Concert series forced to move from Summit House to Notch

  • The Hot Club of New England performs during the Summit House Sunset Concert Series in J.A. Skinner State Park, July 19, 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

  • A state structural assessment this summer of the Summit House at Skinner State Park on Mount Holyoke is forcing its summer concert series to move. JOHN PHELAN/VIA WIKIMEDIA

Staff Writer
Monday, July 18, 2022

HADLEY — An ongoing state inspection of the Summit House at J.A. Skinner State Park is forcing the move of a weekly summer concert series, which was set to begin at the historic site on July 7, to the Notch Visitors Center in Amherst.

Friends of the Mount Holyoke Range announced via both its website and Facebook that the long-running Summit House Sunset Concert Series was being relocated due to the Department of Conservation and Recreation actions.

“The Massachusetts DCR has temporarily closed the Summit House while an inspection of the building is completed this summer,” the group wrote.

“There are specifics we don’t understand,” said Patricia Eagan, who chairs the Friends group, in a phone interview. “Part of the issue is DCR doesn’t have the final report, so we’re doing this out of an abundance of caution.”

Eagan said the Friends learned early this month that the handicapped ramp and a section of the deck that faces the Connecticut River, and provides the best views of the surrounding region, were both closed to the public.

With no answers yet from the structural engineer as to the safety of the building, and uncertainty about whether portions of the building could still be used and whether it would be wise to stage the concerts on the grounds, the decision was made to move the concerts to another DCR site.

Ilyse Wolberg, a spokeswoman for the DCR, confirmed in an email that an evaluation of the structure, which identified necessary repairs, necessitated roping off portions of the porch on June 24, and that the state agency is reviewing and planning for this work.

The Summit House, though, remains open to the public on weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including the historic interiors and bathrooms, with staff on site able to aid visitors who need additional assistance due to the handicapped ramp not being accessible.

The problems at the site come less than 10 years after the 2013 completion of nearly $1 million in construction and renovations, including porch repairs, new decking and railings, and upgrades to basement restrooms.

That safety and accessibility work followed the building’s closure for three years, starting in 2010, and was based on a state inspector and engineer identifying structural deficiencies in the building’s porch.

The building was originally constructed in the 19th century as a hotel, and continues to offer a panoramic view of the Connecticut River Valley.

“It’s so nice up there with the sunset and music,” Eagan said.

The Friends group marked its 40th year last month and, aside from the first year of the pandemic in 2020, has been able to continue the concert series, which dates back many years.

Meanwhile, the relocated concerts will start each week at 7 p.m. in the Notch Visitors Center at 1500 West St. The concerts continue July 21 with Banish Misfortune, July 28 with Libro Azul and finally, on Aug. 4, with Eavesdrop.