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Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
The 115-year-old Bunnell pioneer farmhouse is strategically situated in the busiest hub of the UVSC campus.

OREM — A student and faculty coalition wants to turn the historical Bunnell house into a Bohemian cafe, complete with art, music, poetry readings and intellectual conversation.

But before the 115-year-old farmhouse on the Utah Valley State College campus becomes an eatery, backers must raise $500,000 to make it safe, said associate vice president of facilities Jim Michaelis.

UVSC officials have no plans to raze or refurbish the structure, said college spokesman Chris Taylor. Any refurbishing would have to come from private financial sources.

Doing anything with the home from the college's standpoint "is not even in the cards," he said.

Private fund-raising may start soon, but for artist-in-residence Alex Caldiero and a handful of current and former students, raising the money is second on the list of priorities.

First priority is for students and faculty to realize the potential.

"This is our last chance," Caldiero said.

He fears the house could eventually be razed, even though it's on the historical register.

It's strategically situated in the busiest hub of the campus between the LDS Institute of Religion, the student center, the liberal arts building and the new library.

Stephen Ithamer Bunnell Jr. and his wife, Mary, built the farmhouse in 1892. It stayed in the family until the Great Depression of 1939.

In 1966 Wilson Sorensen, president of Utah Technical College, acquired the farm — including the farmhouse. The farmland has became the home of present-day UVSC.

Renovated about 30 years ago, the pioneer farmhouse was a restaurant for the school's culinary arts department for a short time. College officials closed it a few years ago fearing it might collapse in an earthquake. Since then it has been used for storage.

When Vegor Pederson attended classes at UVSC, he often walked past the old house and wondered if it could ever be resurrected into a useful structure.

He enlisted the aid of Caldiero, one of his former teachers, and together they began the movement to turn the house into a cafe. Their vision would create a Bohemian-type atmosphere of art, poetry and music that students and faculty would enjoy with student government in control.

Student body president Chris Coles said the idea has potential, but he isn't sure it is feasible.

"We've not seriously looked at it," Coles said. "We need to poll the students."

"If there's enough will, we can get it done," Pederson said.

Student culture is lacking on the UVSC campus, said humanities student Travis Low.

"We want to turn it into a sort of hangout area," he said.

That's important, Caldiero insists, for intellectual growth and camaraderie between students and teachers. Originally from Sicily, he envisions a French- or Italian-style cafe as a focal point for intellectual discussion.

"It wants to live again," he said. "It's a way of appreciating the past. On many levels it's important."

"It's not really at the top of anybody's list," said ethics professor Elaine Engelhardt.

Efforts to get government funding have gone on over the past five years without positive results, and it's time to ask the Utah Legislature again, she said.

"I would have valued it as a student," said Torben Bernhard. Bernhard graduates at the end of this school year.

"There's something unifying about the Bunnell House (that) I wish had been here (for me)."


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com