SPRING CITY—An effort stretching back 40 years wrapped up for good last week when the Friends of Historic Spring City paid off a $608,175 loan for restoration of the historic Spring City School.
“This is a real milestone in our historic little town,” Randal Thatcher, co-president of the Friends, said at a Spring City Council meeting Thursday, Jan. 6.
“…What I hold in my hand is a check in the amount of $20,382.79…made out to Spring City Corporation. This check represents the final payment on a great big loan that the city took out, a 30-year loan that we are now paying off 20 years early.”
What that means, Thatcher said, is that the ownership and stewardship of “this beautiful, old historic building, so lovingly restored over…upwards of 40 years” now transfers from Friends of Historic Spring City to the city government.
The eight-classroom elementary school was designed by Richard C. Watkins, a famous Utah architect, in the Victorian eclectic style. Watkins designed other notable buildings, including the Peteetneet Academy in Payson and the Piute County Courthouse in Junction.
Construction was completed in 1899. The building continued in use until 1957, when the North Sanpete School District sold it to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) for $1. However, the building fell into serious disrepair. In 1987, the DUP transferred the title to the city because of liability concerns.
About that time, the Friends organized and fundraising efforts began. But progress was slow until 2012, when the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB) approved a $323,175 grant and $323,175 loan, for a total of $646,350.
Because the CIB required a show of local effort, Spring City had to accept both a loan and a grant. As the Sanpete Messenger reported at the time, “No loan, no grant.” But they couldn’t afford to pay off the loan. So Friends of Historic Spring City agreed to donate the full amount of the loan payments.
In fact, the city came up with an ingenious plan. It deposited the loan proceeds in a savings account. As the Friends made donations, the city transferred the amount of the donations from the savings account to the project—and used the Friends’ money for payments on the loan. That way, the city always had enough in savings to pay off any remaining balance on the loan.
In 2016, the money from the first grant and loan was starting to run out, yet restoration wasn’t finished. So the city applied to the CIB again. This time, it got a grant for $290,000 and a loan for $285,000, for a total of $575,000. That brought total CIB funding to $1,221,350 and brought the Friends’ obligation to $608,175.
The project also received major funding from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation and from Yvonne Whitmore of Rochester, N.Y., who attended the school and later married a man who became CEO of Kodak.
The Utah Legislature kicked in the final funding. At the end, the tab was $1.8 million. The building was dedicated in June 2017.
“Never, ever did I doubt the Friends would do this,” outgoing Mayor Cynthia DeGrey told the crowd that filled the city council chambers, now located in the restored school itself. She described payoff of a $600,000 loan by the local nonprofit as “a big deal.”
To mark the occasion, DeGrey personally served cake to residents in the lobby of the school after the council meeting wrapped up.