Owners say Greenfield's Ironton Museum will not reopen
By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent | January 31. 2013 8:55PM
The Ironton Museum in Greenfield is not reopening, owners Tod and Donna Smith said Wednesday (Courtesy)
A cease and desist order closed the Ironton Museum in September and since then, the Smiths have been working with the town in an effort to reopen it.
Town Code Enforcement Officer Peter Hopkins said he received verbal complaints about the museum, as well as a written one. Because of that, he evaluated the situation and made an administrative decision that it violated town zoning regulations.
In December, the zoning board determined the museum was a non-conforming use in a residential district and referred the Smiths to the Planning Board for a site plan review.
Planning Board Chairman Robert Marshall said the Smiths had a Feb. 11 hearing scheduled for a preliminary site plan review to determine whether such a plan was really needed. But on Wednesday, Donna Smith called and withdrew from the process.
Marshall said it was "the same process we use for anyone planning on doing any activity or anything in an area in town that is outside of the scope of the district that they are in."
In an email to supporters Wednesday, Donna Smith wrote: "We are very sad to keep the museum closed, but we really had to weigh out all the pros and cons of having the museum open to public tours. Unfortunately the cons out weighted the pros.
"First and foremost being a battle that would continue with the Town of Greenfield just to possibly be able to reopen our doors. Which, of course, is also expensive. It was a hard decision to make as a family. We loved to share all our hard work of collecting."
Smith said she has already heard from people from around the region, as well as Vermont and Maine, that they are saddened by the permanent closing of the museum.
"We just decided with the town giving us such a hard time it really wasn't worth offering a free thing," she said. "We'll just keep our collection to ourselves."
The Smiths call it Ironton Museum, but it's really a personal collection of antique machines and household items displayed inside and outside of their home that the family enjoys sharing with the public.
The couple started collecting the antiques when they moved to their Route 31 home in 1997. Antique tractors and steam engines on the lawn attracted so many motorists over the years, that the couple started giving tours six years ago.
The collection includes antique tractors, old engines, antique sewing and washing machines and antique toys.
The couple didn't advertise, but people learn about the museum through word of mouth and call to set up tours.
Sometimes visitors would give a donation for a tour, but Donna said there wasn't a profit.
"I know they had a lot of support in town, but beyond that I really don't know what was being conducted there. That's part of the reason we were having a site plan review," Marshall said.