Wasatch Academy named most beautiful school in Utah
By Linda Petersen
MT. PLEASANT—Anyone who has driven through Mt. Pleasant has noticed the historic homes and buildings and expansive grounds that make up the Wasatch Academy campus. Now, a news website out of New York City has named it the most beautiful school in Utah.
On May 4, the Business Insider, a financial and business news website at www.businessinsider.com, included Wasatch Academy in an article titled, “The most beautiful schools in every state.”
According to the story, the Business Insider consulted a list from Architectural Digest of the most beautiful public and private schools. The website also looked at schools that had won design awards or had “stunning natural environs.”
Wasatch Academy, which was founded in 1875, was one of the oldest schools on the list. The majority of schools chosen were built between 1910 and 1950.
“To take full advantage of its mountainous environs, Wasatch Academy offers an outdoor adventure program. Students can explore the rugged Utah terrain by biking, climbing, skiing, and snowboarding,” the article says.
“I am extremely proud and honored by us winning this distinction,” Joe Loftin, head of school, said. “We have this extremely beautiful historic campus that is 143 years old. We really have a one-of-a-kind campus. When architects visit the school they are so excited to see so many architectural periods represented.”
Over the last 30 or so years, much of the Wasatch Academy campus has undergone major restoration, according to Jim Berlin, facilities manager.
One of the first changes was replacing coal-fired furnaces with natural gas furnaces. After that, the buildings, many of which had chocolate brown trim to hide the soot produced by the coal, could be repainted and “restored to their old glory,” Berlin said.
“We knew if we kept after it, eventually it would look pretty great,” Berlin said of the restoration efforts.
Since then, many of the buildings on the campus have been restored. The school has received 10 restoration awards from the Utah Heritage Foundation. And the whole campus is listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.
Some of the notable restorations have included the Wasatch Presbyterian Church, which was transformed into a music center; Liberal Hall on State Street, the oldest building, which is now a museum; and Pierce Hall, originally a private home, which is now a dormitory and guest house.
Including at least a dozen restored faculty homes, the 15-acre campus contains about 50 buildings, Berlin said. Currently, renovation work is moving forward on the old administration building, which will be a learning support center, And reconstruction should begin this fall on the arts buildings on State Street, which will be transformed into an engineering complex.
A new 30,000-square-foot activity center has just been completed west of the multi-purpose building near the school’s tennis courts.