Local ownership maintained: Crane Currency sells stake in country club to local shareholders

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DALTON — Crane Currency is continuing its policy of transferring local non-company assets to local interests, this time divesting itself of the firm's majority stake in venerable Wahconah Country Club.

The firm's Connecticut-based owners are transferring their controlling shares of the country club back to its local shareholders to ensure the property, which includes an 18-hole 6,553-yard golf course, will be overseen and managed by local interests.

Club President Jim Scalise said the maneuver will not affect the current operations of Wahconah Country Club, which was founded on land originally donated by the Crane family in 1928, according to Eagle files. Crane Currency owns 1,400 of the club's 1,600 shares, and is selling them back to the club for the nominal fee of $10, he said.

Although Crane Currency was majority shareholder, its role in the club's operation was minimal because the organization is set up as a nonprofit corporation managed by a board of directors and members don't have to be shareholders to vote. The club has around 425 members, and they can now purchase the shares that Crane relinquished, Scalise said.

"This was a nice gesture on their part," Scalise said, referring to Crane Currency's owners. "It was generous giving all those shares for such a small amount of money. Historically, Crane donated the land for the golf course, but it's role (in the club) had diminished over time and was recently less significant."

Crane Currency, which was sold for $800 million to a Connecticut-based company in January 2018, has not been actively involved in Wahconah Country Club's operations for years, said Richard Rowe, the company's vice president and general manager of U.S. Government Products.

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Rowe said the firm's new owners, Crane Co. of Stamford, Conn., are focusing on the business side of the company's operations, and are interested in passing on properties the currency firm managed when it was owned by the Crane family of Dalton to local interests so they can still be accessed by the community.

"It's assessing what is the right focus for the business and really passing along or selling off some of these assets to make the most effective use of these properties."

This practice began before the company was recently sold. Crane Currency donated the 126-acre Jericho Woods property in Dalton and Hinsdale to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council in 2016, after donating a 685-acre tract known as "The Boulders" to the same organization the year before. The Boulders is located in Dalton, Lanesborough and Pittsfield.

Founded in Dalton in 1801 by the Crane family, Crane Currency has supplied currency paper to the federal government since 1879, and been its sole supplier since 1964.

The land that the first nine holes of the golf course is built on was originally part of Flint Stone Farm owned by Frederick G. Crane Jr., a fifth generation Crane family member and noted land preservationist. He offered the land to the town in 1928 when talk of developing a town golf course was officially formalized, according to Eagle files. The original course formally opened on Memorial Day 1930. The second nine holes, built on a large plot of land on Old Windsor Road across from Wahconah Regional High School, opened in 1961 with five ponds built into the layout. Noted golfer Bobby Jones played his last round of golf at Wahconah on Aug. 15, 1948.

Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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