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Writers' historic homes in peril

June 17, 2008|From the Associated Press

Mark Twain, Edith Wharton and other boldfaced names among the dead have something in common with living Americans in these hard financial times: Their homes are in jeopardy.

For scores of historic house museums, simply keeping the lights on has become a challenge. The Mount, Wharton's home in Lenox, Mass., is trying to stave off foreclosure with a feverish fundraising campaign. The Twain House in Hartford can't even afford to buy energy-saving lightbulbs that would slash its electric bill.

Experts say this summer may make or break some sites, many of which already have cut their hours and staff and are struggling for donations in today's troubled economy.

"The jury's really still out on how summer visitation will be, how people will respond to gas prices and what it will mean for us," said Susan Wissler, acting president of the Mount, which needs $6 million by Oct. 31 to avoid foreclosure.

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