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Mt. Pleasant’s Alma Staker House, constructed of abode brick on the corner of 300 South and 100 East, still proudly exhibits its Greek-temple style (a bigger, taller central unit crossed by smaller “wing” units).

 

 

Staker house example of ‘temple form’

now found in a few places

 

By Doug Lowe

Staff writer

6-18-2020

 

MT. PLEASANT—Complete examples of the popular pioneer-era home known as the Greek-inspired “temple form” can be found today in only two places across Utah: one in Springville, the other in Mt. Pleasant.

Official recognition of the historic value of the “Alma Staker House”, on the northeast corner of 300 South and100 East, came in the summer of 1979 when the structure was approved for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Architectural historians refer to Staker’s adobe home, as a “vernacular version” of Greek-revival construction because of its “central up-right,” that is at least half a story taller than two single story “wings” that flank both sides of the taller central unit. That main unit is also deeper, consisting of two equal sized rooms, while each of the wings, which are set back somewhat, consists of only one room. As a result, the floor plan has the shape of a Greek cross with four equally protruding arms as in the mathematical plus sign (+).

According to one of the property’s latest owners, Ken Burton, “When my dad and I have finally had all the restoration work done, then we will proudly place that famous little “National Historic Registry” plaque on the building.”

Dave and Janette Burton stand in front of the pioneer-era home his grandparents, Charles and Augusta Jones, bought from the Staker family in 1907. As the home’s co-owner, with son Ken, who lives in Florida, Dave has become the general contractor on a unique historic restoration project.

Alma Staker, the original builder and owner of the now historically abode home, was the son of Nathan Staker, a Canadian who had studied to be a Methodist minister before converting to the Mormon faith in the early 1830s. Nathan and his wife, Jane Richmond, became part of the gathering at Kirkland where their fourth child, Alma, was born. With other saints, the Stakers moved from place to place, and were in Pigeon Grove, Iowa when Jane died.

Continuing westward, by 1853, the widower had settled his family in Pleasant Grove. And, in 1857, Nathan married Eliza Cussworth. His grown son, Alma, one year earlier than his father, married Elizabeth Young at Mt. Pleasant.

In 1870, some 14 years after marrying Elizabeth, who he called “Eliza,” Alma recorded a patent deed to the lot where the home that he built still stands. The exact date of construction cannot be determined, but experts think it is likely Alma completed the dwelling in the early 1870s. Staker was a sawyer, carpenter and farmer. Also, a member of the United Order and a high priest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A generation or two of Stakers lived in the house until 1907, when it was sold to Charles and Augusta Jones for $500. Married in 1895, Charles and Augusta had the last few of their 10 children in Alma Staker’s former home. One of those children, a daughter named Carole, who was born in the house in 1909, married Abram Burton, and the couple built a log house next door to the abode home of her parents, directly west, on a lot that had been part of Staker’s original land.

It is the son of Carole Jones Burton, Dave Burton, and his son, Kenneth Burton, who bought both homes in 2016, when Dave’s sister, Karen, decide to sell the two properties that she owned. According to Dave, it was his son, Ken, who “got all excited about buying the two houses when he heard that his aunt, Karen, wanted to sell.”

Speaking to the Messenger from his home in Florida, Ken relates fond memories of playing “almost daily” in and around the two homes, side by side, where his grandparents, Abram and Carole Burton, and his great grandparents, Charles and Augusta Jones had homes next to each other.

Official documents obtained from Roger Roper, who recently moved to Mt. Pleasant as the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer responsible for this area, revealed that in 1907, Ken’s great grandparents, the Jones, purchased Alma Staker’s abode home from the Staker family members for $500, and began living there with their growing family of six or seven children.

Two years later, in 1909, Ken’s grandmother, Carole, became one of the few of the 10 Jones children actually born in the newly acquired abode home that been build, back in the late 1860s or early 1870s by Alma Staker.

 

A newly constructed staircase, in the left wing of the home, replaces a much narrower, steeper, and “decidedly dangerous” set of stairs now removed from the back room of the central structure. The ten children of Charles and Augusta had their rooms on the second floor of the home’s two-room central unit, and the sloping attics above both the wings on each side.

 

Some 50 years later, after Carole Jones married Abram Burton, she and her husband constructed their own home—a log cabin outfitted with modern amenities like in-door plumbing and electrical wiring.

Soon after that, Augusta began living next door, with her daughter and son-in-law, while Charles continued to live next door in the old adobe home without any electricity or running water: except for a single, pipe running to a spigot at their kitchen sink and filling a hot water reservoir attached to the wood-burning stove.

Because Ken’s parents, Dave and Janette Burton, lived in a home “only a couple blocks from “continuously remodeled log cabin,” young Ken was able to spend lots of his free time inside the old adobe, which was being used mostly for storage at the time.

Evidence of the 12-year-old boy’s desire to bring electricity to the old adobe home, where he dad grew up, can still be seen in the deep holes and channels that Ken dug into the interior abode walls in order to accommodate the electrical wiring he planned to install there some day. Now, more than 30 years later, electrical lines will soon be entering the home—possibly, even using the holes and channels created by Ken.

Ken’s dad, Dave Burton, explained that in 2016 he agreed to partner with his son to buy both houses that his sister, Karen, was putting on the market.

Given that one of the two homes had no electricity and no bathroom, Dave and his son were unable to find a lender was willing to provide a mortgage loan. At that point, Janette Burton, gave a reluctant blessing for her husband and son to use a second-mortgage on her home, to obtain the money needed for a cash purchase.

Since purchasing both of the side-by-side homes, the remodeled and expanded log cabin, now painted yellow and looking very contemporary, has been rented out for what Janette describes as “enough to cover payment on the second mortgage,” while work on the Staker’s home restoration project slowly moves forward. With Ken working as a software engineer in Florida, Dave is left to function as the project’s general contractor. And, he reports, “I have been having trouble keeping a carpenter on the job long enough to reach the point when an electrician and plumber can come in to do their thing.”

For carpenters, the work of restoring a very old home is dirtier and harder than new construction. So, keeping a good one can definitely be difficult.

In addition, repairing and preserving a historic home, listed on the state or national registry, requires more careful and expensive way of doing things. Repairing the leaking roof cost, in the approved way, involved spending some $15,000. Likewise, replacing rotten windows with new ones built to historic standards was a $10,000 expenditure. And, having the old exterior abode repaired and preserved, took nearly $7,000.

To help finance those costs, the Burton have obtained a $50,000 low interest loan from the private non-profit organization, Preservation Utah. And, grant of $3,000 was received by Sanpete County thanks to funding provided by the Certified Local Government program of the Utah State Division of Historic Preservation. According to Roper, Sanpete’s elected leaders and staff had to “jump thru hoops” that included enacting a special ordinance, taking on expanded responsibilities, and setting up a special committee to oversee the grant making.

The Burton have hope that when their preservation efforts show a certain amount of progress, they may qualify for an additional $3,000 grant from the county. And, at an even later stage, with fully functioning electric, water, and sewer service, Ken and his father expect to be able to finally qualify for conventional mortgage funding. For Janette, the day when the second mortgage is no longer necessary cannot come too soon.

Ultimately, all three Burtons hope that the restored historic home will become a popular Airbnb rental property. When that day arrives, the Burtons and their renters will add stories that the structure’s abode walls could tell—if only walls could talk.

The log beam above an attic window has a smoke-blackened exterior that some mistakenly think resulted from fire, while experts believe it was deposited over many years simply by the stray smoke that leaked from stoves and stove pipes. In those days, virtually every room was heated by some sort of cast iron stove with a thin-walled stove pipe located behind or above the heat source.