Their first home burned to the ground before they even moved in. It took 10 years for them to find a second one, and now they must wait another two years before they can finally move in.
Still, the members of Yorba Linda Heritage Museum and Historical Society couldn't be more pleased that a developer has agreed to donate to the city the last remaining building of the historic Bryant Ranch and has agreed to restore it.
The deal developed from a proposal to build a 48-unit housing tract around the former ranch house.
According to the plan, approved by the City Council Tuesday, Mission Viejo-based Pacific Heritage Development will preserve the house and a bank of nearby eucalyptus trees, turning them over to the museum and the city when all of the new homes are sold.
"I was totally shocked," Mary Ruth Erickson, president of the historical society, said of the offer. "I didn't expect to have a building in my lifetime."
Up to now, the group has had no luck finding permanent quarters. Since it was founded in the early 1970s, the society has had to store its treasures in garages and lockers across the city, with a few items finding space at Cal State Fullerton's museum.
Among the society's treasures are the display cabinets from the first drug store in Yorba Linda, the examination table from a turn-of-the-century doctor's office and numerous articles of vintage clothing and hats.
In 1986, the group was set to move into a former ranch-hand house at Bryant Ranch, but the building burned down.
The group's three dozen members, who had raised $30,000 to restore the house as a museum, continued to meet at the public library and look for other sites, but the group's size and enthusiasm dwindled.
The gift of the last Bryant building gives the group hope at last for a permanent headquarters and a secure future.
Built in 1913, the building was the home of Susanna Bixby Bryant, who inherited the 5,600-acre ranch from her father, John Bixby.
Community Development Director Patricia Haley said the Bryant home, when restored, may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Once the housing development is completed and all units are sold, the historical society will move in with its hundreds of already cataloged articles.
If all goes as planned, docents will give tours of the museum, and experts on local history will give guest lectures.
"We want to demonstrate to the community that our efforts have been paying off," board member Paul Armstrong said.