Manti couple gets $10K prize for restoring home
MANTI—A Manti couple recently received a $10,000 prize in a home restoration contest sponsored by This Old House Magazine, and offshoot of the former public TV show of the same name.
The award went to James and Shannon Miller for their restoration of the pioneer-era Ezra and Abigail Shoemaker House in northwest Manti, once regarded as one of the grandest homes in the community.
Besides restoring the house, which is made from the same kind of oolite stone used in the Manti LDS Temple, the Millers got the home listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Shannon Miller says it took 10 years to restore the house. When they started the project, they were both working on the Wasatch Front. They came to Manti on weekends to work on the house.
Shannon describes herself as an “aficionado” of This Old House. She subscribed to the magazine and watched the TV show regularly for about 25 years.
In October 2015, as the Shoemaker project reach an end, she entered the magazine contest. She was one of more than 250 applicants.
It was quite a while before the Millers heard anything, to the point that the contest was almost completely out of their minds when the magazine called them in February to inform them that they had made the top 10. “It surprised us immensely,” Shannon says.
In March, after several more phone calls and interviews, the Millers got a call informing them they had received the top prize. However, This Old House was not ready to go public because a story about the prize wasn’t scheduled until the October magazine.
The contest managers swore them to secrecy, Shannon says. “We had to go from March to October without telling anyone we had won the contest. It was hard to keep the secret.”
The house had stood derelict for more than 30 years before the Millers purchased it.
“Our love affair with this house, and the town it’s in, began years ago, when I was traveling around southern Utah for work and got tired of staying in hotels,” Shannon told the magazine. “I used to come through Manti a lot, and I talked Jim, who works a couple of hours away, into acquiring a home base (in Manti).”
The couple restored one oolite home on the east side of Manti a block from the Manti LDS Temple. “No sooner had we fixed up our first house than I spotted an even better one,” Shannon said. “It needed everything, but we did it.”
The house had been subject to a great deal of damage and maltreatment. Most notably, the staircase in the middle of the house had been torn apart. Structural posts and beams had also been removed, and holes had been punched into several walls.
Now, those problems have been repaired, and a new staircase, a replica of the original, dominates the majestic main floor.
As the Millers worked on the house, the budget for the job continued to climb. “We quit counting [dollar amounts],” Shannon says, “but it was all worth it. We truly have the pioneers to thank for all of this. Their inspirational structural designs and spirit is why we were committed to restoring this home.”
“I think it’s wonderful that we got to the point where we could win a contest,” Jim says. “This was a labor of love, and it was fun to be recognized once it was fixed. We love the pioneer heritage of this house, which is why we made it a restoration rather than a fix up.”
Plans for using the money come down to a two-word answer: “Save it,” Shannon says.