Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center seeking National Register of Historic Places designationNov 02, 2021 12:35PM ● By Carl Fauver
The historic Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center still looks marvelous from a distance. But a closer peek reveals several areas where the 115-year-old home needs repairs. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
It was just about a year ago when members of the Taylorsville Historic Preservation Committee began lending a hand to their neighbors, just down the road from them on 4800 South. That’s when the owners of the Al-rasool Islamic Center (1247 West 4800 South) asked the committee for assistance in beginning the paperwork required for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Just a couple of blocks west of the Islamic Center, the Preservation Committee’s “headquarters” is the Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center (1488 West 4800 South).
“We were happy to assist them, and we knew at the time we would also be seeking a spot on the National Register,” Historic Preservation Committee Chair Susan Yadeskie said. “They were a little further along in the process last year. But we’re ready to go now.”
Perhaps it’s appropriate the Islamic Center got moving earlier, since it is housed in an older building. The center is in a former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward house, built in 1894. The onetime farmhouse now serving as the Heritage Center was constructed in 1906.
In addition to the prestige a position on the National Register of Historic Places offers, the listing also opens doors to more grant funding. To understand that connection, you have to wade a bit into the National Park Service “weeds.”
According to its website (nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com), “The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archeological resources.”
The National Park Service operates something called the “Certified Local Government” program, which provides grant funding for historic preservation. Once a structure is CLG certified, more Uncle Sam funding becomes available for structural repairs, something Yadeskie says the Heritage Center desperately needs.
“Taylorsville City has always been very generous to us by paying [Heritage Center] utilities and providing a modest annual budget,” she said. “But this home is more than 100 years old and needs more extensive repairs. The outside eves are getting so bad, repair crews will have to work off of old photos to determine how they should look. We don’t have a specific bid for all the repairs the house needs, but there’s a lot.”
Yadeskie isn’t sure how long the process will take to earn a spot on the National Register, but she’s pleased to finally get that ball rolling. She recently updated Taylorsville City Council members about the process, while also reporting her committee is now thriving.
“Our committee has great teamwork, with a lot of camaraderie and mutual respect,” she told them. “In March through December of 2020, a total of 1,267 volunteer hours were devoted to the Heritage Center. And in January through August of this year, we had 1390 volunteer hours.”
Yadeskie reports the nationally accepted value of a volunteer hour is $23, meaning those 2,657 volunteer hours over a 17-month period saved the city $61,111.
Among the most active volunteers at the Heritage Center, aside from Historic Preservation Committee members, are the Boy Scouts and adult leaders from Taylorsville BSA Troop 117. They provide a work crew at the museum once a month in exchange for being allowed to use the adjacent dairy store building for their weekly meetings.
“It’s an amazing, symbiotic relationship we have with them,” said Scoutmaster Steve Plothow. “They have been very generous to provide us with a place to meet, and our boys volunteer time outside the museum. The Scouts mostly trim shrubs, clean flowerbeds and rake. They’ve also done some painting on the picket fence around the old schoolhouse.”
The troop only recently returned to meeting inside the dairy store on Oct. 14. Before that, for several months, warm and dry weather allowed them to meet on the spacious lawn area east of the historic house.
Mayor Kristie Overson is among the city officials grateful to the Scouts and other volunteers who keep the Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center in operation.
“It was such a good investment [in 2001] for the city to purchase that home,” Overson said. “The museum is beautiful, and it would not be that way, without our volunteers. We support [the Historic Preservation Committee] in applying for the Historic Register. Anytime we can recognize the past, it’s a good thing. Our roots for many Taylorsville residents run very deep. Honoring and recognizing our history is important.”
Overson also made a recent “donation” to the Historic Preservation Committee, by allowing the city’s Communication Director Kim Horiuchi to put in some time on a special project at the Heritage Center.
“When coronavirus forced us to cancel our elementary school tours in the spring of 2020, students and teachers were disappointed,” Yadeskie said. “So, this spring, Kim Horiuchi and her daughter videotaped ten vignettes to post online. We invited school teachers to make use of them, since we still weren’t able to host in-person student field trips. Kim and her daughter did all the filming on a single day (March 26), and they were uploaded to the [Taylorsville City] website just a month later (April 24). I was amazed how fast they got them done, and they look great.”
The four- to-seven-minute videos highlight the bedrooms, kitchen, music room and even bathrooms in the old farmhouse, along with the playhouse, blacksmith shop and schoolhouse outside. Even the many animals cared for on the Heritage Center property are highlighted. The videos are available at taylorsvilleut.gov/our-city/museum/virtual-tour.
“My daughter, Rylee Horiuchi, and I spent a Saturday at the museum filming,” Kim Horiuchi said. “Then Rylee took a couple of weeks editing the videos.”
“The filming was very insightful, and I learned a lot about our history,” University of Utah graduate Rylee Horiuchi added. “It was an easy process because the speakers had everything well-rehearsed. You could tell they have given these talks many times.”
Even as the video vignettes continue to collect online “hits,” Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center volunteers plan to resume in-person elementary school field trips next spring. Those are coordinated by Historic Preservation Committee member, and past committee chair, Joan White.
“We didn’t host any field trips in 2020, and only two of them last year, so we are excited to have the kids returning this spring,” White said. “Normally we host 12 to 15 student tours, each with about 50 to 75 kids.”
The Taylorsville Bennion Heritage Center won’t enjoy a position on the National Register of Historic Places by then. But Yadeskie is confident they will be closer. After that, the paperwork will begin on grant requests to fund the kinds of repairs community volunteers can’t handle on their own.