The wife of former cowboy star Gene Autry has withdrawn her offer to build a museum featuring Western memorabilia in Burbank, city officials announced this week.
In a letter to outgoing Burbank Mayor Daniel Remy, Jackie Autry, wife of the 77-year-old former actor and owner of the Calfornia Angels, gave no specific reasons for withdrawing her proposal for the $2-million museum.
But she suggested that she was responding to opposition from a group of residents who complained that the museum would destroy the spaciousness and beauty of Buena Vista Park, the proposed site of the museum.
Jackie Autry's letter said "misinformation in the newpapers" had provoked the residents. She repeated her claims that the museum would have been an artistic and financial asset to Burbank.
Although thanking City Council members for inviting her to consider a portion of the park as a location for the museum, she wrote that she and the board of directors of the Gene Autry Heritage Museum "after due consideration . . . do not feel Burbank is the appropiate location."
The letter prompted an angry reaction from Councilman Larry Stamper, the main supporter and advocate of the museum on the council who was attending his last meeting as a city councilman after being voted out of office earlier this month.
"We blew it," Stamper said. "There was a total misrepresentation of information from the people who live around that park. It was never our intention to take away the park from Burbank. The Autrys were not trying to get anything from Burbank."
Stamper said he was not surprised at the Autrys' decision "because of the kind of beating they've taken from residents."
The site considered for the museum was on land owned by the City of Los Angeles on the south side of the Ventura Freeway by the Buena Vista Street exit. The parkland is leased to the city of Burbank.
Proposed in November
The Autry Foundation, a charitable trust created by Autry's first wife, who died in 1980, had proposed last November that a $2-million museum be built to house Western art, boots, guns, saddles and memorabilia of Autry and other cowboy stars.
The proposal was criticized by many Burbank residents, neighbors of Buena Vista Park and environmental groups who said the museum would destroy the atmosphere of the park. A petition with 1,000 signatures was submitted to the City Council, and several residents recently asked the council to consider alternative sites in Burbank.
Jackie Autry's letter said that the land being considered would have become "an enhanced public area with flowers, public restroom facilities, park benches, picnic tables and water fountains, none of which exist today and all of which would have been paid for and maintained by the museum."
Funds for Youth Promised
She added that she was sorry that residents had not been "made aware of the fact that Autry Foundation had planned to supplement the finances of various Burbank charitable institutions." The foundation said it would give $1 million for a new youth center and for senior citizens' programs.
"This was to have be accomplished by the foundation in the immediate future and not by the eventual proceeds of the museum," Autry wrote.
Autry said that she still intends to build the museum, and that her organization looks forward to the announcement of a new site soon Foundation officials had said previously they were considering other San Fernando Valley sites for the museum, including the Sepulveda Flood Control Basin, where the museum would be part of a proposed arts park.
Councilwoman Mary Lou Howard, who is expected to be elected mayor of Burbank today when the new council is seated, said she was disappointed by the news.
"This would have been an asset to the city, and I wish we could have them in Burbank," said Howard, who had supported the museum proposal but had opposed the Buena Park site.