|By Tony Dobrowolski, The Berkshire Eagle,
Pittsfield, Mass.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
October 27, 2009 --LENOX
Guests have been sending farewell e-mails all summer. Former employees have been visiting from as far away as Tennessee.
This is what happens when an era comes to an end.
Eastover Resort and Conference Center, the family-owned resort that has been the site of countless high school proms, company get-togethers, weddings, and field trips since 1947, will close for good on Sunday.
While town officials wonder what will become of one of Lenox's largest parcels, the daughters of the resort's late founder, George J. Bisacca, and their families have been literally rummaging through a lifetime of memories, sorting through material that goes back to when their father turned the former Fahnestock Estate into a year-round recreational resort 62 years ago.
Eastover is sold out for its final weekend, and Bisacca's daughter, Dorothy H. "Ticki" Winsor, said the routines will remain the same until the very end.
"We want Sunday morning to be like we're going to be open for another 62 years," said Winsor, who has run Eastover with her daughter, Betsy Kelly, since her sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Robert McNinch, retired in 2003.<>"What we're trying to do is organize ourselves," she said. "We have attics and closets and whatever that we're going through and cleaning out. We have thousands and thousands of pictures that we haven't looked at for years. It's a real treat. They're bringing back all these memories. >
"I'm going back to the parades, to the [skeet] shoots that we used to have here. The staff shows," Winsor said, describing the old photographs. "We could write a book. There's just so much. So much."
Citing increased operating costs due to the slumping economy, Winsor announced in early May that Eastover would close on Nov. 1.
"We picked November because summer's always a good season and the fall's a good season," Winsor said. "Ironically, my dad's birthday was Oct. 31, so it's kind of fitting. It's a coincidence."
With six months of lead time, closing gave the family time to help Eastover's staff, which numbers from 40 to 85 employees, depending on the season, make future plans. It also allowed the family and guests to say goodbye to each other.
"After the announcement was made, the phone calls came in like you wouldn't believe," Kelly said. "Hundreds of phone calls a day. And e-mails and well wishes."
Many longtime guests have left poignant e-mail messages in Eastover's online guestbook.
"Just returned from my final weekend at Eastover," wrote guest Patti Boston. "I am trying not to let this day of sadness overshadow the many wonderful summer weeks, fall and winter weekends that I enjoyed at Eastover over the many years."
"We have just spent our final family weekend at Eastover," wrote another guest named Lauren. "We have gone for many years and don't know what to do now. There will never be a place quite like it."
Some of the older guests have had trouble letting go.
"Some of their feelings are more emotional than ours are currently," said Rob McNinch, who served as Eastover's president and general manager from 1992 to 1999. "They cry when they leave. We're taking away their second home."
Bisacca, who died in 1983, was a Civil War buff who named several of the resort's 24 smaller buildings after famous battles and figures of the war between the states. Eastover also was known for maintaining a herd of bison.
Winsor said the bison are headed to a reserve in New Hampshire where those animals are raised. All of her father's authentic Civil War pieces were sold at auction this summer, she said, while the family is considering donating the remainder, which is mostly clothing and vintage prints.
The American Indian costumes, buffalo hides, and tee-pees that Bisacca collected have been donated to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Winsor said.
In May, Winsor said the family planned to sell the 450-acre property. But on Monday she said it won't be formally placed on the market until the family has time to fully take stock of the resort's closing. The family received proposals over the summer, but nothing formal, she said.
Lenox Town Manager Gregory F. Federspiel said no one has formally approached the town with ideas for the property.
But Federspiel said officials are concerned about the property's future due to its size and its economic importance to the town. The land, which is broken up into parcels, some of them designated for forestry or agricultural use, is assessed at roughly $5 million, according to the town assessor's office. Eastover also paid $55,070 in real estate taxes to the town in fiscal 2009, according to records on file in Town Hall.
"It's a big property, one of the biggest parcels in town," Federspiel said. "There's lots of possibilities, and with possibilities come challenges. Until we see a proposal, it's hard for me to get into specifics."
"We don't see it as a subdivision," Winsor said. "It's our hope that it remains open space."
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
or (413) 496-6224.
To see more of The Berkshire Eagle or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.berkshireeagle.com.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Mass.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.