The calls went out that the historic Meads Mountain House would be demolished starting Friday. By Sunday, one third of the hotel that hosted the historic meeting where Ralph Whitehead, Hervey White and Bolton Brown hatched their plans for the Byrdcliffe Colony in the valley below was still standing. The rest was a pile of matchsticks.
“All the construction and architectural features have been carefully documented, many mementos have been preserved, and all that can be reused or recycled has been removed in environmentally conscious ways. Soon it will go the way of all composites, plainly returning to Emptiness,” ran a piece being being e-mailed around to the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra community at the same time. “One of the remarkable things about the Meads Mountain House was how very intimate it was. Rinpoche’s room (and as of the 1980’s, his sister Peme’s room as well) was near the top of the back stairs. This meant that if one were going up the stairs by the kitchen, there was a good chance that you’d see Rinpoche in the hallway…”
The posted memories of Patrice and Patrick Wooldridge include anecdotes involving the long winters in the creaky old boarding house, the wind finding its way through un-insulated walls to bring the cold in with it. Bits about everyone chipping in to paint its endless old clapboards. The strangeness of turning a shrine room into a refectory. The solemn movement of objects out from it into first the new shrine building, and more recently the new dormitory structure.
Thanks for the fish…
Richard Heppner, Woodstock’s official historian in charge of overseeing historic documentation of the building before its demolition, said that KTD met all its federal HABS (Historic American Buildings Survey) requirements, the first time the town ever required such work. The resulting 400 to 500 photographs, drawings, site plans and historic narrative on the building’s history since its construction in 1865 will now be on file at the Woodstock Historical Society for use by researchers.
“I went up. I got some pictures,” Heppner said of this past week’s dismantling work. “What was there was certainly not the original building.”
“But for the Karma Kagyu family and lineage, it has served an essential purpose, and merits our fond remembrance as our first real home in Woodstock — a place where many directly encountered authentic Dharma, gathered to practice, and grew together in Wisdom and Compassion,” the Woolridges summarized. “Carol Burnett used to sing, ‘Thanks for the memories,’ but in the spirit of non-conceptual Crazy Wisdom, it might be more appropriate to quote Douglas Adams: ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish.’”
From my own and others perspectives, some surprise at how well the monastery emerged from the rubble, clearer in vision, more balanced in look.
Now on to landscaping and an upcoming first for KTD… a major art exhibit opening, of images of Tibetan monastic architectural painting and decorative art work created at monasteries around the world by Tinley Chojor, a late resident of the monastery, to be a central part of an October 14 to 16 Green Living weekend also featuring sand mandala paintings, as well as a prayer flag festival.
But more on all those public programs in the coming weeks.
For more information, now, visit