Jason Olson, Deseret News
Seth Hiatt makes a soap bubble as part of field day activities on the last day of school at Meridian's old building. There'll be a farewell open house Saturday at the school.

PROVO — Meridian School students and educators, along with many others who used the building over the years, are bidding farewell to the structure in northeast Provo.

Slated to be demolished next month, the old school building at 931 E. 300 North, Provo, was built in 1955.

"If these walls could speak, consider the stories they could tell," said Meridian School Headmaster David Hennessey. He refers to the building as an "old servant."

The public is invited to a farewell open house 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the school. Those attending will be able to purchase Meridian memorabilia, as well as a little piece of the building.

Meridian School, a private K-12 school with an emphasis on college preparation, has been leasing the building since 1989. The structure has had many different owners. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased the building in August 2007.

Meridian School will open this fall in a new building it will be leasing at 280 S. 400 East, Orem.

Kris Crowther, administrator and teacher at Meridian School, said she's not going to miss the old building. "Although I think it has a great, great history, I personally am going to be glad to go," she said. "The new school is nicer and more modern."

Matthew Erickson, 14, of Provo, an eighth-grader at Meridian School, said he and other students have grown fond of the old building. "We've got a lot of memories here, my friends and I," he said. "I will miss this school. The best four years of my life have been here."

But the students are looking forward to modern amenities such as well-operating heat and air conditioning. "The brand-new school will be really fun," he said.

This week the office staff unfolded dozens of cardboard boxes to begin the packing process. "It is going to be so much work — but absolutely worth it," Crowther said.

The school was built by Catholic parishioners. It first housed St. Francis of Assisi Elementary and High School. The nuns lived in quarters in the building. There was also a chapel that served the school and Catholic community. Two separate additions were built, according to Hennessey.

After St. Francis closed in 1971, the structure was home to many tenants over the years, Hennessey said.

Wilson Thomas, 84, of Provo, says the building has sentimental value for him and his wife. The Thomases' six children attended St. Francis school.

The couple visited the building this week to say good-bye. "My wife and I walked through the halls and reminisced about the old days," he said. "It's a tear-jerker."

Thomas added he has strong feelings about the last remaining Catholic icon in the area. "It's sad to see the last monument of the Catholic Church in Provo be gone," he said.

St. Francis Catholic Church, an 84-year-old Spanish Mission-style building at 175 N. 500 West, Provo, was razed last July.

After St. Francis School vacated the building that has been home to Meridian, the BYU law school used the facilities for two years. For a short time after that, the structure was occupied by the LDS Church for a Missionary Training Center, Hennessey said.

The Waterford Institute then used the building and developed educational software. In 1989, Waterford moved to Sandy and Meridian School took over the building, he said.

Hennessey wrote a good-bye e-mail to friends, educators and others. In it he stated: "Before the end of May, take the time to remember, or imagine you are hearing, the prayers and the songs and the life lessons that have changed lives within these halls.

"Let the last Meridian sounds to echo off this cinderblock be words of gratitude and reverence for over 50 years of service to our children, our students and our brothers and our sisters."


If you go . . .

What: Meridian School building farewell open house

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: 931 E. 300 North, Provo


E-mail: astewart@desnews.com