News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Historical Society needs housing

Three Sisters Historical Society and the Sisters History Museum currently find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. As pandemic restrictions are finally easing, and tourist season is heating up, the museum housed in the historic Wakefield bungalow on East Cascade has been told they must vacate the premises by June 15. For $3,000 rent (they now pay $1,000/month) they can stay until July 15.

The owner of the building, Chris Boxwell, made extensive improvements prior to the museum moving in. He gave them a deal on the rent for the first year and a donor provided $10,000 to cover most of the first year’s rent. They have the main floor of the house for the museum. Boxwell used the full basement (complete with lava rock walls) for storage and there is a recently finished apartment space upstairs, though City code does not allow for a residential use. No one is occupying the “carriage house” on the back of the property and Boxwell made no improvements to it.

Several months ago, Boxwell listed the property for sale for $1.25 million. The museum was hopeful whoever bought it would continue to allow them to rent the first floor. Boxwell temporarily removed the listing but put it back on the market several weeks ago for $1.245 million. Following an inspection last week, a potential buyer withdrew their offer.

For now, the historical society finds itself between a rock and a hard place. They can’t afford $3,000 a month rent for the entire property and they don’t have $1.245 million to purchase it. They already have big plans for the week of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, complete with quilts displayed inside and on the porch plus a big used-book sale on the lawn on Saturday, July 10.

They also have plans for a Founders Day Picnic on Sunday, July 11, to celebrate the original platting of the city in 1901. Guided walking tours of historic Sisters have begun again for the summer as well.

The property on the corner of East Cascade Avenue and North Larch Street is actually two lots. The corner lot contains the house and is listed for $995,000. The other lot is a flag lot consisting of the lawn area between the museum and Suttle Tea plus the entire back area where the carriage house is located. That lot would sell for $250,000 if combined with the other lot. To split those two lots evenly from Cascade back to the alley would require a lot-line adjustment. If that was done, the lot line would probably run right down the middle of the ADA ramp on the house.

Ideally for the museum, they would like to have the entire house and the carriage house to provide them with both sufficient display space as well as onsite storage and no need to move to a larger space. According to the City codes, the carriage house needs fire walls installed and needs to be connected to the bungalow. Whoever purchases the property has some work to do to meet City codes.

In a perfect world, a generous benefactor(s) could become a history angel and provide a permanent home for the museum. The Wakefield property has historical significance having been built in 1929 by a leading Sisters citizen. It is in a convenient location right downtown, easily found by the public, with on-street parking.

For information about the museum call 541-904-0585.

For information about the property contact Tim Kizziar at Stellar Realty 541-419-5577.


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