The Legacy Behind Richter’s Art Wing Gift To The New Bruce
By Anne W. Semmes
William L. Richter loves his community of Greenwich. It’s where he built his dream house, thanks to his entrepreneurial success in the financial world. He’s also a fan of what he calls house museums, like the Frick Museum in New York, like those he’s visited in Europe. When the impulse came to give back to his community, he found a fit in Greenwich – Robert M. Bruce’s “house museum,” known as the Bruce, off Steamboat Road.
Richter is gifting the Bruce Museum $15 million toward the planned art wing of the expanding New Bruce.
“Peter Sutton sparked my interest immediately,” says Richter of the recently retired director of the Bruce, now Director Emeritus, who had shared with him the plans for the Museum’s ambitious renovation and construction project. “The location is unique – right in the heart of downtown Greenwich. It’s a beautiful setting.”
The new art wing will be a substantial addition to the Bruce. More than 40,000 square feet in all, with five galleries for art – four permanent and one changing gallery. “So many more people will see the art every year,” Richter shares, “I love art and hope it stimulates other people.”
Perhaps a more profound stimulus for Richter is the legacy that he feels comes with his gift.
“My father, Joseph Richter, had an antiques business here in Greenwich in the 1920s when he was a very young man,” Richter says.
“He would see the antique, buy it, create a visual design, and make it into a lighting fixture and sell it to decorators only.” A mutual love there, at the very least, of the decorative arts. And in Manhattan, a similar enterprise, Joseph Richter, Inc., carries on the family name, 50 years after the father’s death. “He was very well known in the business,” notes Richter, “and that’s why the brand name still exists.”
So, there’s acceptance that Richter’s father would not live to see his son’s William L. Richter art wing of the New Bruce, to rise in 2020, following renovations to the existing building. There are also expectations. “It will be a wonderful place to go and have lunch outside on a nice day, and to take a walk around the grounds. The innovative way they’re doing it, to enter the Museum at the park level, is much more user friendly.”
Above all, Richter hopes his generous gift will be “a stimulant to others, a catalyst to set off a chain reaction. I would really like to see them giving art. There are so many people here who have collections, some grand, some smaller. But in the aggregate, it’s an amazing trove!”
“This is a chance to put the Bruce Museum on the map,” says Richter. “Mr. Bruce, who lived here a hundred and more years ago, didn’t envision this New Bruce himself. But, the Museum is being true to him. The name of the new art wing will not change the name of the Museum. It’s still going to be the Bruce.”