The Smith Mansion, a Wapiti Valley icon, up for sale

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The Smith Mansion — that “crazy house” near Wapiti — is for sale. And new owners could easily erase the structure from the North Fork landscape.

For $750,000, the house and 10-plus acre-property could be yours. The real estate agent contracted to sell the property hopes someone buys it for the house’s artistic value and potential. But once in private hands, there is nothing stopping a new owner from clearing the property of the structure and starting again.

“We hope someone decides to do something with it, but that’s up to the new owners,” said Scott Richard, owner of Richard Realty in Cody. “You could buy another home in that area for the same amount, but this is a piece of art. Either the buyers will value the art and appreciate it or they’ll see it as an eyesore.”

Built by eccentric engineer Francis Lee Smith, the unusual structure is either loved or hated, said Sunny Smith-Larsen, Smith’s daughter and the director of the trust that owns the property.

“I just pray someone will finish the structure and not tear it down,” she said in a recent Facebook comment.

Smith-Larsen began an effort to the restore and preserve the building through the Smith Mansion Preservation Project Foundation; she estimated in 2010 that it would cost nearly $500,000. Money was raised through several fundraisers held as recently as last year, but trouble with vandalism and the breadth of the project proved to be insurmountable.

“It was presenting too much of a challenge,” Richard said.

The structure is just short of 50 years old. Calling it “the most photographed structure in northwest Wyoming,” Richard said the residence is just a couple years away from eligibility as a historical landmark.

It’s been the subject of many state and national news reports and magazine features, including a documentary. Some people are now eyeing it as a possible setting for a motion picture, Richard said. Smith-Larsen told The New York Times in 2012 that her father was simply building a home for his family when it took on a life of its own.

The playful structure seems to reach to the mountains with vantage points of the Absaroka range visible from every angle — including a 360-degree view from a crow’s nest at the top of the spire. At 75 feet high, it reaches to the sky and was constructed with decks and porches at every one of its levels. (There are between seven and 10 levels, depending on who you ask.) Grand swings that hang on open porches were actually open air beds for family and guests, Richard said. 

Francis Lee Smith fell to his death while working on the structure in 1992. His children, the late Buckles Lee and Sunny Smith-Larsen, grew up in the unique house, which had no plumbing and heat in just one area (from a wood stove) and very limited electricity (from extension cords that stretched to a pole down the hill). Smith-Larsen now lives in Billings.

Richard has received several inquiries about the Smith Mansion listing. A multimedia presentation he produced has been shared nearly 1,000 times and reached more than 130,000 people in less than a week, Richard said. Many are interested in the possible commercial potential of the property. The pasture below the structure, along U.S. Highway 14/16/20, has potential for projects like a recreational vehicle facility — or the house might make a unique bed and breakfast, Richard said.

Tours of the property, intended to raise awareness, have been canceled due to the sale. Sunny Smith-Larsen and her husband Paul Larsen posted a note on the foundation’s Facebook page announcing the sale.

They said the Smith Mansion Preservation Project “has been going strong for 10 years. And as hard as it is to say goodbye, the time has finally come!”

“[Thanks] to every donator, every volunteer, journalists, photographers, videographers, all the local businesses and of course our fans!” the Larsens wrote. “Nothing would have been possible without all of you!”

For more information on the property, visit www.thesmithmansion.com.

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