By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Trustees of the Museum & Arts Center in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley have asked for a delay in next week's scheduled auction of the Sequim landmark.
The grain elevator at 531 W. Washington St., which most recently housed the El Cazador restaurant until it closed March 3, is scheduled for public auction at the Clallam County Courthouse in Port Angeles next Friday, May 9.
The museum's board of directors sent a letter of intent Thursday to Whidbey Island Bank, which owns the building, asking that the auction be delayed 90 to 120 days so the board can study a possible deal.
The Hutchison & Foster firm of Lynwood serves as trustee for the property. Officials were not available for comment Thursday.
“It's just a wild hair I had,” MAC Treasurer Louie Rychlik said. “So far, we're only in it a postage stamp.
Then I mentioned it to some of the board members, and they were gung-ho.”
EC Sequim Properties LLC, the holding company for the restaurant, owes Whidbey Island Bank $912,644.11 on the building, which was put up as collateral on a loan, according to the notice of trustee's sale.
Clallam County assessed the building's value at $86,439.
It's possible, Rychlik said, the museum board would propose a swap of the DeWitt Administration Center at 544 N. Sequim Ave. and the Exhibit Center at 175 W. Cedar St. to the bank for the grain elevator.
The 85-foot grain elevator was built by Clallam Co-op in 1944. Corn, beans and wheat imported for cattle feed in Dungeness Valley dairies were stored there.
When it was built, the elevator sat on the Seattle, Port Angeles and Western Railroad, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific.
Several communications companies have transmitters atop the elevator.
El Cazador moved into the Co-op's former stock room on the ground floor in 1981.
“That whole restaurant area we could fill with all the artifacts we have,” Rychlik said.
“We could put those tusks out.”
Though portions of the mastodon dug up by Emanuel “Manny” Manis on his Happy Valley property in 1977 are displayed in the exhibit center, the tusks are stored in a stock tank in the storage room of the DeWitt center.
A projectile found in the tusks was determined to date back 13,800 years, 800 years earlier than the Clovis discovery that has long been considered North America's oldest culture.
Museum volunteer Judy Stipe, wife of MAC trustee Bob Stipe, said she would like the museum to take over the grain elevator to ensure it remains standing over the Sequim skyline.
“We don't want somebody to come in there and start tearing the place apart,” she said. “That's our history. That's how we always give people directions: 'Make sure the elevator is on your left.'”
Rychlik has memories of the elevator when it was in use.
“My dad used to work there,” he said. “I used to play around there when I was a kid.”
The museum's entire staff, including director DJ Bassett, either resigned or were fired March 28 after a new slate of trustees was elected to the museum's governing board.
They were concerned primarily with the museum's mounting operating losses, but Rychlik said that has turned around, and the MAC now has all its bills paid and has $35,000 in the bank.
“We're not broke. We were in rough shape when we first took it over, but we dug it out,” he said.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.