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Sandra Fuller’s gift saves City Fair Farm

"This was the love and passion of her life."

A sizable gift to a fund at the Community Foundation will cover future expenses for a historic property where locals gathered to celebrate farm life 125 years ago.

Sandra Fuller, a New London woman whose family owned the property for more than 100 years, donated the “City Fair Farm” at the intersection of State 54 and U.S. 45 to the New London Heritage Historical Society through her estate. A financial gift also outlined in her estate plan will assure the group has the resources to maintain it and support programming envisioned by Sandra, who died of cancer July 4, 2015, at age 70.

The picturesque farm has led many people to stop in through the years and ask about buying the property. Some were interested more in its highly accessible site and the prospects for building a gas station or a hotel there. That was Sandra’s greatest nightmare for the home, said Tony Fuller, her husband of 30 years.

When it became clear that her cancer was terminal, Sandra assured that the farm would survive by arranging to donate it from her estate, along with the a financial gift. The historical society created the The Sandra L. Fuller-Thern Homestead Fund, an endowment fund in the Community Foundation with the money. It will be invested, with 5% of each year’s total assets available to support the maintenance and programming at the property.

“It’s going to save (the farm),” Robert Polaske, president of the New London Heritage Historical Society, said of the endowment. The gift is large enough to make it possible for the all-volunteer organization to add a part-time staff position.

New London’s city fair was presented at the farm from 1891 to 1912. The owner then, James Henry Cannon, used the fairs to promote horse racing at the half-mile track he built there. He added the house initially to serve as a dining hall for the races. Photographs show crowds of people dressed up in ties and their best Sunday hats for the popular event.

Sandra spent 12 years renovating the house, finishing in 2010. The couple had planned to open a bed and breakfast there.

“This was the love and passion of her life,” Tony said, “and she put a lot of time into it.”

Just 10 days before her death. Sandra compiled a list of programs she’d like to see conducted at the farm. It includes logging on the Wolf and Embarrass rivers, the history of rail transportation, Victorian etiquette, big-wheeled bicycles, harnessing horses and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, which her father, Earl Thern, attended. Tony Fuller said he anticipates the house will host a few open houses this summer.