County Fare: The Mount's executive director featured on preservation blog
Once on the brink of foreclosure, The Mount, novelist Edith Wharton's historic Lenox estate, last fall finally paid off the last of an $8.5 million debt it amassed from a massive restoration project in 2008, regaining its financial footing.
The story made headlines from The Eagle to The Guardian to the New York Times.
To follow up, Katherine Malone-France of the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently interviewed The Mount's executive director, Susan Wissler, for the Preservation Leadership Forum Blog, to talk about the process and also the future of historic sites in the nation.
Asked how The Mount staff reacted to and celebrated the news, Wissler told Malone-France, "You mean other than a big sigh of relief? Actually, the response was astounding; in the 48 hours following the New York Times report, we received literally hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls from across the country. ... The congratulations were a huge confirmation that the work we are doing here at the Mount matters and that people really care and are rooting for us to succeed."
Wissler, throughout the interview, credited the local community for being integral to meeting The Mount's goals and planning its future. "Our efforts have paid off — we now have a robust membership program that we can count on year after year and approximately half of our annual attendance is comprised of Berkshire residents," she said.
Katherine Malone-France's full interview with Susan Wissler can be read at http://blog.preservationleadershipforum.org.
The Mount will reopen to visitors at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 14. To learn more, visit www.edithwharton.org.
Top equine honor
Taconic High School junior Daniel "Danny" Hicks, 17, the son of Rodney Hicks and Janet Crawford Hicks, of Pittsfield, was named "Junior Exhibitor of the Year" by the American Hackney Horse Society, at its Super Convention in Boston on Feb. 12.
The AHHS is the national organization founded in 1891 for the Hackney horse and pony breed. The Hackney is a show horse known for its elegant style, trot and speed.
Danny's award was not only based on show ring success, but sportsmanship and the promotion of the breed. He competed with two ponies in 2015: Jackie O, which was the Reserve World Grand Champion Junior Exhibitor Roadster pony for the 14-17 age group, and The Perfectionist, which was the Reserve World Grand Champion in Junior Exhibitor Pleasure Driving.
Last November, Danny also won Canadian and Royal National Championships in Toronto, Canada with both ponies.
When he's not working with horses, Danny works as a snowboarding instructor at Bousquet Ski Area, and is studying law enforcement.
Janet Crawford Hicks noted that Berkshire County has several ties to revering the Hackney breed. One of the original importers of the Hackney to this country was Cassilis Farm in New Marlborough, back in the late 1800s. She says the breed could also be found on many of the Berkshires estates, including Elm Court, Eastover, the former DeSisto School and High Lawn Farms.
Today, Rodney Hicks Stable, based in Pittsfield, is known for having one of the top show strings of Hackneys in the country. In honor of the local heritage and connection, The Berkshire Carousel will soon feature what is believed to be the only Hackney carousel horse in the world; that horse is sponsored in part by the American Hackney Horse Society.
Fresh winter air
The Fresh Air Fund is typically associated with urban children taking summer field trips to the nation's countrysides. But this winter, at least two local families have welcomed Fresh Air children for a winter visit.
Great Barrington residents Donna and Frederick Gordon welcomed their Fresh Air child Brandon, and his brother Zion, of Brooklyn, for a weekend, during which they visited Gould Farm, Laura's Tower, and enjoyed playing with the Gordon family's dogs.
Lenox residents Patricia Neri and William Schaepe also got a winter visit with their Fresh Air child, Kimani, whom they've hosted for two years through The Fresh Air Fund's Friendly Towns Program.
"For a week, it's like we're 11 years old again." Neri says of her hosting experience. "We're all having fun together. It's a wonderful time."
Each summer, close to 4,000 Fresh Air children visit suburban, rural and small town communities along the East Coast and Southern Canada through The Fresh Air Fund's Friendly Towns Program.
Fresh Air children are boys and girls, from 7 to 18, who live in New York City. Children who are re-invited by host families may continue with The Fresh Air Fund through age 18 and can enjoy extended trips.
For more information about hosting a Fresh Air child this summer, please contact Lelia Bruun at 413-429-7546 or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at www.freshair.org.
County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.
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