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Taylorsville Journal

National Register of Historic Places finally adds its first Taylorsville building to the list

May 30, 2022 05:57PM ● By Carl Fauver

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

After cutting through a mountain of red tape for nearly a year – including a complicated application process, requiring a paid researcher and “paperwork wrangler” – owners of the Al-rasool Islamic Center in Taylorsville (1247 West 4800 South) now find their 128-year-old building on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the very first structure in the city to enjoy that designation, although a second could be just a few months away.

Board member and Sunday School teacher Hassan Mardanlou was one of the Islamic Center’s driving forces in shepherding the historic site onto the prestigious list.

“It is such an honor and privilege to get our center onto the registry and to be the first Taylorsville building on it,” Mardanlou said. “This is such a marvelous place and a piece of standing history. So many people came together to make this possible, including [Taylorsville Historic Preservation Committee Chair] Susan [Yadeskie]. With all the help we received, it’s so nice to reach our goal.”

A north facing stone on the Islamic Center is weathered, but still clearly shows the building’s construction date of 1894. That’s just one year after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Salt Lake City Temple was dedicated. Also constructed by the Church, the Taylorsville structure was one of the faith’s earliest meeting houses in the valley.

“I attended church in that building back before I graduated from high school [in 1971],” Yadeskie said. “I had so many wonderful flashbacks when I toured the building. All of those childhood memories brought tears to my eyes.”

Yadeskie and her fellow Historic Preservation Committee members are now more hopeful than ever that their “headquarters” – the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center, just two-and-a-half blocks west of the Islamic Center (1488 West 4800 South) will be next on the National Register.

“We have hired the same person who put together the National Register application for the Islamic Center to do ours,” Yadeskie added. “It should be ready to submit in a couple of weeks – and could be approved before the end of the year.”

The stately white farmhouse that now serves as a museum – and the home base for the Historic Preservation Committee – went up in 1906. Taylorsville purchased the home in 2001, just five years after the city was incorporated.

“It was such a good investment for the city to purchase that home,” Taylorsville Mayor Kristie 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.”

The heritage center bounced back from recent coronavirus restrictions to host a half dozen elementary school field trips this spring. That comes after only two such tours last year and none in 2020.

Cory Jensen is the National Register Coordinator for the Utah State Historic Preservation Office. He worked closely with Hassan Mardanlou to pull together the information needed to add the Islamic Center to the list.

“The State National Register Review Board meets quarterly and normally reviews about five register nominations at each of their meetings,” Jensen explained. “When the board met [over Zoom] in January, Hassan spoke to the members and made a great presentation [for the Islamic Center]. About 1,400 Utah buildings are on the National Register and this is the first in Taylorsville.”

One of the very first driving forces behind getting the Islamic Center listed on the register turned out to be one of the last people to learn they had finally succeeded. Early in this lengthy process, Hassan’s nephew, David Mardanlou, spent about $7,000 of his own money to fund a study of the center’s rich history and its structural repair needs.

“We learned our building was the second LDS meetinghouse in all of Utah,” David Mardanlou said. “After helping with some of the early research, I handed the project off to my uncle [Hassan] and Susan [Yadeskie]. I first learned we had made the list when my uncle invited me to a Ramadan meal at the Islamic Center, where I ate with him, Susan, Mayor Overson and the Taylorsville Police Chief [Brady Cottam]. I remember thinking, ‘It’s really cool we got on the register; but it’s also really cool I am having dinner with the Mayor and Chief of Police.’ They have 1,000 people who regularly attend the Islamic Center. I am happy for them, because this National Register listing should make it easier to get grant funding to make repairs.”

Besides the prestige of being on the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places, that is probably the single biggest motivator groups have in gaining the distinction – it potentially opens grant revenue streams.

“I am not aware of specific groups or foundations that only donate grants to National Register sites,” Cory Jensen explained. “But I do know the listing definitely gives these structures a new level of cachet. The register means it is now a bonified building, worthy of financial contributions.”

“Right now, we need to get together with Susan Yadeskie and our other supporters to discuss where we should look for grant funding,” Hassan Mardanlou concluded. “The Islamic Center needs lots of asphalt, foundation and ceiling repairs. We also sustained damage during the 2020 earthquake. We are definitely looking forward to applying for grants so we can get moving on the work.”

That early study David Mardanlou helped pay for found the Islamic Center needs about $900,000 worth of repairs.

Though not nearly as high of a price tag, the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center is also in need of significant repairs – more than city officials say they can afford. Just like the Islamic Center, once the heritage center earns its National Register listing, Historic Preservation Committee members will begin searching for deep pockets that support the maintenance of such structures.

“We were happy to assist the Islamic Center in getting its spot on the National Register,” Yadeskie concluded. “We are also thrilled Taylorsville finally has a building on the list. Now we want [the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center] t
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