The Mount’s Gardens Sustain Major Damage from Record-breaking Rainstorm

From Irene Goldman-Price:

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Storm Damage at The Mount


 On Wednesday evening, the Berkshires experienced a torrential storm that dropped over 5 inches in the course of several hours. Unfortunately, The Mount and parts of nearby Lenoxdale received the brunt of the storm. Our entrance drive was badly damaged and some of the garden pathways and the French Flower garden nearly destroyed. We are still assessing the damage and coming up with a plan of action. The press and the community have been very responsive. I am attaching the press release we issued as well as some comparative photos. The repairs, I am afraid, are going to be many thousands of dollars and we will need to mount an emergency campaign as there are not funds in our operating budget to absorb a calamity of this magnitude. I will keep you posted as we know more.  Please share this email with your friends and colleagues to help build our community of support.

Despite the damage, we reopened for business today and have a very full weekend ahead of us. A rehearsal dinner tonight, a wedding tomorrow, and our Community Garden Party on Sunday. Our spirits have rebounded and everyone is very focused on their work.

Very best to all,
Susan Wissler
Executive Director

Comparison Photos

The Mount’s Gardens Sustain Major Damage from Record-breaking Rainstorm

Pummeled by over five inches in under five hours, heavy rains transform pathways into gullies and garden beds into sand heaps.

(Lenox, MA)— Staff arrived at The Mount on Thursday morning to find that Wednesday’s torrential rainfall had transformed Edith Wharton’s painstakingly restored flower garden into a swamp of road gravel, crushed limestone, and mud. The historic maple-lined approach to the house, designed by landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, was completely eroded in many places and strewn with cobblestones and debris. The pathways leading to the gardens were stripped bare of nearly two feet of limestone and soil, revealing the original foundations of quarry rubble laid by Edith Wharton over a century ago.

“We estimate that the runoff created by the storm carried approximately twenty tons of road and pathway material into the approximately 100 x 110 foot French flower garden” said Mount executive director Susan Wissler.  “About half of the garden is buried in up to six to eight inches of material. Based on the debris marks left on the plants and shrubs, it is clear that at some point during the night, the garden was completely submerged under water.”

“The extent of the damage is still being assessed. Luckily, it was contained to one portion of the gardens and the majority of the estate is accessible and as beautiful as ever,” said Rebecka McDougall, communications director. “We did close the property on Thursday as we repaired the road down to the house but we are now open and welcoming visitors. Our programming will continue as planned, starting with a wedding this Saturday and our free Community Garden Party on Sunday.”

For over a decade, the gardens of The Mount have been a highlight of the summer season for Berkshire tourists and residents alike. Initial restoration of the gardens was completed in 2005 at a cost of over $3 million dollars. The walkways and beds of the original gardens were recreated through a combination of archaeological excavation and careful analysis of surviving letters and photographs from Wharton’s era.

Following winding trails across the property, visitors have been able to retrace Wharton’s steps through the vibrant flowered paths of her French garden, the straight, pleached rows of linden trees of the Lime Walk and enjoyed a cool respite in the shade of the Italian walled garden.

“The damage sustained on Wednesday is the latest challenge in our ongoing efforts to preserve this national treasure. The necessary repairs will be extensive and costly, easily many thousands of dollars based on early estimates. I am heartened by the outpouring of concern and well-wishes from the community,” said Wissler. “Everyone wants to know what they can do to help. We are still gathering information and hope to have that answer by early next week.”

About The Mount:

The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.

Each year, The Mount is host to over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.

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