Jessica Nestell of New York, left, and Jessica Atanas of New Jersey take advantage of Friday's 'soft opening' of the Mount Greylock auto road to have their picture taken at the summit. The pair will graduate from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Saturday, the same day the roads officially open for the season.
Mount Greylock, Bascom Lodge Open For Season
By Stephen Dravis Special to iBerkshires 11:55PM / Friday, May 18, 2012
The view from the summit of Mount Greylock. Bascom Lodge at the top has been undergoing renovations to highlight its historical nature. Left, refinished floors; below period lighting.
ADAMS, Mass. — The view atop Mount Greylock is priceless.
Preserving the structures that allow visitors to enjoy that view comes with a high price tag.
Starting this spring, state officials and private operaters are spending $1 million to help renovate Bascom Lodge and the Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower — largely to undo damage associated with the high winds and extreme weather seen atop the commonwealth's highest peak.
The tower project is yet to get under way, but the renovations at the lodge are in full swing.
On Friday, lodge staff were busily preparing for Saturday, when the mountain's auto road officially opens for the season. Starting May 19 and continuing next weekend, the lodge will be open for lunch and dinner.
But while the kitchen staff was getting ready to serve food, the ground-floor suite at the other end of the two-story lodge was a work zone as craftsmen raced a June 1 deadline, the day the lodge opens for all services for the winter.
It's a tight work schedule. But that's life when you're operating your business in an area you cannot access from November through mid-spring.
"This year we were lucky," lodge manager John Dudek said. "We were able to get up here and start working the first week in April. Last year and the year before, we had snowstorms in May."
Major renovations to the lodge cannot be conducted from the June 1 grand opening through its closure for the season, this year scheduled for Oct. 21.
"The last three years, our closing date was determined by Mother Nature," said Dudek, who had reservations in hand for the last weekend in October 2011 before a freak early-season snowstorm forced the mountain to close down.
"This year, we decided to close on the 21st."
John Dudek talks about renovations to the first-floor guest suite at Bascom Lodge, which will include new tile, above. Left, a new owl andiron.
They have some ambitious plans for the spring and fall the next two years, Dudek said. The lodge's share of the renovation money, about $300,000, will go toward replacing exterior windows, redoing the roof and sealing the basement against water seepage, among other projects.
"The roof needs to be replaced because wherever the chimneys puncture the roof, with the high winds and wind-driven rain — even if you have brand-new flashing, it gets under there," Dudek said. "On days when it has rained day after day, you'll see the stone work showing signs of dampness coming down the chimney."
Dampness also is a major concern up the hill at the memorial, where one side of the tower is warmed by the sun all day and the other side stays cool, producing a major condensation problem inside the 80-year-old structure.
"If you ask the veterans from down the valley, they'll tell you quite a bit about how much water collects on the floor of the tower," Dudek said. "It's quite an issue with them."
To address that issue and renovation needs at the 1930s lodge, the commonwealth obtained $700,000 in federal grant money, Dudek said. An additional $200,000 was contributed by Massachusetts, and the remaining $100,000 is being contributed by Dudek and his partners in the Bascom Lodge Group, which assumed management of the lodge four years ago through the state Department of Conservation and Recreation's Historic Curatorship Program.
Dudek is the only year-round full-time employee of the partnership, he said. During the season, Bascom Lodge employs 12 full- and part-time employees.
Private rooms at the lodge start at $125 per night, and a co-ed bunk room on the second floor — a popular choice for hikers — offers lodging for $35 per night. Dudek said the lodge has an occupancy rate of about 75 percent.
There are 13 properties in Massachusetts in the curatorship program. Bascom Lodge is the only property in Berkshire County, but there are sites eligible for renovation in Windsor, Monterey, Egremont, Sandisfield, Mount Washington and nearby in Hawley, according to the DCR website.
"[The program] pinpoints historic buildings that are right on the verge of being lost," Dudek said. "The state can no longer operate, maintain or restore buildings like this. It's just too expensive. So they try to find private interests who, in return for a long-term lease, are willing to invest in the infrastructure."
That means taking care of leaky roofs and basements. It also means restoring the interior of the lodge back to how it looked when it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
Visitors to the lodge's restaurant this year will find-brand new hardwood floors, and floors throughout the first floor have been resurfaced. Dudek and his partners also have added period lighting and details down to replacing worn-out andirons in the lobby's fireplace with intact period pieces.
"It's our goal to bring it back to a historically appropriate decor," Dudek's partner Brad Parsons said.
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