Historic home could become Visalia museum


Ernie and Liss Crotty want to sell their 1883 downtown home to nonprofit for preservation as a museum

By Nancy Vigran


VISALIA – Visalia could be getting its own museum if Michael Kreps and Ernie Crotty get their way. It’s something that would be just fine with the City’s planning commission, most likely the city council, and local residents alike. Now, all it takes is money and a lot of work.

Crotty, who has lived in his home at 617 N. Encina St. for more than 50 years, is willing to let it go at a very reasonable price to an organization who would properly care for it, and recognize it for what it is, a historic home dating back to 1883. Crotty, now 70 years old, said it is time to find a new caretaker for the house.

His parents purchased the home the year he graduated from Redwood High, he said. And, he’s lived there ever since. The original house was two stories. It suffered a fire to the second story just before the turn of the 20th century, and was restored with an additional third story thereafter. It is located within one of the city’s Historic Overlay Districts in the downtown area. It’s about 5,000-square-feet of living space, much more than Crotty and his wife need.

But, “it’s kind of a part of me,” he said.

That’s where Kreps comes in. He is an architect by trade and currently serves as president of Visalia Heritage, Inc., a small organization working at keeping the history of Visalia alive for future generations.

“He [Crotty] has spent his life fixing up the house. Heritage is the only one that has expressed an interest in it,” Kreps said.

Well, the only organization that would like to maintain the home as a local historic treasure that is. Crotty said he could have sold it many times, but he doesn’t’ want to sell it to just anyone. He’s willing to discount it to the right buyer. But, he also needs funds to move into another place for he and his wife to live.

“Visalia doesn’t have a museum,” Kreps pointed out.

The small group of Visalia Heritage is looking to make it happen. But, there are a lot of facets to work out. They are currently looking for possible grant funding sources. They have already done the work of having a site plan review. However, if the goal is to turn it, or part of it, into a museum, it would have to undergo further inspection before it could be open to the public.

But, that’s a ways off.

“We have a lot of work to do to make it happen,” Kreps said.

He’d like to enlist more help including those interested in documenting the history of the house and other homes in the area just a few blocks north of the historic Visalia Fox Theatre.

“The original home was actually rather plain,” Kreps said. “Now it is very elaborate.

“And, it’s absolutely immaculate.”

Crotty wants to see it kept that way long into the future.

“I want to make sure there are some people to take care of it,” he said. “I want to feel good about who all gets the house.”

He does feel good about the interest Visalia Heritage has displayed.

“I would love to see it shared with all people,” he said. “Tours and a museum that would be good.”

So where would Crotty and his wife move? He has his eye on a smaller home across the street that could use some fixing up.

“I’m interested in the 600 block [of Encina St.],” he said. “I always have been.”

Visalia Heritage will hold a meeting in May prior to its summer break. Anyone interested in the club and its potential project can contact Kreps at (559) 732-3060.

Start typing and press Enter to search