Editor’s note: This story is by Taylor Reed of the Caledonian-Record, where it was first published on June 14, 2013.
ST. JOHNSBURY — The legacy of folk artist Stephen Huneck and his wife Gwen Huneck is alive in St. Johnsbury.
Dog Mountain reopened this week following the June 2 suicide of owner Gwen Huneck, who took over the business after her husband committed suicide. The 150-acre complex on Spaulding Road includes the famous Dog Chapel, hiking trails, a swimming pond, and art gallery featuring Stephen Huneck’s work: furniture, prints, jewelry, and knickknacks such as mugs, buttons and mouse pads.
The business aims to remain open despite Gwen Huneck’s passing.
“We’re just going to try as hard as we can,” said Amanda McDermott, Dog Mountain’s creative director. “We can only succeed if people purchase artwork.”
Traffic at the store has been good this week and the phones are ringing, McDermott said.
“We’re definitely getting a lot of tourists,” she said.
Few visitors though know about Gwen Huneck’s passing, McDermott said. They learn upon visiting the Dog Chapel, which houses a tribute to Gwen Huneck.
Dog Mountain this summer plans to hold an event to remember Gwen Huneck.
The long-term outlook for Dog Mountain is unclear. Gwen Huneck’s brother Jonathan Ide of Fitchburg, Wis., is directing the business, McDermott said.
“He’s going to help us to keep it going,” McDermott said.
Ide was appointed special administrator of the estate by Caledonia District Probate Court Judge Toby Balivet on Tuesday.
The request for a special administrator came from St. Johnsbury attorney Jay Abramson who represents Huneck’s estate.
Abramson said Wednesday that Ide’s appointment was aimed at keeping the popular tourist attraction operating.
“That’s exactly why,” said Abramson. “So we can ensure that Dog Mountain can continue to operate normally … or as normally as can be expected.”
According to probate court filings, Gwen Huneck was the sole shareholder of the Stephen Huneck Corporation, Inc. and operator of the Dog Mountain Gallery, including real estate with an estimated value of $250,000 and a personal estate of $50,000.
“There are related businesses [with employees] and debt obligations that require corporate authority to continue operation,” wrote Abramson in his motion for a special administrator filed on Tuesday. “Further, the debt obligations are cross collateralized with the decedent’s personal estate requiring the special administrator to have control of the entire estate for its orderly administration.”
The Dog Mountain gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Dog Mountain will continue to put out its newsletter. The company is updating its website as well to include staff biographies.
Darcie McCann, executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce, said Dog Mountain is an asset to this area. The property — which has been featured nationally on television shows like “Oprah” and “Good Morning America” — is a significant tourist attraction, McCann said.
“Dog Mountain has been one of the region’s largest attractions, drawing people from all corners of this country, as well as all over the world,” McCann said Thursday. “We are pleased to support Dog Mountain’s efforts to remain open and will do whatever we can to assist and promote their efforts. We must all stand together to support and preserve these local treasures. When they are lost, there is little chance of ever getting them back.”