Free old national park cabin draws dozens of inquiries

Melody Ranch homeowners are volunteering their time to find a new location for the subdivision’s former sales office cabin, which was moved to the property from Grand Teton National Park in 1962. (Photo by Ryan Dorgan, Jackson Hole News&Guide)

By Allie Gross

Jackson Hole News&Guide

Via Wyoming News Exchange

JACKSON — It wasn’t until the Facebook post advertising a “free historic log cabin” that the calls started pouring in.

“The phone lit up,” Kent Van Riper said.

Van Riper is part of a trio of Melody Ranch Homeowners Association members who are working to help the subdivision south of town relocate a 930-square-foot log cabin that originally stood in Grand Teton National Park. Since the Facebook post, 30 people have inquired about the 1930s cabin, and volunteers Van Riper, Michael Schrotz and Jim Hammerel have been inundated with showings.

“I feel like a Realtor, but I get zero commission from this deal,” Hammerel said. “But I know it’s the best thing for the community. Our whole goal is to keep this thing out of the dump.”

The log structure was once a gas station and store near Jackson Lake Lodge. The cabin was moved to Melody Ranch from Grand Teton National Park in 1962, where for years it served owner Paul Von Gontard as a storage, tack room and even housing for a daughter.

When the subdivision was created the building was converted to a sales office. But with Melody subdivided and sold off, for more than a decade it has been boarded up.

The Melody HOA studied all sorts of uses for the property: a shared co-working space, a birthday party room or affordable housing. Ultimately they decided to seek a new off-site home for it.

“I could just see the cabin was probably best in somebody else’s hands,” Hammerel said. “We didn’t have the time or resources to maintain it, and we thought we’d pass it on to a new owner.”

Teton County Historic Preservation Board Chairwoman Katherine Wonson advised the HOA that because the building was moved from its original location, it isn’t as valuable, but it’s still worth saving.

“While it’s not one of the most important buildings because it’s no longer in its context, we thought architecturally it was interesting,” Wonson said.

There’s no plan for what Melody homeowners will replace the cabin with, but trails, an exercise facility and a bike park are some early ideas.

When people enter the cabin for a showing, Van Riper said their first reaction is an impressed “oh, wow” at the intact log cabin siding and frame. But often that’s followed by a more solemn “oh, wow” at the scope of the labor to repair the building and the expense involved with a move. The cost of moving it is estimated at $30,000 to $40,000.

Hammerel said some interested parties hope to use the cabin on their property as a spare structure or for hosting weddings, while other suggestions have ranged from a horse tack room, a bar or housing. Some cabin viewers are “tire kickers,” they say, while others are truly enthusiastic about moving the cabin.

“They all have a dream of protecting part of Jackson and want to do something to fix it up,” Schrotz said.

“It’s kind of fun to see what’s going to happen,” Van Riper said.

The HOA is asking interested parties to submit a proposal detailing their plan with the cabin, which will be vetted by the board.

“We want to make sure it’s a successful move,” Schrotz said. “We’re really looking for, why do you want to do it, how are you going to do this, when are you going to do this, what are the details for your proposal.”

Restoring an old building is a serious undertaking, but the three hope to find the right fit.

“If you’re into history and you want to preserve a piece of Jackson Hole, this would be a project for you,” Schrotz said.