Highland Croft Foundation began its mission to save local landmark treasures when the last surviving farm close to town was threatened with demolition. The farm seen from the road had twin gambrel barns and a small farm house. But hidden beyond it on the hill, there was a beautiful vacation lodge built by the steel magnate William Brown Dickson.
The lodge had a wonderful view of Mt. Lafayette and the Kinsman Ridge. It was built for rest and relaxation for the family of Dickson to offset the great work he was doing as founding partner with Andrew Carnegie in US Steel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Carnegie is also known as a famous philanthropist who built many libraries across the country including Littleton’s beautiful brownstone library on Main Street. Thomas Edison installed the electric. More about Dickson…
The story of the threatened demolition was followed closely by local newspapers. During the public outcry, a responsible group of citizens banded together out of their respect for the heritage and culture of the North Country to form an organization whose goal was to work in harmony with our community’s growing commercial interests, and negotiate some ways to preserve the structures on the land as it was developed.
This group of responsible citizens formed Highland Croft Foundation. The group met with the realtor and set forward their objectives both to respect the advance of commercial development and also to preserve the historic structures on the property (in a similar way to the Connecticut River Bank’s preservation of the Berry Farm). As the group was attempting to engage with the seller and developer in dialogue on the preservation effort, the impact of the uncoordinated public outcry had its chilling effect; and the early commercial client declined its option on the property. The large retail store responded to the groundswell of public concern and withdrew its offer to build at the farm. This all happened before the Highland Croft Foundation was even able to receive a return phone call from the developer.
The public outcry went on at the same time that the Foundation was forming and attempting to contact the developer. The Foundation was credited and was faulted with the outcome – but actually had not brought it about; public outcry had!
Yet in its mission, the Highland Croft Foundation had a reprieve in the urgency of preservation, while being thwarted on the other – the goal of advancing commercial use had evaporated. The group had to re-set its objectives. Since that time, the group met, incorporated, developed a purchase and use plan, and mustered support of local and distant people who were concerned that Littleton needs to keep such an important landmark that bridges our computer-screen-and-strip-mall age to the wholesome values and ways of our North Country heritage.
The farm was safe, but only for a short time…
The acreage remains on the market and a demolition permit has been issued. It is in the hands of the current owner who simply wishes to make a return on his investment in the property. It was hoped that our foundation could raise the funds to acquire the property and develop a center for sustaining the unique culture of the North Country, it’s heritage, skills, and wholesome values. Yet this is the cause for another quest – yours?
Status today: The Lodge burned in an arson fire. The double gambrel barns were demolished. The original cape house at the road by the barns was demolished. The land is being leveled by a developer for big-box stores. They have started extensive dynamite on the lower acreage while the top knoll/hill is yet intact. A buyer could find a fantastic location at the exit to the interstate with spectacular views of the Presidential Mountains still. See listing at Peabody & Smith.
Private Non-Profit – No tax burden
The Highland Croft Foundation sought a Community Block Development Grant to purchase, preserve, and make public use of the property, through the state by a grant. It was to serve the public good, and would not have encumbered the town to take over such projects nor does it encumber taxpayers to sustain a project. The Highland Croft Foundation’s goal was to have the property serve the local people — providing access to the buildings and land, and through programs that are supported outside of the tax structure.
If you would like to help this effort, please contact us and let us know your interests.