HAVING A HOME with a heritage is like having another person in your life, a person with a history and dignity all his own.
"You feel a real responsibility to the house and to the city," Lynn Jacobsen says of her home on 1200 East in Salt Lake City.People who buy and renovate a historic home are a unique breed. While the rest of us go about making our mark on our houses, they strive to preserve a piece of history while still making their home their own.
Their sense of responsibility is probably what has prompted more than a dozen families to open their homes to the public for the annual Utah Heritage Foundation Home Tours.
This year's tour will encompass two neighborhoods, according to foundation board member Lynda Shields.
In Bountiful, visitors will walk through the tabernacle as well as seven stone houses built in the 1800s.
In Salt Lake City, the tour covers the 200 South block of 1200 East. Most of these residents bought homes that were built in the early 1900s, homes that had been rented by groups of university students. Homes that needed help.
"This neighborhood is incredible for the camaraderie," says Sheilds.
David Mickelsen agrees. He and his wife, Vicki, used to live in another house on 1200 East, one block down the street.
Just that short distance away, 1200 East doesn't feel as friendly as it does in the 200 block, he says.
"This," he says of his new surroundings, "is a neighborhood."
It feels like a neighborhood, in part, because there are children. "We must have 30 kids on the block," he says. Another reason he senses more cordiality may be because so many of the neighbors have gone through the same thing, to one degree or another.
They've slept in the kitchen, or washed dishes in the bathtub. They've all suffered to some degree while tearing down walls, pulling up carpet, stripping the color from woodwork and tiles, replacing leaded windows. They've rebuilt, replumbed, rewired, painted and plastered. They are renovators.
"It was deplorable," says Lynn Jacobsen about the house she and her husband, Stephen, bought in 1982.
Her house was built in 1907 for Frank Orem, a lawyer and businessman who built Utah's second interurban railroad, which connected Utah County and Salt Lake County.
When the Jacobsens bought the Orem home, 14 students had been living on the main floor, which had been subdivided into apartments. Years of renters took a toll.
"Everything had to be redone and replaced," she says. "All the light fixtures, all the leaded glass windows, everything had been scavenged."
Not long after they began renovating, the daughter of the original owner dropped by. "Where are all the mantles?" she asked. TheJacobsens had no idea.
But they were thankful to meet someone who remembered the house as it once was.
Not every homeowner is so lucky. Margaret Batson and her husband, William Zwiebel, searched in vain through phone books to try to locate someone who remembered Glen Bothwell's home. Bothwell, a successful mining and real estate developer, built a beautiful Tudor-style home on 1200 East in 1928. He died a few years later and his house passed through many hands before Batson and Zweibel bought it in 1987.
They didn't really think of themselves as renovators, says Batson, but they loved the view of the city and loved the style of the home. After all the remodeling work and inconvenience they suffered, Batson feels quite wedded to her house.
"We'll never move. We'll die here," she says.
Heritage Foundation tours
The Utah Heritage Foundation 1991 Home Tours will be held on Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19, in Salt Lake City and Bountiful. For ticket information, call the foundation at 533-0858.