unable to afford their contribution to the program.

"I do know at least six or seven will be able to participate," Packer said. "But it's up in the air if all 10 or 12 can afford it."
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To reach Dick Lindsay: rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6233.
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"Edith Wharton's Massachusetts estate restructures its debt"
Boston.com - AP - May 21, 2009

LENOX, Massachusetts -- The Massachusetts home of author Edith Wharton has agreed with creditors on a restructuring plan to reduce its debt.

The estate is known as the Mount. It's near the Tanglewood summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox, a tiny town in the Berkshires.

Mount trustees announced Wednesday the key to the restructuring is a $750,000 gift. They say the plan will cut the Mount's funded debt almost in half to $4.7 million and give the estate a "realistic" chance to retire its principal balance within five years.

Trustees plan to expand programming including writing workshops, lectures and a summer festival at the estate.

Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, for the 1920 novel "The Age of Innocence." She died in France in 1937 at age 75.

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From left: “Xingu’’ cast members Corinna May, Diane Prusha, Tod Randolph, Jennie Burkhard Jadow, and Karen Lee at the Mount in Lenox. (Photos By Kevin Sprague)
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"Healing old rifts, in Wharton's drawing room"
By Joel Brown, Boston Globe Correspondent, August 14, 2009

Edith Wharton returns to the stage at the Mount next week, and the production is a homecoming of sorts for the actors and director, too.

A new theater group called the Wharton Salon is bringing an adaptation of Wharton’s story “Xingu’’ to the writer’s landmark home in Lenox. The one-act comedy will be performed Aug. 20-23 in Wharton’s drawing room, “which is appropriate, since it actually takes place in a drawing room,’’ says Susan Wissler, executive director of the Mount.

The play centers around a society women’s lunch club hosting a popular author for a discussion of her latest novel. When conversation teeters toward social disaster, the club’s most unpredictable member introduces a compelling new topic, Xingu, although no one quite knows what that is.

Behind the scenes, the production offers a happy return for director/producer Catherine Taylor-Williams and most of the actors, who are current or former members of Shakespeare & Company. The Mount was home to Shakespeare & Company for more than 20 years, before an acrimonious split that became final in 2001.

“The community has been wanting this, the audiences have been wanting to return, the actresses wanted [to do] these plays . . . it was just a matter of getting everyone together,’’ Taylor-Williams says by phone. “The relationship between Shakespeare & Company and the Mount had become very complicated and fraught, and I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Time has passed . . . and I think the time has come again to let all of those old feelings go.’’

Wissler concurs. “Yes, this will be [in fact the process already has been] a healing moment,’’ she writes via e-mail.

It would take Wharton, her pal Henry James, and a team of lawyers to fully limn the intertwined histories of Shakespeare & Company and the Mount. From 1979 to 2001, Shakespeare & Company performed on four stages around the Mount, including in the drawing room. But a final split over the company’s lease as a major restoration was underway ended with the theater troupe moving to a new home a short distance away.

“Xingu’’ is an adaptation of a Wharton story by actor Dennis Krausnick, Shakespeare & Company’s director of training and husband of founder Tina Packer. It’s one of several Wharton adaptations by Krausnick and other writers that were once Shakespeare & Company staples.

Taylor-Williams worked in the troupe from 2001 to 2007 as an actor and behind the scenes. Most of the “Xingu’’ actors (Corinna May, Diane Prusha, Tod Randolph, Lydia Barnett-Mulligan, Jennie Burkhard Jadow, Rory Hammond, and Karen Lee) have been part of Shakespeare & Company in one capacity or another, some for much longer than Taylor-Williams. The lone male in the cast, Daniel Osman, is a former Shakespeare & Company member who directed the last production of “Xingu’’ at the Mount, in the 1990s.

For a photo shoot, Taylor-Williams took the cast to the Mount and opened some champagne.

“We had a wonderful afternoon, the weather cooperated. And this was the first time these women had been back at this space in nine years,’’ says Taylor-Williams. “Some of these people had lived there in the Mount full time. Diane - her daughter Rory, who’s also in the play, was probably conceived there,’’ she adds with a laugh.

The restoration has been finished since they left, and old disputes have faded away.

“I think they were a little tentative because they remembered that when they left things were difficult,’’ Taylor-Williams says. “But people came up to them and said, ‘We’re so glad to see you,’ and the house was beautiful. . . . It was a very positive experience for everyone.’’

Taylor-Williams had left Shakespeare & Company in 2007 to take a graduate fellowship in arts management at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. When that was over, she landed a job in development at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York.

She and her husband, actor Robert Serrell, had kept their apartment in Lenox. And she began looking for something to produce. “I still continue to come to the Berkshires every weekend because I love it,’’ she says. “Because I couldn’t leave I thought, well, what am I going to do there? That was when this idea came forward.’’

Taylor-Williams had been a house manager at the Mount. “I saw how much the audiences loved those plays, and I remembered that,’’ she says. “Shakespeare & Company had originated those plays at the Mount, and [Krausnick] has a wonderful, deft way of representing Wharton. I just thought we should bring these plays back.’’

Local photographer and designer Kevin Sprague, a mutual friend, put Taylor-Williams together with Wissler.

“We sat over coffee in a little coffee shop in Lenox and talked about it a year ago,’’ says Wissler, “and she approached us early in the fall last year and proposed to mount this performance in the drawing room. And we’re happy to have her - very excited about it.’’

When Shakespeare and Company left the Mount, performances of Wharton plays stopped, although the venue has hosted readings and other activities.

“This is the first time the Mount has collaborated since then . . . with a performance troupe,’’ Wissler says.

Wissler has been at the Mount since September 2001 and executive director since longtime director Stephanie Copeland left amid a financial crisis in 2008. The Mount has since restructured its debt. “We’re not out of the woods, but we’re out of the emergency room and into intensive care,’’ Wissler says.

It’s hoped that tickets will cover half the $14,000 “Xingu’’ production cost, with local donors making up the rest. The Mount is helping Taylor-Williams with in-kind support, and Shakespeare & Company is doing its part. Krausnick and Packer donated the rights to the play for this production. Krausnick even took another pass through the text, Taylor-Williams says. The company is renting audience risers to the Wharton Salon, as well as some costumes.

Shakespeare & Company wants no confusion about its role in “Xingu,’’ though. It’s not coming back to the Mount, being firmly ensconced in its own nearby campus, where it is finishing up a $10 million capital campaign.

The company provided this statement from founding member and artistic director Tony Simotes: “We’re excited to have a relationship in some respects at the Mount again. We’re happy to assist with Catherine’s project. She’s a past company member who worked with us for many years. It’s part of the ethos here in the Berkshires that the cultural organizations help each other out when possible. . . . We’d love to see Catherine’s venture succeed, and the door is open to future collaborations. But right now we’re focused on an 18-show season, which is the biggest we’ve mounted in a decade.’’

All the history aside, Taylor-Williams and Wissler both say they hope “Xingu’’ is just the beginning for the Wharton Salon at the Mount. And at least one thing about the house is better than in the old days.

“It’s air-conditioned now,’’ Taylor-Williams says.

Tickets: $35, which includes a day pass to the Mount. 413-551-5113, www.edithwharton.org, www.whartonsalon.org

--------------------

"Shakespeare & Company digs out"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, May 26, 2010

Shakespeare & Company not only produces drama, it lives it, and the agreements reached with debtors enable the Lenox group to fight on another day. With the Berkshire summer cultural season fast approaching this is timely good news for other cultural institutions as well as Shakespeare & Company.

Nine months after an independent audit revealed the serious nature of the company's financial woes, the company has refinanced nearly $8 million in debt with Century Bank of Medford. Key to the refinancing was Representative John Olver's securing of a guarantee of $3 million of the company's debt through the Department of Agriculture, and while we can't imagine what a theater company has to do with agriculture, this attests to the value of a congressional veteran who knows where the federal money is tucked away.

Caught in the middle of the company's financial woes was Allegrone Construction, which sued to receive its remaining payment for the $7 million in work it did on the Bernstein Center for the Performing Arts. An out of court settlement was reached with the company, but because Shakespeare & Company declined to divulge the nature of the agreement it can't be said if Allegrone took a loss, which seems likely, or the extent of that loss.

When a prominent cultural institution struggles, it may be wrongly assumed that others nearby are as well, which can have repercussions such as a requirement by vendors to pay up-front for services.

If Shakespeare & Company can put its financial woes behind it, fellow Berkshire institutions will breathe a little easier as well.

--------------------

The Edith Wharton Restoration, the nonprofit that operates The Mount in Lenox, was 8.5 million in debt and near foreclosure in 2008. It has entirely paid off its debts. (Ben Garver — The Berkshire Eagle)

“The Mount, once on brink of foreclosure, clears all debts”
By Clarence Fanto, The Berkshire Eagle, September 28, 2015

LENOX - Seven years after teetering on the brink of foreclosure, The Mount has found its way to sure financial footing.

Thanks to a yearlong fundraising effort, the Edith Wharton Restoration Inc., the nonprofit that operates the house museum and cultural center, has paid off its debt entirely, Executive Director Susan Wissler announced Monday.

The fundraising campaign, led by board of trustees Chairwoman Lila Berle, yielded about $3.3 million. Contributions from about 30 donors, including current and former board members, ranged from $1,000 to more than $1 million.

"It's a huge moment for The Mount," Berle said in a phone interview from her Great Barrington home. She credited the board members, Wissler's leadership and the 12-member, year-round staff (with 30 to 40 more in the summer) for resolving the daunting financial challenges and making the site more visitor-friendly.

Following a renegotiation of its major obligations, the organization has been facing a June 2016 deadline for paying off a nearly $3.5 million note to Berkshire Bank and $330,000 to a western New York bank executive. The exact terms of the agreement remains confidential. Berkshire Bank declined comment on the settlement.

The immediate resolution of all debts also saves The Mount from $215,000 in annual principal and interest payments to its lenders.

"The Mount has had a long history of ups and downs, for sure. It has required people willing to take a risk," Berle said. "I kept saying to the board, the $215,000 in carrying costs for the loan was not sustainable, it was a hardship. We convinced everyone on the board, they voted unanimously and they contributed to the fundraising effort."

The organization was in mired in $8.5 million of loans in 2008 in the wake of a massive house and garden restoration at the author's early 1900s Gilded Age home, and an expensive acquisition of Edith Wharton's private library from a British collector.

"I'm elated, I feel almost euphoric," said Wissler, whose leadership has been widely credited for rescuing the historic landmark from looming foreclosure.

"It came together, a confluence of circumstance, personalities and opportunity," she said during an interview at the Mount. "We moved with alacrity, things didn't drag out, we never lost momentum once we decided this was what we were going to do, and everyone involved feels just terrific about the outcome."

Wissler credited the board for acting ahead of time, "rather than letting it get to crisis proportions" next June. "It was a huge impediment. It was good foresight on their part, determination on my part and a desire for all of us to put The Mount in a position where we can focus strictly on the future."

Despite the now-resolved financial travails, Wissler described her tenure as "seven years of continued growth and vibrancy, building of our community relationships. Access to the property opened up incredibly, giving us the opportunity to become very entrepreneurial in the way we approached programming and our partnerships."

The current budget of the National Historic Landmark is about $1.8 million, half of it raised privately, and it has bolstered its bottom line by more than $100,000 through rentals for weddings and other functions.

Looking ahead, Wissler listed personal goals such as a buildup of three years' operating reserves, about $5 million; $1 million to $2 million in critical deferred-maintenance projects on the main house, and completion of multimillion-dollar building upgrades at the Stable, including a heating system, to turn it into a year-round center for programming.

"There's ample room for more theater, readings, literary-inspired storytelling events," she said. "I think the sky's the limit."

She also cited potential "open space opportunities, public access rights in perpetuity, and exploring with our neighbors and the town our notion of a public park. Now that we're debt-free, those discussions can proceed untarnished. There are a lot of possible partners, a lot of very important players."

"I'm very excited about the public park concept," Wissler said. "I think that would play a vital role in the continued vitality of The Mount, it gives a whole other reason for people to care."

In 2008, The Mount nearly closed after defaulting on its payments to Berkshire Bank. The debts at that time totaled $8.5 million to the bank, the private lender from Buffalo, N.Y., and George Ramsden, the British collector who had sold Wharton's personal library of 2,700 volumes back to The Mount for $2.6 million in 2005.

The foreclosure was forestalled, Wissler said, after an emergency "Save the Mount" campaign raised about $2 million, including an $800,000 gift from the JM Kaplan Fund. Gordon Travers, the board chairman in 2008, negotiated with the bank and other lenders, restructuring the debts under new terms that included significant savings as well as an extended time for payoffs.

That year, Stephanie Copeland, who led the $13 million project to restore The Mount's house and gardens and oversaw the purchase of the Wharton library, resigned under pressure as debts mounted, threatening to sink the organization. She was succeeded by Wissler, who had been her deputy.

Berle, returning three years ago as board chairwoman to the organization she had helped create in 1980, tripled the number of trustees.

Copeland, who now lives in Lee, was described by Berle as being "very happy" to learn of the financial settlement.

"She took a huge risk but she was brilliant," Berle said of The Mount's former leader. "Without that, we wouldn't have had a chance. The gardens have been so beautiful and the library is increasingly important."

Wissler has turned what had been a traditional house museum to a full-fledged cultural center with readings, musical and theatrical performances, and art exhibitions — notably Ann Jon's SculptureNow, which found a home at The Mount starting three years ago.

At the same time, interest in Wharton's literary legacy has surged in the United States and abroad, helping fuel a sharp increase in annual attendance from 25,000 in 2008 to about 40,000 currently — about 40 percent of them part- or full-time Berkshire residents, the rest from out of the area.

The house and property will be open free of charge to all Berkshire County residents throughout October.

"There's no question that The Mount's revival is linked to Wharton's," said Wissler, noting a potential TV miniseries based on "The Custom of the Country" that would star Scarlett Johansson and "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes' possible NBC series titled "The Gilded Age."

Information: EdithWharton.org or 413-551-5100.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551. cfanto@yahoo.com @BE_cfanto on Twitter

Timeline ...

1902-1911: Edith Wharton designs and builds The Mount as a writer's retreat. While in residence, she writes six novels, including "The House of Mirth," "Ethan Frome" and "The Custom of the Country." The dissolution of her marriage forces the sale of her home in 1911.

1912-1942: The Mount is owned privately as a residence.

1942-1976: The Foxhollow School For Girls owns the property.

1971: The site is designated a National Historic Landmark.

1977: The Mount is purchased by developer Donald I. Altshuler.

1978-2001: Tina Packer's Shakespeare & Company rents The Mount. The company lives on and performs at the property.

1980: Edith Wharton Restoration is formed as a separate entity and receives funding from the National Trust of Historic Preservation to purchase The Mount. Lila Berle becomes the first chairwoman.

1998: First Lady Hillary Clinton visits The Mount as part of a Save America's Treasures national tour.

1999: The Mount is awarded a $2.9 million matching grant by the Save America's Treasures program, the largest in its history. This grant is matched by a $1.5 million state grant.

2000: Exterior restoration of the main house is completed.

2001: Shakespeare & Company, having departed from The Mount, opens at its new location, the former Bible Speaks property in Lenox.

2002: World-class interior designers decorate the rooms of the main house as if Edith Wharton were their client. The Mount officially opens the restored main house and the grounds to the public.

2005: President George W. Bush presents The Mount with the Preserve America Presidential Award.

2005: Renewal of the formal gardens is completed, the final phase of a $13 million restoration of the house and grounds..

2006: The Mount acquires Wharton's 2,700-volume library from George Ramsden, a British private book dealer, for $2.6 million.

2008: The Mount faces near foreclosure over missed payments to Berkshire Bank. The institution is $8.5 million in debt. Executive Director Stephanie Copeland resigns and is succeeded by Susan Wissler.

2009: The Mount's board of trustees, led by Chairman Gordon Travers, raises nearly $2 million, including an $800,000 grant from the JM Kaplan Fund, and restructures the debt.

2010: Wissler launches new programs aimed at broader audiences, including a music series, ghost tours and family-friendly theater. The Mount increases its literary programming and hosts a weekend literary festival.

2011: The Mount forms a National Committee to honor Edith Wharton's legacy, including Martin Scorsese, James Taylor and Joyce Carol Oates. Former First Lady Laura Bush is named honorary chairwoman.

2012: The Mount launches a yearlong initiative to celebrate Wharton's 150th birthday. Julian Fellowes (creator of "Downton Abbey") is presented with the Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award. Fellowes credits Wharton, especially "The Custom of the Country," as an important influence on his career.

2014: The Mount's visitation tops 40,000, the highest since opening to the public.

2015: The Mount retires its outstanding debt.

Sources: Edith Wharton Restoration; Eagle archives


Susan Wissler, executive director of the Edith Wharton Restoration, has been credited with rescuing the historic landmark from looming foreclosure. (Ben Garver — The Berkshire Eagle)

--------------------

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Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
J.D. Drew gets the same welcome whenever he visits the City of Brotherly Love: "Booooooo!"; Drew has been vilified in Philadelphia since refusing to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1997...

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs
www.2joes.org

NH Union Leader

NH Union Leader
Editorial Cartoon

Celtics - World Champions!

Celtics - World Champions!
www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_18_08_front_pages/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_finals_game_6/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_celebration/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_15_08_celtics_championships/

"The Nation"

"The Nation"
A "Liberal" weekly political news magazine. Katrina vanden Heuvel.

TV - PBS: NOW

TV - PBS: NOW
http://www.pbs.org/now

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone
List of Twilight Zone episodes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Twilight_Zone_episodes

Equality for ALL Marriages

Equality for ALL Marriages
I, Jonathan Melle, am a supporter of same sex marriages.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.
L.A. Lakers holds on for the win to force Game 6 at Boston

Mohawk Trail

Mohawk Trail
The 'Hail to the Sunrise' statue in Charlemont is a well-known and easily recognized landmark on the Mohawk Trail. The trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with motels and restaurants. Now only four remain. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff).

NASA - June 14, 2008

NASA - June 14, 2008
Space Shuttle Discovery returns to Earth.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
Boston took a 20-second timeout, and the Celtics ran off four more points (including this incredible Erving-esque layup from Ray Allen) to build the lead to five points with just 2:10 remaining. Reeling, the Lakers took a full timeout to try to regain their momentum.

Sal DiMasi

Sal DiMasi
Speaker of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire
http://doj.nh.gov/

John Kerry

John Kerry
He does not like grassroots democracy & being challenged in the 2008 Massachusetts Democratic Party Primary for re-election.

Tim Murray

Tim Murray
Corrupt Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts, 2007 - 2013.

North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams, Massachusetts
downtown

Howie Carr

Howie Carr
Political Satirist on Massachusetts Corruption/Politics

Polar Bear

Polar Bear
Global Warming

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Warren & http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/WarrenAuthor.html

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
Consumer Crusader

Leon Powe

Leon Powe
Celtics forward Leon Powe finished a fast break with a dunk.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett reacted during the game.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo finished a first half fast break with a dunk.

Teamwork

Teamwork
Los Angeles Lakers teammates help Pau Gasol (16) from the floor in the second quarter.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant took a shot in the first half of Game 2.

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins (right) backed down Lamar Odom (left) during first half action.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the national anthem prior to Game 2.

K.G.!

K.G.!
Garnett reacted to a hard dunk in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce reacted after hitting a three upon his return to the game since leaving with an injury.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Kobe Bryant (left) and Paul Pierce (right) squared off in the second half of the game.

James Taylor

James Taylor
Sings National Anthem at Celtics Game.

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick
Attended Celtics Game.

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!
Attend Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis
The actor (left) and his date were in the crowd before the Celtics game.

John Kerry

John Kerry
Golddigger attends Celtics game

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Ends her 2008 bid for Democratic Party nomination

Nonnie Burnes

Nonnie Burnes
Massachusetts Insurance Commish & former Judge

Jones Library

Jones Library
Amherst, Massachusetts

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton
2008 Democratic Primary

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"
U.S. Senator John Sununu took more than $220,000 from big oil.

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
4- U.S. Senate - 2008

William Pignatelli

William Pignatelli
Hack Rep. "Smitty" with Lynne Blake

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke
Federal Reserve Chairman

Gazettenet.com

Gazettenet.com
www.gazettenet.com/beta/

Boys' & Girls' Club

Boys' & Girls' Club
Melville Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

The Berkshire Eagle

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
Williams College - May 2008

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson
www.boston.com/lifestyle/gallery/when_the_celtics_were_cool/

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries
New Massachusetts state lottery game hits $600 million in sales!

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

John Barrett III

John Barrett III
Long-time Mayor of North Adams Massachusetts

Shine On

Shine On

Elmo

Elmo
cool!

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce kissed the Eastern Conference trophy. 5/30/2008. AP Photo.

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton
Kevin Garnett (left) talked to Pistons guard Richard Hamilton (right) after the Celtics' victory in Game 6. 5/30/2008. Reuters Photo.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce showed his team colors as the Celtics closed out the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. 5/30/2008. Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis.

Joseph Kelly Levasseur

Joseph Kelly Levasseur
One of my favorite politicians!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
In the Big Apple: NYC! She is the coolest!

Guyer & Kerry

Guyer & Kerry
My 2nd least favorite picture EVER!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

Nuciforo & Ruberto

Nuciforo & Ruberto
My least favorite picture EVER!

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senate - 2008

NH Fisher Cats

NH Fisher Cats
AA Baseball - Toronto Blue Jays affiliate

Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH
Police Patch

Michael Briggs

Michael Briggs
#83 - We will never forget

Michael "Stix" Addison

Michael "Stix" Addison
http://unionleader.com/channel.aspx/News?channel=2af17ff4-f73b-4c44-9f51-092e828e1131

Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson
ABC News anchor

Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/scott_mcclellan/index.html?inline=nyt-per

Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise Idaho

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Legislative Hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, BCC, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
My favorite classical U.S. President!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Higher Taxes, Higher Tolls

Paul Hodes

Paul Hodes
My favorite Congressman!

Portland Sea Dogs

Portland Sea Dogs
AA Red Sox

New York

New York
Magnet

Massachusetts

Massachusetts
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Button

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
"Luciforo" tried to send me to Carmen's Jail during the Spring & Summer of 1998.

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/174

Luciforo

Luciforo
Andrea F Nuciforo II

B-Eagle

B-Eagle
Pittsfield's monopoly/only daily newspaper

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!
A Red Sox No Hitter on 5/19/2008!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Dustin Pedroia & Manny Ramirez

U.S. Flag

U.S. Flag
God Bless America!

Jonathan Melle's Blog

Jonathan Melle's Blog
Hello, Everyone!

Molly Bish

Molly Bish
We will never forget!

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo listens to some advice from Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in the first half.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace embrace at the end of the game.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon calls for the ball as he charges toward first base. Papelbon made the out en route to picking up his 14th save of the season.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throws to Royals David DeJesus during the first inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka delivers a pitch to Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek during the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew is welcomed to home plate by teammates Mike Lowell (left), Kevin Youkilis (2nd left) and Manny Ramirez after he hit a grand slam in the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell crosses the plate after hitting a grand slam during the sixth inning. Teammates Manny Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury scored on the play. The Red Sox went on to win 11-8 to complete a four-game sweep and perfect homestand.

JD Drew - Go Red Sox

JD Drew - Go Red Sox
www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/05_22_08_sox_royals/

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!
Master Sgt. Kara B. Stackpole, of Westfield, holds her daughter, Samantha, upon her return today to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. She is one of the 38 members of the 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron who returned after a 4-month deployment in Iraq. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.

Kathi-Anne Reinstein

Kathi-Anne Reinstein
www.openmass.org/members/show/175

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
Tragic diagnosis: Get well Senator!

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search
http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=jonathan+melle+blogurl:http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/&ie=UTF-8

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Billionaire U.S. Senator gives address to MCLA graduates in North Adams, Massachusetts in mid-May 2008

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France
Go Red Sox!

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Interviewed on local TV

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
Luciforo!

John Adams

John Adams
#2 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood under a tree on the afternoon of May 9, 2008, on the foregrounds of the NH State House - www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/nhinsider/vpost?id=2967773

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Inside the front lobby of the NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Bill Clinton campaign memorabilia

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Liberty Bell & NH State House

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Franklin Pierce Statue #14 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Stop the War NOW!

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
"Mr. Melle, tear down this Blog!"

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood next to a JFK photo

Jonathan Levine, Publisher

Jonathan Levine, Publisher
The Pittsfield Gazette Online

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made rabbit ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made antenna ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I impersonated Howard Dean

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
mock-voting

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
pretty ladies -/- Go to: http://www.wgir.com/cc-common/cc_photopop20.html?eventID=28541&pagecontent=&pagenum=4 - Go to: http://current.com/items/88807921_veterans_should_come_first_not_last# - http://www.mcam23.com/cgi-bin/cutter.cgi?c_function=STREAM?c_feature=EDIT?dir_catagory=10MorningRadio?dir_folder=2JoesClips?dir_file=JonathanMelle-090308? -

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Go Red Sox! Me at Fenway Park

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
My favorite journalist! Her voice sings for the Voiceless. -/- Go to: http://aboutamherst.blogspot.com/search?q=melle -/- Go to: http://ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com/search?q=melle

Velvet Jesus

Velvet Jesus
Mary Carey blogs about my political writings. This is a picture of Jesus from her childhood home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. -//- "How Can I Keep From Singing" : My life goes on in endless song / Above Earth's lamentations, / I hear the real, though far-off hymn / That hails a new creation. / / Through all the tumult and the strife / I hear its music ringing, / It sounds an echo in my soul. / How can I keep from singing? / / Whey tyrants tremble in their fear / And hear their death knell ringing, / When friends rejoice both far and near / How can I keep from singing? / / In prison cell and dungeon vile / Our thoughts to them are winging / When friends by shame are undefiled / How can I keep from singing?

www.truthdig.com

www.truthdig.com
www.truthdig.com

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Concord NH

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=loc&newest=1&addr=&zip=01201&search=Search

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
smiles & beer

Jonathan Lothrop

Jonathan Lothrop
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Michael L. Ward

Michael L. Ward
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large
Pete always sides with the wealthy's political interests.

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez
Gerald Lee told me that I am a Social Problem; Lee executes a top-down system of governance.

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large
Kerwood poured coffee drinks for Jane Swift

Louis Costi

Louis Costi
Pittsfield City Councilor

Lewis Markham

Lewis Markham
Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor
Sherman ran for Southern Berkshire State Rep against Smitty Pignatelli; Sherman is a good guy.

Anthony Maffuccio

Anthony Maffuccio
Pittsfield City Councilor

Linda Tyer

Linda Tyer
Pittsfield City Councilor

Daniel Bianchi

Daniel Bianchi
A Pittsfield City Councilor

The Democratic Donkey

The Democratic Donkey
Democratic Party Symbol

Paramount

Paramount
What is Paramount to you?

NH's Congresswoman

NH's Congresswoman
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat

Sam Adams Beer

Sam Adams Beer
Boston Lager

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Disney Animation

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008
"Luciforo" swears in Mayor Ruberto. Pittsfield Politics at its very worst: 2 INSIDER POWERBROKERS! Where is Carmen Massimiano? He must be off to the side.

Abe

Abe
Lincoln

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
Leader of the Autobots

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
1984 Autobot Transformer Leader

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/cleanupagreement.html

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/thesite/opca-reports.html

US EPA - Contact - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

US EPA - Contact -  Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/contactinfo.html

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/index.html

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Connector
Commonwealth Care

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

www.network-health.org

www.network-health.org
Massachusetts Health Reform

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

BMC HealthNet Plan

BMC HealthNet Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform
Eligibility Chart: 2007

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare
Massachusetts Health Reform

Business Peaks

Business Peaks
Voodoo Economics

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite
Reagonomics: Supply Side

Corporate Elite Propaganda

Corporate Elite Propaganda
Mock Liberal Democratic Socialism Thinking

Real Estate Blues

Real Estate Blues
www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/2008/0316/

PEACE

PEACE
End ALL Wars!

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell's World War II artwork depicting America's values

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
A young Abe Lincoln

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN
www.openmass.org/members/show/218 - www.rachelkaprielian.com

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/164 - www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/05/04/legislator_describes_threat_as_unnerving/

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!
My #1 Political Belief!

Anne Frank

Anne Frank
Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

A young woman Hillary supporter

A young woman Hillary supporter
This excellent picture captures a youth's excitement

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman
My favorite Actress!

Alan Chartock

Alan Chartock
WAMC public radio in Albany, NY; Political columnist who writes about Berkshire County area politics; Strong supporter for Human Rights for ALL Peoples

OpenCongress.Org

OpenCongress.Org
This web-site uses some of my Blog postings

OpenMass.org

OpenMass.org
This web-site uses some of my blog postings!

Shannon O'Brien

Shannon O'Brien
One of my favorite politicians! She stands for the People first!

The Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House
"The Almighty Golden Dome" - www.masslegislature.tv -

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Former Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
A corrupt Pol who tried to put me in Jail

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Another view of Pittsfield's inbred, multigenerational political prince. Luciforo!

Luciforo

Luciforo
Nuciforo's nickname

"Andy" Nuciforo

"Andy" Nuciforo
Luciforo!

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)
Nuciforo's henchman! Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail

Andrea Nuciforo Jr

Andrea Nuciforo Jr
Shhh! Luciforo's other job is working as a private attorney defending wealthy Boston-area corporate insurance companies

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.
Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail! Carmen sits with the Congressman, John Olver

Congressman John Olver

Congressman John Olver
Nuciforo's envy

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol
Our Beacon of American Democracy

Nuciforo's architect

Nuciforo's architect
Mary O'Brien in red with scarf

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)
Former-Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Nuciforo intimidated her, along with another woman, from running in a democratic state election in the Spring of 2006!

Andrea F. Nuciforo II

Andrea F. Nuciforo II
Pittsfield Politics

Berkshire County Republican Association

Berkshire County Republican Association
Go to: www.fcgop.blogspot.com

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer
U.S. Senator & State Representative

John Kerry

John Kerry
Endorses Barack Obama for Prez then visits Berkshire County

Dan Bosley

Dan Bosley
A Bureaucrat impostering as a Legislator!

Ben Downing

Ben Downing
Berkshire State Senator

Christopher N Speranzo

Christopher N Speranzo
Pittsfield's ANOINTED State Representative

Peter J. Larkin

Peter J. Larkin
Corrupt Lobbyist

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!
GE's FRAUDULENT Consent Decree with Pittsfield, Massachusetts, will end up KILLING many innocent school children & other local residents!

GE's CEO Jack Welch

GE's CEO Jack Welch
The Corporate System's Corporate Elite's King

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand
Equilibrium

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts
In 2007, GE sold its Plastics Division to a Saudi company. Now all that is left over by GE are its toxic PCB pollutants that cause cancer in many Pittsfield residents.

Mayor James M Ruberto

Mayor James M Ruberto
A small-time pol chooses to serve the corporate elite & other elites over the people.

Governor Deval Patrick

Governor Deval Patrick
Deval shakes hands with Mayors in Berkshire County

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick
Governor of Massachusetts

Pittsfield High School

Pittsfield High School
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Pittsfield's former Mayor

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Pittsfield Attorney focusing on Father's Rights Probate Court Legal Issues, & Local Politician and Political Observer

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Very Intelligent Political Activists in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq. is the spokesperson of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition. He has been practicing family law and has been a member of the Massachusetts bar since 1996.

Mayor Ed Reilly

Mayor Ed Reilly
He supports Mayor Ruberto & works as a municipal Attorney. As Mayor, he backed Bill Weld for Governor in 1994, despite being a Democrat. He was joined by Carmen Massimiano & John Barrett III, the long-standing Mayor of North Adams.

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta
Cuts Dental Care for Public School Children-in-Need

Manchester, NH City Hall

Manchester, NH City Hall
My new hometown - view from Hanover St. intersection with Elm St.

Manchester NH City Democrats

Manchester NH City Democrats
Go Dems!

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards

NH State House Dome

NH State House Dome
Concord, NH

Donna Walto

Donna Walto
Pittsfield Politician -- She strongly opposes Mayor Jim Ruberto's elitist tenure.

Elmo

Elmo
Who doesn't LOVE Elmo?

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!
Hillary is for Children. She is my choice in 2008.

The White House in 1800

The White House in 1800
Home of our Presidents of the United States

John Adams

John Adams
2nd President of the USA

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden
Hillary is my choice for U.S. President!

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Radisson in Manchester NH 11/16/2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
U.S. Senator & Candidate for President

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004
Linda Tyer, Pam Malumphy, Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
My friend Brian Merzbach reviews baseball parks around the nation.

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy
The Elites double their $ every 6 to 8 years, while the "have-nots" double their $ every generation (or 24 years). Good bye Middle Class!

George Will

George Will
The human satellite voice for the Corporate Elite

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
The Anti-George Will; Harvard Law School Professor; The Corporate Elite's Worst Nightmare

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
I was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

State Senator Stan Rosenberg

State Senator Stan Rosenberg
Democratic State Senator from Amherst, Massachusetts -/- Anti-Stan Rosenberg Blog: rosenbergwatch.blogspot.com

Ellen Story

Ellen Story
Amherst Massachusetts' State Representative

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.
Books are being written on Pittsfield's high teen pregancy rates! What some intellectuals do NOT understand about the issue is that TEEN PREGNANCIES in Pittsfield double the statewide average by design - Perverse Incentives!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Supports $30 Scratch Tickets and other forms of regressive taxation. Another Pol that only serves his Corporate Elite Masters instead of the People!

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter
The first woman whom the People of New Hampshire have voted in to serve in U.S. Congress

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes
A good man who wants to bring progressive changes to Capitol Hill!

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress
New Hampshire's finest!

Darth Vader

Darth Vader
Star Wars

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush
The Gruesome Two-some! Stop the Neo-Cons' fascism! End the Iraq War NOW!

WAROPOLY

WAROPOLY
The Inequity of Globalism

Bushopoly!

Bushopoly!
The Corporate Elite have redesigned "The System" to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, masses, have-nots, poor & middle-class families

George W. Bush with Karl Rove

George W. Bush with Karl Rove
Rove was a political strategist with extraordinary influence within the Bush II White House

2008's Republican Prez-field

2008's Republican Prez-field
John McCain, Alan Keyes, Rudy Guiliani, Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, WILLARD Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul

Fall in New England

Fall in New England
Autumn is my favorite season

Picturing America

Picturing America
picturingamerica.neh.gov

Winter Weather Map

Winter Weather Map
3:45PM EST 3-Dec-07

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Depiction of American Values in mid-20th Century America

Larry Bird #33

Larry Bird #33
My favorite basketball player of my childhood

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008
Kevin Garnett hugs James Posey

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
All heart! Awesome basketball star for The Boston Celtics.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady
Go Patriots!

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch
Owner of Fox News - CORPORATE ELITE!

George Stephanopolous

George Stephanopolous
A Corporate Elite Political News Analyst

Robert Redford

Robert Redford
Starred in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep
Plays a jaded journalist with integrity in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise plays the Neo-Con D.C. Pol purely indoctrinated by the Corporate Elite's political agenda in the Middle East

CHARLIZE THERON

CHARLIZE THERON
"I want to say I've never been surrounded by so many fake breasts, but I went to the Academy Awards."

Amherst Town Library

Amherst Town Library
Amherst, NH - www.amherstlibrary.org

Manchester NH Library

Manchester NH Library
I use the library's automated timed 1-hour-per-day Internet computers to post on my Blog - www.manchester.lib.nh.us

Manchester NH's Palace Theater

Manchester NH's Palace Theater
Manchester NH decided to restore its Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater
Pittsfield tore down this landmark on North Street in favor of a parking lot

Pleasant Street Theater

Pleasant Street Theater
Amherst, Massachusetts

William "Shitty" Pignatelli

William "Shitty" Pignatelli
A top down & banal State House Pol from Lenox Massachusetts -- A GOOD MAN!

The CIA & Mind Control

The CIA & Mind Control
Did the CIA murder people by proxy assassins?

Skull & Bones

Skull & Bones
Yale's Elite

ImpeachBush.org

ImpeachBush.org
I believe President Bush should be IMPEACHED because he is waging an illegal and immoral war against Iraq!

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008
www.blog.bobfeuer.us

Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln
The 16th President of the USA

Power

Power
Peace

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer
A member of Green Peace activist sets up a giant thermometer as a symbol of global warming during their campaign in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. World leaders launch marathon negotiations Monday on how to fight global warming, which left unchecked could cause devastating sea level rises, send millions further into poverty and lead to the mass extinction of plants and animals.

combat global warming...

combat global warming...
...or risk economic and environmental disaster caused by rising temperatures

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org
P.O. Box 125, South Lee, MA 01260, (413) 243-5665, tstokes@kyotoandbeyond.org, www.kyotoandbeyond.org

3 Democratic presidentional candidates

3 Democratic presidentional candidates
Democratic presidential candidates former senator John Edwards (from right) and Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd before the National Public Radio debate yesterday (12/4/2007).

The UN Seal

The UN Seal
An archaic & bureaucratic post WW2 top-down, non-democratic institution that also stands for some good governance values

Superman

Superman
One of my favorite childhood heroes and movies

Web-Site on toxic toys

Web-Site on toxic toys
www.healthytoys.org

Batman

Batman
One of my favorite super-heroes

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer
Massachusetts' Governor stands with Dalton's State Rep. Denis E. Guyer.

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer
TV Star Bill Cosby stands with Denis E. Guyer

Denis Guyer with his supporters

Denis Guyer with his supporters
Dalton State Representative

Denis Guyer goes to college

Denis Guyer goes to college
Dalton State Representative

Peter Marchetti

Peter Marchetti
He is my second cousin. Pete Marchetti favors MONEY, not fairness!

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple
Matt Barron plays DIRTY politics against his opponents!

Nat Karns

Nat Karns
Top-Down Executive Director of the ELITIST Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Human Rights for All Peoples & people

Human Rights for All Peoples & people
Stop Anti-Semitism

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill
State House, Room 227, Boston, MA 02133, 617-367-6900, www.mass.gov/treasury/

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley
1350 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103, 413-784-1240 / McCormick Building, One Asburton Place, Boston, MA 02108, 617-727-4765 / marthacoakley.com / www.ago.state.ma.us

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...
www.takebackthecourt.org - A political billboard near my downtown apartment in Manchester, NH

Marc Murgo

Marc Murgo
An old friend of mine from Pittsfield

Downtown Manchester, NH

Downtown Manchester, NH
www.newhampshire.com/nh-towns/manchester.aspx

Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei
Movie Actress

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)
www.masschc.org/issue.php

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler
Mike Firestone works in Manchester NH for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

James Pindell

James Pindell
Covers NH Primary Politcs for The Boston Globe

U.S. History - Declaration

U.S. History - Declaration
A 19th century engraving shows Benjamin Franklin, left, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman at work on the Declaration of Independence.

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/
Sybregje Palenstijn (left), who plays Sarah Godbertson at Plimouth Plantation, taught visitors how to roast a turkey on a spit. The plantation often sees a large influx of visitors during the holiday season.

Chris Hodgkins

Chris Hodgkins
Another special interest Berkshire Pol who could not hold his "WATER" on Beacon Hill's State House!

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.
Most of Boston's Big Dig highway remains closed, after a woman was crushed when 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto her car. (ABC News)

Jane Swift

Jane Swift
Former Acting Governor of Massachusetts & Berkshire State Senator

Paul Cellucci

Paul Cellucci
Former Massachusetts Governor

William Floyd Weld

William Floyd Weld
$80 Million Trust Fund Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mike Dukakis

Mike Dukakis
Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
Amherst, Massachusetts, Journalist and Blogger

Caveman

Caveman
www.ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com

Peter G. Arlos

Peter G. Arlos
"The biggest challenge Pittsfield faces is putting its fiscal house in order. The problem is that doing so requires structural changes in local government, many of which I have advocated for years, but which officials do not have the will to implement. Fiscal responsibility requires more than shifting funds from one department to another. Raising taxes and fees and cutting services are not the answer. Structural changes in the way services are delivered and greater productivity are the answer, and without these changes the city's fiscal crisis will not be solved."

James M. Ruberto

James M. Ruberto
"Pittsfield's biggest challenge is to find common ground for a better future. The city is at a crossroads. On one hand, our quality of life is challenged. On the other hand, some important building blocks are in place that could be a strong foundation for our community. Pittsfield needs to unite for the good of its future. The city needs an experienced businessman and a consensus builder who will invite the people to hold him accountable."

Matt Kerwood

Matt Kerwood
Pittsfield's Councilor-At-Large. Go to: extras.berkshireeagle.com/NeBe/profiles/12.htm

Gerald M. Lee

Gerald M. Lee
Pittsfield's City Council Prez. Top-down governance of the first order!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
Mary with student

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon celebrates with Jason Varitek

Free Bernard Baran!

Free Bernard Baran!
www.freebaran.org

Political Intelligence

Political Intelligence
Capitol Hill

Sherwood Guernsey II

Sherwood Guernsey II
Wealthy Williamstown Political Activist & Pittsfield Attorney

Mary Carey 2

Mary Carey 2
California Pol & porn star

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!
Andy "Luciforo" swears in Jimmy Ruberto for the returning Mayor's 3rd term

Berkshire Grown

Berkshire Grown
www.berkshiregrown.org

Rambo

Rambo

The Mount was built in 1902 & was home to Edith Wharton (1862-1937) from 1903 to 1908.

The Mount was built in 1902 & was home to Edith Wharton (1862-1937) from 1903 to 1908.
The Mount, the historic home in Lenox of famed American novelist Edith Wharton, is facing foreclosure.