By Margaret Magnus
Baba’s Fireplace was part of the living room of the guesthouse at Meher Mount where Avatar Meher Baba met with His followers and gave darshan (blessing) on August 2, 1956.
Meher Baba’s time in this room is captured in the photograph with Him sitting in a wingback chair with Meher Mount co-founder and lifetime caretaker Agnes Baron by His side. The entire building, with the exception of the fireplace, was destroyed in the 1985 New Life Fire.
THOMAS FIRE SHIFTS FOCUS TO BABA’S FIREPLACE
Baba’s Fireplace has always been a medium for His remembrance. Now, there is a new emphasis on the fireplace and courtyard area following the 2017 Thomas Fire.
The primary destination at Meher Mount and symbol of His time at Meher Mount is Baba's Tree. However, the tree suffered major damage in the Thomas Fire. Winds and fire shattered the tree's crown and burned most of the trunk. Major limbs broke off and toppled to the ground.
As Baba’s Tree’s remains in seclusion for several years while it recovers, Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard area are a more integral part of the visitor experience.
EMPHASIS ON PRESERVATION AND ENHANCEMENT PLANS
As a result, there is a greater sense of urgency to finalizing and implementing the plans to preserve Baba’s Fireplace and enhance the courtyard area.
Even during the Thomas Fire recovery efforts, future use of the fireplace and courtyard area was taken into consideration.
Specific fire-related projects – the use of wood from Baba’s Tree to create outdoor benches; installation of new doors and windows in the Visitor Center; removal of the burned Eucalyptus tree stand; and repairs and changes to the Visitor Center – all became part of the plan for Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard.
BETTER ACCESS TO BABA’S FIREPLACE
In recent years, the fireplace area seemed to be at the “back door” of the Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters. Baba’s Fireplace was generally accessible only by going outside and around the building.
Although there was an existing door inside the meeting room of the Visitor Center leading to Baba’s Fireplace, that door was often blocked by living room furniture and not used for entry or egress.
With more focus on Baba’s Fireplace, access to this area from inside and outside the Visitor Center became a major objective.
BOTH A VISITOR CENTER AND THE CARETAKER QUARTERS
The Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters was built after the 1985 New Life Fire destroyed all the existing buildings and equipment on the property. It was constructed specifically for co-founder and lifetime caretaker Agnes Baron and to accommodate visitors.
In the years after the fire, Agnes lived in a series of trailers that were brought to Meher Mount until the new housing could be built. Upon completion in 1994, Agnes stayed in the new building briefly until her death on July 5, 1994.
After that, the building became the residence for volunteer Manager/Caretakers who take care of and manage the property. It is also where the caretakers greet and orient visitors, and where Meher Mount periodically holds events.
The private Caretaker Quarters of the building include: two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and laundry area. The Visitor Center area of the building includes: a small reception foyer, guest restroom, and the meeting room which also acts as the caretaker living room during closed hours.
THE MEETING/LIVING ROOM NEEDS MORE USABLE SPACE
Space has always been at a premium in the multi-purpose meeting/living room. By opening up access to the door to Baba’s Fireplace, it meant even less usable space for the Manager/Caretakers during closed hours.
To offset that loss of space, Meher Mount removed an unused wood-burning stove in the opposite corner of the meeting/living room. With this change, the entire room can accommodate more group seating and/or living room furniture.
ALL DOORS ARE REPLACED — INCLUDING THE DOOR TO BABA’S FIREPLACE
As part of the Thomas Fire recovery and renewal, all the 25-year-old, wood-framed doors and windows in the Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters were replaced with energy-efficient tempered glass and vinyl-framed windows and doors.
Previously, many of the doors and side windows in the building had long-standing gaps under and between the door and window frames. These gaps allowed water, dust, snakes and rodents to easily get inside the building.
Some of them were also warped and not easily opened and closed, and thus, were kept locked and not used.
The upgrade and replacement of all the doors and windows opened every door for use — including the door to Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard area.
Many of the continuing and future projects at Meher Mount are pieces of the preservation and enhancement plan for Baba’s Fireplace and courtyard area.