Two Taylorsville structures now listed on the National Register of Historic Places need massive improvementsFeb 06, 2023 02:06PM ● By Carl Fauver
The Al-rasool Islamic Center, built in 1894, officially became the first Taylorsville building listed on the National Register of Historic Places last spring. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
A year ago at this time, Taylorsville City did not have one single structure featured on the prestigious National Register of Historic Places. But it was common knowledge a pair of buildings were close – and people had begun processing all the paperwork required to achieve those listings.
Sure enough, last spring, the oldest known structure in the city – the Al-rasool Islamic Center (1247 W. 4800 South), built originally in 1894 – was added to the historic registry. Then last fall, the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center – just a couple of blocks west of the Islamic Center (1488 W. 4800 South) – was also listed.
The Islamic Center was originally constructed 129 years ago as a meeting house for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church continued to own and operate it for decades, but it has since changed hands a couple of times.
The heritage center is actually listed on the national registry as the “John and Jennette Gerrard House.” It was constructed in 1906.
As described on the Utah Division of State History website (history.utah.gov), “The Gerrard House is significant for its strong representation of vernacular Victorian Eclectic architecture. The dwelling is one of only a few known 2-story Central-Block-with-Projecting-Bay-type buildings (in Utah) that retain substantial integrity of materials, design and workmanship. The house stands out as an architectural landmark on the major street (4800 South) where it is situated.”
Even longtime Taylorsville residents are hard-pressed now to recall the site’s Gerrard House heritage. Most people age 40+ likely think of the site as the Jones Dairy Farmhouse. Taylorsville City purchased the stately white farmhouse in 2001. And, of course, it’s now operated by the city’s volunteer Historic Preservation Committee as a museum.
Councilwoman Meredith Harker is the city’s liaison to that committee.
“I have always believed the museum should be on (the National Register of Historic Places) because it is a Taylorsville icon,” Harker said. “I was very excited to learn when we officially made the list. It’s always been there. When someone says ‘the dairy’ in Taylorsville, people know exactly what they are talking about. And now it’s a great place for us to showcase Taylorsville history.”
So, the “good part” of their stories is now behind both these groups – those who worked for the Islamic Center’s listing and those who did the same for the heritage center. But that is so 2022. Now in 2023, these same groups are working equally hard to actually keep their historic register structures upright.
Hassan Mardanlou serves on the Al-rasool Islamic Center Board, teaches Sunday School at the site to about 120 kids each week and was one of the center’s most active members working to achieve the historic register designation.
Unfortunately, a recent structural assessment estimates the Islamic Center needs about $900,000 worth of repairs. Mardanlou reports they’ve not been able to take much of a bite out of that so far.
“Our biggest expenditure in recent years was a new heating and air conditioning system, which cost about $10,000,” he explained. “We’ve also spent about $3,000 on the materials needed to seal some of our outside bricks where rain was washing away the original sandstone mortar. We provided all the labor for that project ourselves. Since 2021, we’ve also upgraded our sound system for about $1,500 and installed a new outside air ventilation system for about $1,100.”
In other words, Islamic Center patrons have gotten a start on their massive repair list, but still have a long way to go.
“Last November we created a GoFundMe page to try to generate repair donations,” Mardanlou added. “But as of mid-January, that site was showing only $2,118 in donations.”
If you would like to contribute to their effort, simply go to the GoFundMe website (gofundme.com), click the “search” button at the top of the home page and type in “alrasool.”
“Now that we have the historic register designation, we are also working to put together a grant request to submit to an organization called the National Fund for Sacred Places (fundforsacredplaces.org),” Mardanlou continued. “And we are working to spread the word other organizations can make use of our space for a donation to the repair fund. We would love, for example, to rent meeting space to a Boy Scout troop.”
Down the street at the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center, BSA Scoutmaster Steve Plothow and his Taylorsville Troop 117 have already been meeting in the adjacent “Jones Dairy Store” for quite some time. However, they do not pay “rent.” Instead, the boys perform monthly cleanup and maintenance chores around the store and museum grounds.
Obviously though, in terms of repair funding, the heritage center is in a much better position than the Islamic Center because it is owned by Taylorsville City. Over the past two years, the city council has earmarked about $70,000 in one-time tax dollar funding for necessary improvements.
“Our biggest repair expenditures in recent months have been for window resealing and replacing decaying wood around the second floor of the heritage center,” Historic Preservation Committee Chairwoman Susan Yadeskie explained. “Also last year, I, my husband and a couple of other committee members redid the old schoolhouse (just north of) the museum. We scraped, sanded and repainted the exterior. Right now, we are putting together a priority list for more repairs and investigating organizations that provide grants for historic structures.”
Yadeskie’s committee is hopeful they can earn funding through something called the Certified Local Government Grant Program. There again, the Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center has a distinct advantage over the Islamic Center in securing this type of funding because it is government-owned while the other is not.
“We are excited to have both the Islamic Center and Taylorsville-Bennion Heritage Center now included on the National Register of Historic Places,” Mayor Kristie Overson concluded. “They are each a feather in our city’s cap – and show how important recognizing history is to our residents. I also think it is very generous the Islamic Center board is offering to open their historic site for other community groups. That’s a win for everyone, because it’s a wonderful place to visit.”
Now that these two structures are on the national register, no one seems to be aware of any other homes or buildings in Taylorsville that might also be listed anytime soon. Instead, it would seem the biggest concern at the moment is to do what’s necessary to keep these 129- and 117-year-old structures standing.
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