Levi and Rebecca Riter's cabin was built in 1847, inside the old Salt Lake Fort. The one-room (with a loft) cabin, the only one remaining from that fort, has been moved to the Old Deseret Historic Village at Pioneer Trail State Park.
The Friends of Old Deseret are restoring and furnishing the home in a unique historical style."Because the cabin had a dirt floor and we didn't want to ruin any real antiques by putting them there, we decided to do reproductive furnishings," says Ann Brest van Kempen, a Friend of Old Deseret who is coordinating the project.
"When the Riters came to Utah, they were well-to-do. They only lived in the cabin six months, while they were building a bigger home. So we decided to make the Riter home a "family in transit" display with a few good pieces and lots of trunks. They must have lived out of trunks."
The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers have original trunks and offered them as models; several carpenters volunteered to build the replicas. So the Friends of Old Deseret just needed some volunteers to translate the originals into a design the carpenters could copy.
They found their designers at Alta High School.
The students were volunteered by their teacher, Kaylene White.
"For students to appreciate contemporary, they need to appreciate what was done 100 years ago," says White who teaches the Occupational Interior Design class at Alta High.
Several weeks ago she took her 12 advanced students to the DUP museum. It was a first: The students donned white gloves to do their schoolwork.
White explains they wore gloves while measuring and examining the trunks in order to keep acid from their skin from further decaying the leather and wood.
The students have been busily turning their sketches and measurements into blueprints for eight trunks. They are almost finished. "It was very difficult for them," says White. "They've been really excited about it. Each trunk is very different and working on the plans has been like solving a mystery.
"None of the measurements is exactly precise the trunks have shrunk and weathered. One trunk was locked and there was no key. The girl who drew that blueprint really had to study the trunk. She kept turning it over and over.
"I think volunteering on this project has really stretched their imaginations. It's great for them to see some application to what they are learning in school. And it's given them some experience in historical restoration. Something they can point to when they graduate."
The Friends of Old Deseret could still use a few more volunteer carpenters. If interested please call Ann Brest van Kempen at 582-8769.