RIVERTON — The lights are off, the signs are gone and the donated furniture returned to its original owners.
There's an eerie feel at Riverton's old Crane House Museum, abandoned and cleared out now after the City Council voted in August to sell the home.
Museum supporters say the city turned its back on one of Riverton's only remaining historical buildings; city officials say selling the museum and avoiding a court battle over was their only option in a recession.
The museum has been in a property battle since July, when the placement of the facility came under question. Two-thirds of the Crane House is on private land.
Tuesday, the Riverton City Council unanimously voted on the final step to sell the property (pending title issues). The home and city property around it sold for $63,000 to the adjacent landowner, Nancy Long.
Long, the owner of historical shopping center Gardner Village, plans to lease the building for a doll museum. She is turning the neighboring farmland into a housing development, selling off pieces in half-acre chunks.
A passionate group of museum supporters were advised by city officials this summer to raise $400,000 to move the home to a new location. That figure was "comical," said Leesa Lloyd, chairwoman of the Crane House board.
"Everyone's devastated," Lloyd said of the sale. "Talk about going backward. I have to blame the Riverton mayor and elected officials. They dropped the ball."
Lloyd said $50,000 was returned to the Crane family. A $20,000 donation was also turned down, as the group couldn't raise the rest of the cash.
The 1916 home was built for Heber and Mary Crane and their 10 children and has acted as the city's free cultural center, with space for rotating art shows upstairs and historical displays on the main level.
For Lloyd, the museum is more than a piece of Riverton history; it's part of her family history.
Her mother, former Mayor Sandra Lloyd, organized efforts to move the home from its original foundation on 13200 South in 1996, when developers wanted to demolish it for a Taco Bell.
Now in its current awkward placement, the city had the choice to sell the home, purchase it through eminent domain (as Long was not willing to sell her portion) or move it again.
Costs for the latter two options soared to $500,000-plus, and a citywide survey showed that 50 percent of respondents wanted the city to sell the home.
"As long as it sits on two separate parcels of property, its future is in jeopardy," said Ryan Cater, city attorney. "The council wanted to consider the future of the Crane Home and not risk it being torn down."
Terms of the contract say Long must give Riverton the right of first refusal if she ever tries to sell the home.
Long, who describes herself as a preservationist, has already restored the barn and sheep camps on her parcel. She would like to lease the Crane House to Diane Peterson and Alana May, owners of the Georgell Doll Shop in Gardner Village. The space would house Utahn Lucile Georgell's collection of 10,000 dolls.
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