Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Mount in danger of foreclosure

From the New York Times
Landmark Massachusetts Building Where Wharton Wrote Faces Foreclosure
By CHARLES McGRATH

Since 2002, Ms. Copeland explained by phone this week, the Mount, which is open to the public — much of it has been restored in recent years to match the period when Wharton lived there — has been covering its operating expenses by borrowing from the Berkshire Bank in nearby Pittsfield. It now owes the bank some $4.3 million, and in mid-February, when it failed to meet a scheduled monthly payment of $30,000, the bank sent a notice that it intended to start foreclosing unless the default was remedied promptly, Ms. Copeland said.

To stay open, she added, the Mount needs to raise $3 million by March 24. “The bank has really been very patient,” she explained. “They’re eager to help us work this out.”

If the Mount succeeds in raising that sum, Ms. Copeland said, an anonymous donor is waiting in the wings who has pledged to match it. The money could be used to help restructure the bank loan and to settle another outstanding debt, roughly $2.5 million, that the Mount incurred from a private lender in 2005 to buy Wharton’s 2,600-volume library from George Ramsden, a British book collector. The Mount also owes Mr. Ramsden roughly $885,000, to be paid off in nine yearly installments, and recently it defaulted on a scheduled payment to him, too.

“The situation is quite serious,” Sandra Boss, interim chairwoman of the Mount’s board, said in a telephone interview from London, where she works. “On the one hand, the Mount is winning awards for preservation and is internationally renowned as an institution. And it’s well run from an efficiency perspective. We’ve made great progress by cutting costs and raising revenues. On the other hand, our current debt levels are unserviceable and unsustainable. We’re not in control of our own destiny unless we can mount a restructuring of our debt.”

2 comments:

mmcfall said...

I write on behalf of Edith Wharton Restoration to thank you for posting this information. The situation is grave, but we are hopeful that we can still raise the funds necessary to prevent foreclosure. If anyone is able to help please visit http://www.edithwharton.org for details on how to contribute to the "Save The Mount" campaign. Thank you for your support, Molly McFall, Librarian, The Mount

Anonymous said...

Because I am an avid reader of her fictional and nonfictional books and think fondly of Edith Wharton, I urge whomever is overseeing The Mount to approach the National Park Service with the sale of it to this governmental agency. I think Mrs. Wharton would wholeheartedly approve the sale to the National Park Service. This suggestion I state in the event that donations to The Mount to defray its arrearage fail.
Sincerely,
Vincent W. Mele