Museum Proposal article in Courier 2004

Littleton Courier excerpted here – From the September 22, 2004 issue.

Art museum planned for Croft

By LYN BIXBY
Courier Staff
LITTLETON—The Highland Croft property with its matching red barns, stately turn-of-the-century summer lodge and panoramic mountain views was targeted for development by Wal-Mart in the early 1990s and by Home Depot a couple of years ago.

It goes on to add…

A different kind of plan was unveiled this week by Littleton businessman and real estate developer Ron Murro – a proposal that would maintain the colonial New England character of the property with a mix of residential and commercial development while creating an art museum.
“This is a vehicle to preserve the lodge, to add panache to the area in so far as development is concerned and to be a perfect entrance into a museum type of building,” Murro said Monday. “It preserves the whole property. That’s one of my major concerns.”

and there is more…

He said he has an agreement to purchase the 43-acre property, which has been listed for sale at $1.5 million, with some caveats, one of which deals with the economic viability of the project. All indications are that the project is viable, he said, and a decision whether to proceed is expected to be made in December. …  If the Highland Croft project proceeds as planned, Murro said the lodge and four or five acres surrounding it will be donated to the museum organization, which will restore the lodge and build a museum attached to it.
He said the museum’s directors are preparing restoration plans and a development strategy for the project.
“The intention is to focus on White Mountains art,” Murro said. “The lodge is not totally suited to be a museum. It will be an entrance, a part of the museum, and it will have administrative offices. It may have a gift shop, it will have a function room and there will be a colonnade to connect into a newly formed [museum] building.”
The museum is expected to be the centerpiece of the project, encircled by village-like residential and commercial buildings. …  The residential buildings, he said, are planned as cape-style duplex condominium units. He said he would like to restore or rebuild the two matching barns by Route 18 and turn them into professional, commercial space.
“The barns, as well as the lodge, are sort of signature pieces on that property,” he said. “They look nice, and they preserve the character that I want to preserve.”

about Mr. Murro:

Murro, a mechanical and industrial engineer who has a doctorate in material science, is pursuing his plan through a company he owns called Algebra Investments.
He is a former college professor in Massachusetts who owned a manufacturing company in Nashua before retiring to the North Country in 1989 because he said he and his wife loved the White Mountains. He built a house on land in Lyman that he bought in 1978.
“In the early 1990s I got bored with just working on the farm and the house and started getting involved in real estate,” he said. “I’ve been doing development work for about 13 years throughout the White Mountains and most recently in Wells, Maine, a 120-lot subdivision and 20 units of senior housing.”
In Littleton he is best known for restoration of the mill buildings along the Ammonoosuc River in the downtown retail district and for his support for the Riverwalk project, which includes a pedestrian bridge across the river near his Littleton Grist Mill.
He said he gets great personal satisfaction out of projects like Highland Croft and the grist mill because bits of history are preserved to produce something worthwhile.
“We like to do things for the community,” he said. “We’re kind of fortunate that we can do that.”

And about the museum..

He (Murro) and his wife have joined with a number of prominent citizens as founding directors of the Littleton Museum of Fine Art – Bob and Muffy Copenhaver, Jere and Yvonne Eames, Ed and Erin Hennessey, Dick Hamilton, Jason Hoch, Paul McGoldrick, Ed and Nancy Roberts, Stephen and Sally Samaha and David and Chris Sundman.
“We see the chance to add another ‘must-see’ site for visitors to Littleton where they can learn about local history through art, architecture and photography, through the paintings, the restored lodge and stereoscopic views,” said Bob Copenhaver, a museum director.
Museum President Nancy Roberts said work has already begun to develop a collection.
“Over the past several months, we have been meeting with collectors of White Mountains art and museum curators,” she said, “to identify opportunities to develop a museum to showcase the artists such as Littleton natives Edward and Thomas Hill, as well as Benjamin Champney, Jasper Cropsey and others who painted White Mountain landscapes in the nineteenth century.”

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