Oregon Avenue house is new museum home

The Lovell-Kane Museum has received a special gift in the form of a deed to a house that will provide much-needed space for the museum’s growing collection.

Loretta Bischoff has donated a house at 354 Oregon Ave. that she has owned for years and has used as a rental property. Located just east of the Hyart Theatre and behind (north of) the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce visitor center that is currently housing a portion of the museum’s collection, the house contains six rooms and a restroom with parking available behind and to the south side of the building.

Members of the museum board joined in a title transfer ceremony on Feb. 28 at the Bischoff Enterprises office adjacent to the Hyart Theatre.

“We’d a never got this without Loretta,” said board member Rich Fink in a Monday interview. And board president Karen Spragg called the donation “an unbelievable gift.”

Gathering at the Bischoff Enterprises office in downtown Lovell on Feb. 28 for the transfer of a deed to a home on Oregon Avenue that will house the Lovell-Kane Museum were members of the museum board and Traci LaFollette of Big Horn Title. Pictured are (l-r) Karen Spragg, Jeff Pearson, Loretta Bischoff, LaFollette (seated), Sandy Armstrong, Celecia Gallagher, Rich Fink and Judy Wray. Not pictured are museum board members Grover and Joy Howe, Sharon Cornwall, Shari Loegering and Peg Snell.
David Peck photo

“It’s a lifesaver. It’s neat,” Fink added, noting that the home is valued at around $115,000.

Spragg said Bischoff has been on the museum board for about a year and helped the board for a year before that, assisting with maps and old street names, among other things.

“There’s a lot of history stored in her,” Fink said.

The 1,300-square-foot house will give the museum board a lot more room for displays, Spragg and Fink said, noting that the building can also be used year-around. They also said that museum board members and volunteers will have more control over who has access to valuable artifacts. And besides, moving will allow more room for the chamber, as well, they added.

“It’ll be a good deal all the way around,” Fink said.

The museum board will spend the next several weeks preparing the house for occupation, remodeling the building to make it handicapped-accessible and removing a wall to provide more exhibit space. The restroom will be moved into a room most recently used as a laundry room, and the tub will be removed.

The board even plans to put a porch on the front of the house, along with a wheelchair ramp.

“We want a place where people can go inside, then come out and sit on the front porch,” Fink said.

Although Bischoff has had the house cleaned and left it in excellent shape, the board will do some painting and further cleaning, plus the remodeling and other changes like taking out the carpet.

“I hope it’s a hardwood floor under the carpet,” Spragg said.

Fink and Spragg said they hope to be moving exhibits by June 1, depending on the remodeling work. The board hopes to have a grand opening during Mustang Days.

Spragg and Fink announced the new building during Tuesday night’s March Lovell Town Council meeting.

“We’re very excited,” Spragg told the council. “Our contractor is looking at what needs to be done. Thank you for your support through the years, and that includes Bruce (Morrison), Brian (Dickson) and Scott (Allred).

“People are already calling and saying, ‘Well, now that you have a building, we want to put something in it.’ Loretta jokes that it’s already too small. We are so grateful to Loretta for this. It’s been a long time coming, but Lovell is going to have a museum.”

“If you want to see it, just let one of us know and come look at it,” Fink told the council.

Town Administrator Jed Nebel said the museum board needs to provide the town with a written request to be released from the current sub-lease agreement for use of a portion of the chamber building, which the town leases from Bischoff for the chamber and museum to use.

Events

Fink and Spragg said the museum board will hold a Spring Fling on Friday, May 19, at the North Big Horn County Senior Citizens Center with a “denim and lace” theme. The event will feature the many hats worn by Loretta Bischoff’s mother, Virga.

The board is also bringing back the High Country Cowboys for an evening of music on Saturday, Sept. 30.

By David Peck