I've seen a lot of Western history auctioned off over the last year. I watched as billionaire William Koch bid $2 million to buy an original photo of Billy the Kid, and traveled up to Buford, population one, to see that tiny Wyoming town get sold -- for $900,000 -- to a man from Vietnam who'd never been in the United States before.
But more recent auctions have not been as successful. Last month, Williams & Williams, the auction company that sold off Buford, traveled to Central City to sell a 6.8-acre package that included seven historic buildings in prime gambling territory; it sold for just $525,000 to Boulder developer Stephen Tebo.
That disappointing haul for a historic property could explain why, just a few hours later, I got a call from a Williams & Williams rep letting everyone who'd been at the Buford auction know that another historic town would soon be going on the block: Garryowen, Montana.
Garryowen isn't much of a town. When the Battle of the Little Bighorn started on the site, there was nothing there but prairie. Fifty years later, representatives of the tribe and the Army met six miles south of the main battlefield to bury the hatchet. And since this is the American West, a commemorative Conoco station soon sprang up in an eight-acre town that was named Garryowen, after the calvary marching song -- part of a complex that today includes a museum, a gift store, a post office and a Subway. All of which -- museum contents not included -- were supposed to go on the auction block yesterday, with a starting bid of $250,000; estimates had the property valued at $1.5 million.
But at the last second, the auction was canceled."We have a variety of people that are interested in the property. In fact, some foreign people," auctioneer Tommy Williams told a local TV station. "I don't think they were able to get comfortable, with their due diligence, to go ahead and participate today."
In fact, while Buford had attracted dozens of bidders, no one had signed up to bid on Garryowen, Williams said.
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The property is still for sale, but will now be handled like a standard real-estate transaction. Interested in owning a piece of history? Contact Williams & Williams.
Why would someone want to pay almost a million dollars for a tiny Wyoming town? Find out in "Buford, the one-person Wyoming town, sells for $900,000."