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Provo's Pioneer Village getting a makeover

Task force seeks donations of time, money, labor

Published: Wednesday, June 4 2008 12:13 a.m. MDT

Steve Nelson talks on May 28 about the exhibits and work that needs to be done at Pioneer Village in Provo.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

PROVO — Steve Nelson is like a kid in a candy store.

Every day, he finds a new treasure among the items stored in the seven historic buildings at the Pioneer Village in the Provo North Park.

He's found a pair of ice skate blades that screw right into the shoes, an iron cooking pot owned by Brigham Young, an adobe press, a washing machine that cleans clothes by using a swinging bar to beat the fabric, a "magic lantern" that projected images on the walls through a glass lens fit into a piece of tin pipe.

He was digging around and found two missing pieces of the 1860, iron pot-bellied stove that sits in the middle of the one-room schoolhouse.

It all serves to make him more determined to spruce up the village and create a place where visitors can step back in time and relive the years between 1850 and 1869.

"We have an amazing treasure trove. This represented the culture of Provo. There's nothing like it," Nelson said. "But so much of this stuff we have no origins on, no dates. We need to do a complete inventory. We need to restore the cabins and the wagons and the buildings."

Nelson's plans are grand, but he's willing to take baby steps.

First, he wants to find the original inventory that was taken and is currently missing.

He'd love to see the Haws cabin, built by Oliver Haws in 1854, and the Turner cabin, built by John W. Turner in 1853, restored. The Turner cabin is one of the oldest structures still existing in Utah. The chinking needs to come off and be replaced and the wood in some places is decayed. The roof leaks.

It's estimated it will take $12,000 to repair the Haws cabin.

"When they built this cabin, they didn't anticipate it having to last 170 years," Nelson said.

Eventually he'd like to see the fences and buildings moved further west and south to create a kind of main street in the center.

All of the ideas take money, and the village has no funding of which to speak. Small expenditures are paid for by the Brigham Young Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers. A task force consisting of Nelson, Rich Mathews, Geral Wilde, Earl Williams, David Olpin, Jerry Bell and Jay Ashworth is moving to save and improve the village.

The plans include a major cleanup, a new fence, expansion of the village by 40 percent, new signage and a Web site dedicated to the village and the artifacts.

"We have a great thing here," Nelson said.

"We have one of only two existing ox shoeing lifts. It's a beautiful piece from the 1850s. We have some great wagons here. There's the granary built inside out so the studs wouldn't disturb the grain inside. It's built on skids so it can be moved.

"This is a millstone with individual stones carved and set in place, stones that came from the local valley. We had four or five granaries in Provo."

The blacksmith shed used to be part of the Provo airport and is used today to store implements and pieces like the wooden stagecoach or mud wagon that badly needs restoration.

Nelson is pleading for donations of money, time and labor.

"An Eagle Scout could put the corn crib back together for us," he said, looking at the little structure that has missing roof slats and a hanging door.

Volunteers staff the nearby museum and the village which is scheduled to be open six days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day; Mondays from 5-8 p.m., Tuesdays-Fridays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.

Volunteers are needed not only to assist visitors but to lead tours, help inventory, clean and restore various items and staff various events throughout the summer including pioneer jam sessions on Monday evenings and craft demonstrations on Saturdays as well as a major July 24th event and Aug. 22 Pioneer Family Dance.

If you go ...

What: Pioneer Craft Fair

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday; raffle at 1 p.m.

Where: Pioneer Village, 500 W. 600 North, Provo

Cost: Free admission ($10 to reserve a table, $5 half-table)

Phone: 375-9299

Web: Steveconnie1771@comcast.net


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com

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