New development plans in store for MH’s historic landmark

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Docent Margo Hinnenkamp, far left, talks with Amy Marcotulllio and her children Kate, 9, and Christopher, 13, as docent Beth Wyman, far right, talks with David and Valerie Chambliss on a tour of the Morgan Hill Museum during the summer picnic at Villa Mir

The Morgan Hill City Council in July approved the Morgan Hill Historical Society’s master plan for the development of the Villa Mira Monte property at 17860 Monterey Road.
Villa Mira Monte is the only site in Morgan Hill that is listed on the Registry of National Historic Landmarks. The Morgan Hill House was built in 1884 through 1886 by Hiram Morgan Hill, the founder of Morgan Hill, for his bride, Diana Murphy Hill.
According to the Vice-President of the Historical Society, Kathy Sullivan, the Historical Society has devised a three-phase plan that will ultimately result in a paved two lane drive, a parking lot for 67 cars, a multipurpose and storage building, restrooms, a catering kitchen with outdoor barbecue area, a covered pavilion and a great lawn all located on the back half of the Villa Mira Monte property.
“We want to finish developing the property,” Sullivan said. “The front part of the property is done and the back is a field of weeds. The property needs to be made whole.”
The Historical Society owns, maintains and operates the 2.5-acre property at an annual cost of approximately $25,000. This money is primarily generated from fundraising events and donations, according to Sullivan.
Membership meetings, fundraisers, boutiques and teas are the current type of events held at Villa Mira Monte. Private events such as weddings, reunions and memorial services are sometimes held on weekends as well.
“We like to keep with the character and have unique, intimate events on the property,” Sullivan said. “We could potentially have historical movie nights here or have the South Valley Symphony play after completion of the master plan.”
Though the total cost of completing the master plan has not been projected by the Historical Society or quoted by a contractor at this stage, Sullivan knows the group is really going to have to reach out to the community for help.
“We’re going to have raise funds chunk by chunk and we hope to begin construction on phase one as soon as possible,” she added
Sullivan said the Historical Society is hoping changes to the property will attract new people.
“The back of the property faces the train tracks and we want the people coming through on the trains to see our property and want to visit it,” she noted.
The Historical Society exists to preserve the past in hopes of inspiring a sense of community, Sullivan explained.
As Morgan Hill’s “Central Park,” Villa Mira Monte is a “major community attraction and a place where our community can celebrate its past,” Sullivan added.
Hiram and Diana Morgan, along with their daughter Diane, lived in San Francisco and used the house as a country retreat for themselves and their many friends. The present town of Morgan Hill acquired its name because train conductors would call out, “Morgan Hill’s” when making special stops for the Hill’s guests to disembark.
The house, which has a unique Queen Anne and Stick/Eastlake design, was sold by the Hills in 1912 and later served as a private home and antique shop. In 1992, Villa Mira Monte was deeded to the Morgan Hill Historical Society with the proviso that it be rescued from abandonment and be open to the public. After six years of extensive work, it was opened in the summer of 1998.
The Hiram Morgan Hill House and the Morgan Hill Museum are open to the public for docent-led tours from noon to 3 p.m. Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

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