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Murder & The Berkshire Cultural Center
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Berkshire Cultural Center
Founder of Area Arts Center Kills Wife, Then Wounds Self
Charles Farmer, head of an industrial designing firm, shot and killed his wife on Wednesday, September 18, 1963 and moments later shot himself in the chest in what was described as a dispute over continued financing of the Berkshire Cultural Center in Middlefield. The killing took place in a bedroom of their 25-room mansion, Merriwold Castle in Highland Park, New Jersey where Mrs. Farmer, an attractive woman of 50, had gone with a lawyer to get clothing and other belongings. The couple had been estranged since July. Mr. Farmer, 61, is in fair condition in a hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
The center, which at present consists of three buildings on a 100 acre wooded site, is almost complete, according to Waylande C. Gregory, a well-known New Jersey sculptor who moved to Middlefield more than a year ago to be director of the art center. According to Mr. Gregory, the Farmers had not gotten along for some time. The big break; Mr. Gregory said came on July 14, after a birthday party for Mrs. Farmer in Middlefield. After the party her husband beat her up and threatened her life.
On August 12, 1963, Mr. Farmer ran a classified ad in the Berkshire Eagle, which stated:
The Farmers have a married daughter, who was in the home at the time of the killing, and two young adopted sons. They had sent the sons to summer camp at Cranwell Academy in Lenox, Massachusetts, which was how the Farmers became acquainted with the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and decided to build the arts center here.
Mr. Farmer, a native of Hungary, is founder and president of Middlesex Engineers, Inc., a development engineering firm employing more than 100 people. Mrs. Farmer, although born in Hungary, was brought to this country as a small child. She met Mr. Farmer while visiting Hungary. He came to the United States in 1927.
Mrs. Farmer was said to own a 40 percent interest in her husband's enterprises. Interested in the arts, she became acquainted with Mr. Gregory, a nationally known sculptor who had a studio in the Watchung Mountains of New Jersey, and asked him to develop the center in Middlefield.
According to Mr. Gregory, something between $150,000 and $200,000 had already been put into the center and other real estate holdings in the area. Work stopped on the almost-completed center in August 1963. However, Mr. Gregory said that it is hoped the project will be completed. He stated, "We were ready to operate and would have started this year already if this hadn't happened."
Mrs. Farmer spent most of her weekends in Middlefield, including last weekend. According to Mr. Gregory, she planned to make her permanent home here. In the meantime, she had been staying with her brother, Leslie Adam Novaky, in Edison, New Jersey.
The Berkshire Eagle
The Murder at Merriwold Castle:
Merriwold Castle was the New Jersey home of the Farmers and the place where Barbara Farmer would be shot to death by her husband
Waylande Gregory (1905-1971) was the prolific and well-known creator of innovative art-deco ceramic sculptures. His career
began as a youth in his home state of Kansas. He later studied in Europe, with his artistic career reaching its pinnacle
in the 1930s.
Epilogue: The ruins of the bizarre, partially-finished artist colony can still be found off the Keystone Arches Trail along the Westfield River in Middlefield, Massachusetts. It was never completed.