Cost of moving old cupola sparks call for committee

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The cupola from the old Bay of Naples Inn sits on a former campground on Route 114 in Naples. 

NAPLES — There’s a bit of a hoopla surrounding an historic cupola in Naples.

The approximately 22-foot-tall structure, which once crowned the Bay of Naples Inn before the building was torn down in the 1960s, now sits on an old campground property on Route 114.

The Selectboard is debating whether the town will get involved financially to move the towering structure to a public place in Naples – such as the village green or town beach – where it can be enjoyed and preserved as part of the town’s history.

“I’ve gotten pros and cons from residents who are in favor of it, and residents saying ‘don’t spend a dime of my money until we see an exact dollar amount of what this is going to cost,'” said Selectboard Member Robert Caron II.

The Selectboard voted 5-0 to call for people to come forward if they are interested in serving on a possible committee that would look further into developing a concrete plan for the cupola.

“We are publicly asking for somebody to step forward to chair a committee to prepare a final analysis of the entire costs that will be associated with relocating the cupola to a location yet to be determined,” said Selectboard Chairman Jim Grattelo.

A decision whether to move forward will be made at the Jan. 22 Selectboard meeting, he said.

Merry Watson of the Naples Historical Society Museum had worked to raise money for the cupola’s relocation, but her GoFundMe page has failed to gain steam. She said at this week’s Selectboard meeting that it has raised $350 of the $30,000 goal.

Watson estimated last March that the bulk of the project’s cost would go to  moving utility lines so that the cupola can be removed from the former campground property. She said at the time that local builders and movers – including her husband Dana, who is a former Selectboard member – would be willing to donate time and equipment for the effort.

In a letter read at this week’s meeting, John March outlined a new plan for the cupola move that he says could cost under $10,000 and would involve cutting the structure into three pieces so that it can be moved and then reassembled without impacting utility lines.

“Like a Lego toy, it could indeed be separated at two existing ‘seams’, and if properly braced, simply moved in 3 upright pieces to any location to be worked on, and easily re-assembled again,” said March in his letter, which also gave credit to the Watsons for their commitment to the issue.

Selectboard Member Jim Turpin suggested that Watson and March “should make allies of each other,” which she responded to say is “not going to happen.”

March said by phone that he would be willing to work with the Watsons, and would also be willing to be part of a cupola committee. March said that he donated to Watson’s fundraising effort.

Watson similarly said she expected either she or her husband would be willing to serve on a cupola committee if formed.

Jamie Ruhlin, who previously owned the property where the cupola sits, said last year that one of his late father Jim’s final requests was for the structure to be given to the town.

Ruhlin, who sat with Merry Watson at this week’s meeting, said that the property was sold in October but that the cupola was left out of the sale agreement.

Michael Courtney, who bought the campground property from the Ruhlin family and hopes to sell part or all of it, said he is not sure that the cupola was excluded from the sale but agrees that it has historic value and hopes the town wants it.

“I love Naples, and they can come and get it whenever,” Courtney said, adding that the structure is “part of the town’s history” and saying that “I just want what’s best for Naples.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

The cupola from the old Bay of Naples Inn sits on a former campground on Route 114 in Naples.

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