Although it is expected that the Capital Region, including Whitehall, will enter Phase Three of the reopening of businesses following the closures ordered to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, Skene Manor, the historic home in Whitehall, will not reopen immediately.
“We do not believe we have the staff to implement the mandated requirements and the additional best practices at this time,” said Richard Brewer, President of Whitehall Skene Manor Preservation, Inc., the not-for-profit organization which operates the facility.
Brewer said the volunteer staff hopes to be able to open before the season ends in mid-December, and they will be working towards that goal.
“Most of our volunteers, due to their age, are in the high-risk group for contracting the virus, and we certainly want to be protective of their health,” Brewer said. “That concern also applies to the majority of our patrons, whether individuals or members of groups, who visit us to tour the house and to enjoy lunch in the dining room. Our area has been somewhat removed from the areas where there is a large number of people diagnosed with COVID-19, but the opening of the state for easier travel makes taking precautions even more important.”
Brewer stressed that the decision to delay opening was a difficult one. Skene Manor is a seasonally open tourist attraction, and the summer and fall months are the times when it is most visited and serves the largest number of guests in the dining room.
“The dining room income is the primary means for paying the operating and maintenance expenses of this huge house, and not to have that stream of income will create some challenges for us going forward,” Brewer said.
Unfortunately, because the manor is staffed by an all-volunteer workforce, it was not eligible for the federal programs which were put in place to ensure businesses could continue operating and keep their payrolls active.
“Believe me, we investigated every avenue!” said Brewer.
The monthly dinners that are so popular during the summer and fall cannot begin right away either. Restaurants can only operate at 50% their capacity, which for Skene Manor means no more than 25 persons seated at one time and maintaining at least six feet between tables. The logistics just don’t make it possible and cost effective.
“All of these factors make our other fundraising efforts more important than ever this year,” Brewer pointed out. “Anyone with a house knows that there are bills which don’t stop arriving just because the front door is locked! We are so encouraged by some local organizations who have agreed to help us raise money to keep those bills paid. We are grateful for donations and hope that the people of the community and beyond will help us meet this challenge. It sounds a bit crazy, but perhaps you and some friends came to eat at the manor once a month or attended one or more of the monthly dinners. If our friends could donate what they would have spent, it would make a huge difference! It would be the no-dinner-fundraiser! It would still be considered a charitable donation. Let’s get creative.”
Contributions can be sent to: The Treasurer, Skene Manor Preservation, 8 Potters Terrace, Whitehall, NY 12887. Updated information about the manor can be found at skenemanor.org; and on the Skene Manor Facebook page.