Edith Wharton’s library at The Mount
CultureGrrl readers may remember the above photo from my visit to Edith Wharton‘s Berkshire home, The Mount, where she penned her first popular success, “The House of Mirth.”
In my Oct. 3, 2006 Wall Street Journal article about the restoration of The Mount and its acquisition of 2,600 books from Wharton’s own library, I discussed the difficulties faced by its president and executive director, Stephanie Copeland, in raising $2.6 million for the acquisition of the volumes from British rare book dealer George Ramsden, as well as for the restoration and maintenance of the author’s house and gardens, one of the few National Historic Landmarks devoted to a woman.
I then wrote:
An acquaintance of hers [Copeland’s], Lord Christopher Tugendhat—owner of the largest private collection of Wharton first editions in England—helped broker a deal last year whereby two benefactors, Robert and Elisabeth Wilmers, would lend the purchase price [for the books] to the Mount, which would launch an “adopt-a-book” fund-raising campaign to repay the loan. The campaign, totaling $35 million, will also endow the library and benefit the continuing care of the Mount.
Wishful thinking, as it turns out. Charles McGrath of the NY Times now writes:
The Mount…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.
McGrath also indicated that the loan from the Wilmerses (whom he identifies only as a “private lender”) for the purchase of the books is still outstanding, and the Mount recently defaulted on a payment to Ramsden towards an additional $885,000 owed him.
This appears to be another case disproving the notion, “If you build it, they will fund.” Capital campaigns needs to keep pace with capital (and operating) expenses. Trying to play catch-up is a dicey business plan, as The Mount has now discovered.