by nathan oster
The family that bought and is working to restore the old Masonic Temple has added another property with historical significance in Greybull to its growing collection of real estate.
Erik and Susan Sales, along with sons Jacob and Ben and daughter Jennifer, recently completed the purchase of the old Greybull elevator property along North Seventh Street from David VanGelder, whose family had owned it since 1970.
Separated by just a couple of blocks, the two properties are part of the same vision for the Sales family, which as Susan describes it, is to “encourage tourism” and “share the wonderful history of our area with locals and people passing through town.”
The Sales still have big plans for the Masonic Temple, although Susan acknowledges that the opening of the theater and community gathering room has taken longer than anticipated.
“We have a projector and a sound system ready to go in, and we should have the theater, at the very least, functioning by Memorial Day weekend,” she said. “It’s been a very long project; so many things came up against us.
“The building is older and had been abandoned … it was a much larger task than we anticipated when we purchased it.”
Sales said Masonic Temple lacks the required space for a museum, and for that reason, she and her husband moved on the elevator property.
“This building has a lot more room and works for the museum we want to put together,” she said. The museum would celebrate “the history of our area — everything from oral history with local residents, to the history of farming, the railroad and the oil industry. All things that make Greybull what it is today.”
During a walk-through Monday morning, Sales shared her vision for the building. Construction of the elevator began in 1919. In 1939, a schoolhouse was brought in. As time went on, other rooms were added.
Sales has a vision for all of them, starting with the old schoolhouse, which she sees as “a gathering room for activities” and a showcase of “old school items.” That opening of that room, which also features an operational scale, will be celebrated in a grand opening sometime in March.
She also wants to turn an upstairs area into a “loft and study area.” In the elevator part, there is a room where there will be “a live, functioning exhibit” where people who visit will be able to see how grain was moved from the truck and taken through the whole process, including cleaning. One of the few operational Fairbanks scales in existence will also be a focal point of that room.
Elsewhere in the elevator Sales envisions a “tack room showing the history of shepherders and cowboys,” and arboretum filled with plants — ”kind of like walking into a rain forest,” she said — and an area for an indoor farmer’s market which could ultimately be expanded to include a dinner theater.
“But that’s way, way out there,” she said. “We’ll do everything in phases. We do have a vision. We are working on it as we have the funds.”
In a room that was once used as a sound room by the band formerly known as the Saugers, the Sales have developed an office, which includes a desk where oral histories are being filmed.
Sales said she and her husband haven’t worked through all the aspects of their business plan, saying simply, “We hope to gain whatever we can from being able to share (this building with the community).”
Sales said she has filed for non-profit status for both the Masonic building and the elevator. Local residents may have already noticed that the murals are once again illuminated at night, something the Sales did just a matter of weeks ago.
“We’ve applied for a grant to have the murals redone,” Sales said. “We got it re-lit though. That was a big chore. We had to rewire everything.”
Sales said anyone who would like to make a donation of cash, items or volunteer labor is invited to contact her at (307) 921-0751.