Deskins transform ‘dump’
into a showpiece
By Ben Lasseter
GUNNISON—Lilburn and Loy Deskins moved to Gunnison ready to make a house that “looked like it needed to be bulldozed” into their home.
The couple and their three children lived in an old school house that Lilburn restored in Missouri before they came to Utah sixteen years ago. Having lived in four countries in Europe and Asia and five states before Missouri, they had experience with moving and bought and undertook the 94 S. 100 East home as a project that would ultimately save them money.
“He felt like he was up to it, and he absolutely turned it into a place of beauty,” Loy Deskins said of her husband’s approach to the project.
The first Gunnison City record of the house says its construction was in 1915, but a photo a neighbor showed the Deskins dated it as far back as 1895. Part of its beauty in that period of time was a lining of hundreds of crab apple trees known as “Million Dollar Row” running along the street. Before the Deskins, the house’s walls were caving in, the floors were sinking, and the lot was empty of grass or trees.
Now, the house is a showpiece of the city, thanks to more than five years of work by the owners and some help they received. Large windows of rectangular and semi-circular shapes overlook a lush lawn and steel fence, all the Deskins’ doing. Heavy, sandstone-brick walls and red roof shingles under green trim and a mélange of architectural elements enclose the 2,154 square feet with 11 rooms inside. Some of the original stone is visible just inside the back door.
“I knew I could do this sort of work,” Lilburn Deskins said. “Everything I could do, I did.”
This included building back and front porches, porch steps and the fence. He also built support for a once-crumbling primary wall, replaced the wood in the in the living room floor, replaced the first-floor trim, renovated a 400-square-foot garage and filled the lot in with grass, trees and colorful bushes.
Even today, he has to work hard to keep the historic home in shape. Loy Deskins said he still paints the exterior, even on a ladder sometimes to reach the high points.
“It’s just a matter of upkeep at this point,” she said. “If I had it to do over again, at our age, I would get a place that doesn’t require the repainting.”
The couple also received help during the major overhaul. Professionals tuck-pointed the house, re-shingled the roof, replaced the wood in the dining room floor and painted the walls. One of the couple’s two sons, who preferred to keep his name out of print, spent three days building the cherry-red banister that lines the staircase and holds Christmas wreaths during the holiday season.
The inside of the house is a striking evolution from its time of near ruin, as much thanks to its interior elements as to the structural refurbishment. Loy Deskins said the “homey feel” has made the place well worth the sacrifices they made to transform it.
“Every time I go away and then come back, it’s just beautiful to be home inside,” she said.
The house is full of antiques and vintage furniture and appliances. Dark-stained, carved cabinets, tables and chairs in the living room and dining room reflect contrast the tall, white walls. There is also a heating stove in the living room and stack of wood in the corner to fuel it.
Also downstairs are a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and laundry room. Other antiques those rooms feature include old-fashioned raised sinks, a clawfoot bathtub and a sewing mill.
Lilburn Deskins decided to keep the original trim in the two bedrooms, office, family room and bathroom upstairs.
Loy Deskins said she and her husband have never lived anywhere else as long as the sixteen years they have spent in Gunnison.
They moved there to live in between their daughter working in Las Vegas and their sons who went to BYU and Utah Valley University in Provo. Loy Deskins joked that they bought the historic home in ruins because it was cheap but also said they wanted to find a home to fix up similar to the school building they had made their own in Missouri.
“We wanted to find a house somewhere in between everybody, and we wanted to be out in the West,” Lilburn Deskins said.
In Missouri, the Deskins attended a ward building that was 30 miles from their home. Their more rural lifestyle there required a lot of driving with active children.
Gunnison, though no metropolis itself, allows the Deskins to have a ward chapel in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the neighborhood. They have more of a community of people there than in their former area.
“There are good people here in Gunnison,” Lilburn Deskins said. “Gunnison is nice, and we have friends here.”
Loy Deskins said a neighbor had given her the idea to list the home on the National Register of Historic Places. As of now, Gunnison has three sites in the database kept by the National Park Service: the Casino Theatre, the Metcalf House and the Oberg-Metcalf House.