Edith Wharton Restoration, owners of the Mount, the author's landmark estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, announced recently that the property is facing imminent foreclosure. The organization owes over four million dollars to Berkshire Bank, from whom it has borrowed since 2002 in order to restore and maintain three acres of gardens and the thirty-five room house, designed and built by Wharton in 1902. The bank sent warning of potential foreclosure after the Mount missed a scheduled loan payment earlier this month.
"On the one hand, the Mount is winning awards for preservation and is internationally renowned as an institution," Sandra Boss, interim chairwoman of the Mount's board, told Charles McGrath of the New York Times. "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."
According to a New York Times report published on Saturday, the organization has also defaulted on payments to George Ramsden, a British book dealer from whom they purchased Wharton's library in 2005, and to whom they owe eight hundred and eighty-five thousand dollars. The debt from that acquisition also extends to a private loan, yet to be settled, of two-and-a-half million dollars.
Wharton called the Mount her "first real home" in her 1934 autobiography A Backward Glance. She lived at the estate until 1910, when she moved to France at the end of her marriage to Teddy Wharton. Edith Wharton Restoration purchased the property in 1980 and began restorations in 2001. The site is now on the register of National Historic Landmarks.
The Mount, which receives roughly thirty thousand visitors annually, is attempting to raise three million dollars by March 24 and has begun a fundraising campaign on its Web site. If the organization achieves its goal, an anonymous donor intends to match the amount.