‘It’s been a long road’
Historic Spring City School dedicated
SPRING CITY—“It was a struggle,” Craig Paulsen, the contractor who shepherded restoration of the historic Spring City School for more than 40 years, said a couple of times during his talk at the dedication of the building last week.
Alison Anderson, president of the Friends of Historic Spring City, who steered the project to completion over the past four years, sounded a similar note.
“It has been a long road, and sometimes a thankless one, and I have so much respect for those who have stayed the course,” she said.
But the dedication last Friday, May 26, which brought about 300 people to the lawn of the 118-year-old school, was a victory celebration.
Equally important, the gathering provided an opportunity to recognize dozens of individuals and groups who had helped save the ornate building.
The event kicked off with patriotic songs by a chorus from the current Spring City Elementary School.
After that, and one of the most colorful moments, was the flag ceremony where members of a veteran’s organization unveiled the U.S. and state flags from a portico on the second level of the school.
The first speaker, Mayor Jack Monnett, said what stood out for him was the involvement of so many for several decades in bringing the $1.8 million project to fruition.
He asked people in the audience with a connection to the school or the restoration project to stand, including former teachers and students; members of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, the group that purchased the building from the school board in the 1970s and thus prevented its demolition; members of Friends of Historic Spring City, the group that spearheaded the restoration; and “others who donated time or money.”
By the time the mayor got to the end of his list, people scattered throughout the audience were standing.
Monnett also read a letter from Kirk Huffaker, president of Preservation Utah, a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City that has promoted historic preservation statewide for about as long as people have been working to save the Spring City School.
“I extend our heartfelt congratulations on the completion and celebration of the Historic Spring City School,” Huffaker wrote. “It is an occasion that so many people have contributed to, bringing diverse means of support to a project that has created a ripple effect of involvement for several decades across the state and beyond Utah’s borders.”
The second speaker at the dedication was Paulsen, who described early efforts to secure the building against the weather and prevent the roof from collapsing, so the dilapidated school could be restored at some point in the future.
“This building has been a huge part of my life almost since my wife and I moved here in 1974,” he said. “…It was a huge undertaking to figure out how and what in the world would become of this building. Now it’s going to be the pride of Spring City.”
For a town the size of Spring City to accomplish such a feat, “I think we should give a hand to ourselves,” he said.
John Potter, vice president of Friends of Historic Spring City and the group’s primary contact with the George S. and Dolores Dore Foundation, talked about the role of the foundation, which got involved 20 years ago and ended up making multiple grants totaling $300,000.
The foundation made an early grant to install heating and electrical systems on one floor of the building. And in the past year, it matched local fund raising and a legislative appropriation to complete the financing.
Another speaker was Yvonne Whitmore, 89, also a major donor. She grew up across the street from and attended the school. Later, she married and spent her adulthood in New York State.
“I’m happy to be here,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d make it. It’s a special occasion in my life.”
The keynote speaker was Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who lives a few miles away in Fairview. “We’re Sanpeters,” he said. “We are who we are because of where we grew up. That’s why you’re here today, because Sanpete is part of you.”
While Cox’s family has lived in the county for four generations, the lieutenant governor tipped his hat to people who have moved in and adopted the county “because without you, we wouldn’t be able to do some of the things we’ve done.”
As exemplified by the Spring City project, the defining attributes of Sanpete residents, he said, are willingness to “do hard things” and “pulling together for the community.”
In her talk, the final one during the dedication, Anderson read a quote from a famous architect about the importance of protecting and revering buildings so multiple generations can benefit from them.
“This desire to save and shore up and preserve this old building, and the other pioneer-era structures in Sanpete County, for comfortable, beautiful use in the present, and reverent, joyful use by future generations, has been the philosophy adopted by those who have helped make this restoration possible,” she said.
Then she recognized, and called to the front, if present, about 20 individuals, or representative of groups, who had played pivotal roles in the restoration. The lineup included representatives from the Utah Community Impact Board, a representative of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area, artists who painted paintings and sold them to raise money for the restoration, the architect and a number of donors.
The school will become a community center housing a DUP museum, city offices, private offices and studios, and space that can be rented for conferences and receptions.