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Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
The home of Larry and Janet Peer was built in 1912. The Peers work to maintain the architecture that was popular at that time.

PROVO — When Claudia and Richard Bushman bought their summer home at 90 N. 400 East in 1999, they continued a family legacy that was interrupted for only a brief period during its 118 years of existence.

Retired professors from Columbia University, they consider themselves caretakers of a family shrine. Pictures of their ancestors adorn the historic dark blue living room walls. Many of them lived there.

Both are historians. (Richard Bushman authored "Rough Stone Rolling," the biography of the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith.)

A few blocks away, another historic home built in the Craftsman style in 1912 has owners who also take note of its history and work to preserve the architecture that was so popular nationwide during the first quarter of the 20th century. Larry and Janet Peer bought the home 12 years ago from friends Stewart and Benita Hughes.

"The home has never had a 'For Sale' sign in front of it," said Larry Peer.

The home has passed from owner to owner by word-of-mouth.

"We're the ninth or 10th owner," he said.

Both homes are featured in Provo's historic walking tour, which runs through July 4. This year homes in the Joaquin and Maeser neighborhoods are featured.

Originally built as an adobe block home in 1882 by Giles Bliss Holden, Richard Bushman's great-great-grandfather, it was the farmhouse that stood guard over 40 acres of farmland, now the Joaquin neighborhood. Originally it had no bedrooms, but a bedroom wing of glazed brick was added "sometime along the way," Claudia Bushman said. That gave it two bedrooms.

The Bushmans added onto the back in 2004 and refurbished the aged home, including Brazilian hardwood floors and an updated kitchen.

Early in its history, Holden's daughter, Ruia Angelina, inherited the home, and she and her husband, Martin Isaac Bushman, began selling off pieces of the farm. During the Depression they lost the home, but in 1949 Robert Bushman, a longtime Provo pharmacist and Richard Bushman's uncle, bought the home, returning it to family hands. Richard and Claudia Bushman acquired it from Robert Bushman's widow.

In the cellar they found two original paintings by Robert Bushman of a modern pharmacist painted in 1954 and another of the old apothecary, the forerunner of pharmacy. Both now hang in their study.

"It's just a dollhouse, but it's perfect for us," Claudia Bushman said of the home. "It's bigger than our apartment in New York."

The Peers, too, see themselves as caretakers of a classically designed home.

"If you love historical things, you're obligated to do that," Larry Peer said.

Built by Ambrose P. Merrill, manager of then-Utah Power and Light, the home is one of few left in that state that remain close to original, Larry Peer said. The biggest change is the expanded, modern kitchen, but even that retains the Craftsman look and feel.

A professor of comparative literature at Brigham Young University, he also created a study in the basement, where he lined the walls with his many books. Nearby, the coal room became a storage room after removing "buckets of coal dust" embedded in the walls.

However, a green porcelain bathroom that was considered the height of style when the home was built remains. It was considered so stylish then that interior design students from Brigham Young University would come by to look at it on field trips, said Larry Peer.

Prominent people who have lived in the home include William Hornibrook, an Eastern Seaboard native who was United States ambassador to what was then Siam and also Iran. He also once owned newspapers across the country, including the Provo Daily Herald.

Local department store merchant Ed Firmage also lived there. Firmage's Department Store was once a major institution in Provo.

While the Peers don't feel the presence of any of the home's famous former owners, they do feel the influence of designer Gustav Stickler, who developed the Craftsman style as an effort to move away from the tiny rooms of the Victorian era. Stickler also designed Craftsman furniture to go into the homes of that era. The Peers have gathered up many of those pieces for their home.

The one piece of furniture that may be considered out of place is the restored 1890 organ that sits in their living room.

"You have to like history (to live in a historical home)," Larry Peer said. "You have to think of yourself as part of the process."

Other homes in the walking tour:

Hannah Libby Smith house, 315 E. Center (current owner, Marybeth Ranes)

Alma Van Wagenen house, 415 W. Center (current owner, Van Wagenen family)

Walter Hedquist house, 395 E. 100 North (current owners, Sara and Kevin Wall)

Samuel Allen house, 135 E. 200 North (current owners, Monroe and Shirley Paxman)

Preston Geddes house, 418 E. Center (current owners, Jake and Cyndi Ellis)

The Packer house, 55 S. 400 East (current owner, the DuToit family)

Albert Van Wagoner house, 409 E. 100 South (current owner, the Booth family)

The Maeser School, 500 E. 150 South, recently remodeled into apartments for senior citizens

Guidebooks for a self-guided tour are available at the Utah Valley Convention and Visitor's Bureau, 111 S. University Ave.; the Provo Utilities Building, 251 W. 800 North; Provo City Library at Academy Square, 550 N. University Ave.; the Provo-Orem Chamber of Commerce, historic County Courthouse, Suite 215; Los Hermanos Restaurant, 10 W. Center; and the Provo City Center Office of Community Development, 330 W. 100 South.


E-mail: Rodger L. [email protected]