Hayden, meet Warta
Bill Sauser (left) gets checked (in a good way) by Ward Jones in front of the Warta cabin. (Photo: Geisel)
Museum complex closer to welcoming new building
It’s not the size of the check itself … it’s the number of zeroes on it. Developer Ward Jones is used to seeing checks with many zeroes on them, but if you ask Southern Mono Historical Society (SMHS) Board Member Bill Sauser, even just a few will do nicely, thank you.
Sauser was on hand Wednesday to receive a $24,000 check from Jones, the first half of a $46,400 windfall to the SMHS. The windfall accompanies the previous gifting by the Warta family of the log cabin building at 63 Lake Mary Rd. (directly across from Canyon Blvd.), which the SMHS plans to bring over to its Hayden Cabin Museum site off Old Mammoth Rd., and restore as a permanent part of the exhibit.
Jones said the windfall was borne out of a 2003 transaction involving the original “three corner” development project intended for the area in and around the Hwy 203/Meridian Blvd. intersection.
“I had a meeting with Mrs. Warta, who told me that she wanted the cabin excluded from the deal,” Jones recalled. “I said, ‘Fine.’ Then she asked if I’d support [financially] moving it.”
Jones said he would, and one of the first partners he wrangled was Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory, who reportedly said the company would cover the grading costs when the move is made. Until the SMHS was in a position to bring the cabin to its new home, Jones agreed to pay the taxes and utilities, and make sure the cabin was held harmless from mortgage and sale.
The cabin space was rented for a few years by the Iglesia Misionera Jesus Christ, and the rent put in an account that was to be turned over to the SMHS. The account was split in 2006 when Jones sold his interest in the property to Seattle-based Goodman Real Estate, which will write SMHS a $22,400 check.
If the cabin, which sits at the base of the new Lake Mary Bike Path, looks a bit out of place, it should. It wasn’t originally there. The cabin, built in the mid-1920s, started out as part of the Valentine Family complex that is now the Valentine Reserve on Old Mammoth Rd. Sometime around 1972, when Carol Valentine donated the family property to the University of California, the Wartas, who had bought the cabin from Valentine caretaker Woody Sampson for $1, moved it to Lake Mary Rd., where it later housed a cable company.
Several concepts to relocate the cabin to other spots have been explored, but never amounted to anything. The Warta family considered donating it back to the Valentine Reserve, but a new educational building erected on the site the year before nixed that idea. No room. And simple bad timing shut down a scenario in which MMSA would relocate it to a spot near Tamarack Lodge.
Even the former owners of Sledz wanted to acquire the building. But the sheer logistics of moving it up to Sledz, which is located just below the Ski Area, proved too daunting at the time.
Sauser said moving the cabin to the Hayden Museum site is going to be tricky at best. “First off, disassembling it may not be much of an option,” he pointed out. “When it was assembled in its current spot, the logs were tied together using giant pins. The logs may just break if we try to take them apart.”
Arrangements may also need to be made with the U.S. Forest Service to temporarily adjust the museum’s access road. How does a 10-foot wide road accommodate a 20-foot wide cabin. Early estimates for laying a foundation for the building are running close to $30,000.
The SMHS will donate $1,000 of the money to the local food bank, which Jones and his wife, Nadine, said they will match.
Sauser said the SMHS will set aside $5,000, along with a matching amount from the Wartas, for the relocation. The rest will go to finding a curator for the museum, and researching figures and grant opportunities to get the rest of the funding it will take to move the Warta cabin … hopefully, for the last time.