Harvey Waller 

Sunday August 31, 2014 

The Berkshire Eagle 
Letter to the Editor
POSTED:  08/31/2014 12:11:21 AM EDT

To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Elm Court is the American version of "Downton Abbey." I had the opportunity to walk around the outside of Elm Court most recently and I came away wowed by the size and scope of the great estate and the marvelous architecture. How wonderful it must have been to call Elm Court home. Can you imagine the large staff it took to run the household of a house with 55,000 square feet, complete with the kitchen help, the chambermaids and the butlers? Then add to the number the groundskeepers, the greenhouse workers and the stable help.

My visit to Elm Court also included a tour of the stable and green houses. Having horses myself, it was great to see the old stable and to realize how grand it must have been when it was in operation. The stalls for the horses and the wash rack for cleaning the carriages all intact, still there. With the old paint and dirt on the walls you can feel the presence of the coachmen and grooms that worked there many years ago. What a gem of a building.

Anyone one who has lived in the area I am sure has bought flowers at the Elm Court greenhouse when it was operating some years ago. It was sad to see it close. With the main house being closed for years this was the only activity at the property that everyone became used to.

I understand the concern by my friends and neighbors of additional traffic on Old Stockbridge Road that it might be too burdensome. I feel confident this matter can be worked out.

Elm Court was built as a bold opulent statement of its time and will need a bold plan to sustain it. They say the best way to make a little money in the horse business is by starting out with a lot of money. I don’t think Travaasa’s plan fits that model. They seem to have considered all the details and are aware of the expected annual occupancy rate of 55 to 60 percent and the payment of property taxes and hotel fees in the amount of $750,000.

It will take a company with great resources, experience and a well thought out plan to bring Elm Court back to a business model that works. Companies willing to tackle Elm Court are far and few between. The great estate of Bonnie Brier, otherwise known as Desisto School, sits vacant and idle waiting for the special buyer to come along and restore it. No one comes. It is on the path to be lost forever. No new plan and neglect could spell the end for Elm Court as well. The Gilded Age estates of Maplehurst, Winden Hill and Overleigh as well as Elm Court, all are located on old Stockbridge Road. The 40 or so great estates on our country roads are part of the fabric that makes the Berkshires so special.

When Elm Court was built 126 years ago it was designed to be a single-family house. The days of having such large houses are long gone and Elm Court must look to a new way to survive. It is a piece of the Gilded Age that we still have and needs to be saved. I understand the concept that every man’s home is his castle, Elm Court is the castle on Old Stockbridge Road.