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The Atwood Machine Co. at the turn of the century.
Maury's father owned a shoe repair business on Water St.
LaGrua's gift shop, a few doors down Water Street.
Maurice and Wynne LaGrua.
The front door.
At the groundbreaking ceremony. Lisa Harmon, Wynne Lagrua, Ana Maria Palmer.
The La Grua Legacy
On Christmas Eve, 1914, Maurice C. La Grua was born to Italian immigrant merchants in Stonington. Well into his twenties, he volunteered for the war effort and was among the first soldiers to storm the beach at Normandy (though he did not know how to swim). Two Purple Hearts later, he managed to participate in the march to free Paris from German occupation. On his return to Stonington, he met Winifred Glover, also of Stonington, who since her graduation from Connecticut College, was working at the Atwood Machine Company as an executive assistant to the Vice-President. Maurice subsequently became a photographer, and spent his days putting generations of Stonington's graduates, newlyweds and families in their best light. Winifred, meanwhile, manned La Grua's gift shop on Water Street. There are probably no two more recognized names from the 20th century in Stonington than Maurice and Winifred G. La Grua; nor two people more private at heart, avoiding the public spotlight with assiduous discipline.
Shortly after Maurie's death in 2005, Wynne La Grua quietly approached community leaders with an offer to fund the purchase and renovation of the old foundry as a public center in memory of her late husband. The character of our community has been given an opportunity to revitalize itself for a new millennium. The Maurice and Winifred Glover La Grua Foundation was formed in 2007 to steward Wynne's $500,000 gift. Through the work of a nine member board, the building was purchased, a design completed, and construction is now underway with a completion date of September, 2008.
Though Wynne could not be more pleased with the current prospects for the La Grua Center, it was never her intention to be the Center's sole benefactor. She understood too well that a strong sense of community depends on a strong base of participation and support. Local organizations and non-profits are already scheduling programs and classes at the new La Grua Center. The time has come as well, for the residents of Stonington and its surrounding communities to join the La Gruas in bringing this dream to life.
The Maurice La Grua Center opens its doors to the community
of Stonington as a venue for education, the arts, celebrations, meetings and
other activities that bring area residents, as well as visitors, together.
The dream for the Center began years ago as the Borough's Planning and Zoning Commission negotiated with the developers of Water Street's 5 acre, abandoned industrial site to designate the old stone foundry building for public use. Since the early 1980s, when new residents began to outnumber the long term "locals", Borough commissions have pondered the conundrum of how to maintain the "character" of Stonington. As service businesses gave way to antique shops and home owners divided their time between residences, the value of living in the closely built village shifted from everyone knowing everyone else to more and more people recognizing only that they now lived in one of the most beautiful places on earth. So, though the idea of a public venue in the old foundry building was theoretically embraced, the necessary visionary drive was lacking, and as the Stonington Commons condominium project neared completion, there were still no plans to convert one of the oldest industrial buildings in Connecticut into a space for the community.
The La Grua Foundation was formed to continue Wynne's and Maurie's legacy by providing a setting where the strong sense of community cherished by the La Gruas may thrive. La Grua Center serves as a friendly haven to those passing through Stonington Borough, be it for an hour or a lifetime.
La Grua Foundation Board of Directors
Peter Castle, President
Charles T. Clark, Vice President
Janice Lamb, Secretary
Lisa Tepper Bates, Treasurer