Friday, March 4, 2011

Maeser School

I have a problem where I often forget whether something happened to me in real life or just in a dream.  One day I was driving around Provo and I saw one of the coolest buildings that I had ever seen.  It was right in the middle of a residential community and looked a little out of place.  I forgot where I saw, and I just figured that the building was from a dream.  However, probably around a year latter, a friend started talking about the same building, and I realized that it actually is a real building.  He was talking about the Maeser School, located on 500 East and 200 South.  Here is a picture of it from 1908 and what it looks like today:

Photo courtesy of the Provo City Library

The Maeser School was first opened in 1898.  It was expanded in 1912, almost doubling the size of the building, and again in 1957, adding a gymnasium.  The original part of the building is the southern most portion, or the part towards the left of the most recent photo.  There is currently a plaque located on the property which says: 

"Shortly after the opening of the Maeser School in 1989, the Loose family observed that there was no area for the school children to play outside the school.  Through two donations in 1898 and 1910, the Loose family donated approximately one acre of land on the northwest park of this block which was used as a school playground for 100 years.  The northern half of the school, constructed in 1912, was built on the land donated by the Loose family."  

If you would like to read more of the Maeser School history throughout the years, check out this Daily Herald article.

In 2002, the school shut down due to financial constraints and a shrinking class size.  I believe that when it shut down, it was the longest continually used elementary school in the state of Utah.  There was a lot of argument about what to do with the building and it was decided that it would be torn down if no one had purchased it by July of 2004.  Provo city decided to buy the property in June of 2004 and turn it into single family housing.  Renovation was completed in November of 2006, and the area around the Maeser School was subdivided into lots and houses were constructed.  The project won several national awards for saving the historical building and was highlighted by the Utah Heritage Foundation.

As for what is happening in the future in this area, I am really excited to feature another school nearby.  Farrer Elementary is located on Center Street between 6th and 7th East.  Farrer has only recently been used as an elementary school and for several years was a middle school.  The building didn't work too well as an elementary school and was really old so they decided to build a new school on the same property.  The area where the school is located is a very old and historic neighborhood, so they designed the school to match.  They are building a beautiful school that looks pretty cool.  One of the most amazing parts is that on the old Farrer school, there was a cool border strip located around the top of the building made from stone.  The builders have removed this strip from the old building and are now preserving it in the new one.  It is a real good effort to preserve the past and make something beautiful that will be able to be used for several years to come.

Below you can see the old school on the right and the new one being built on the left (behind the portion of the building that looks like it is being demolished).  Near the top of the old building, there is a one foot section of building that has been removed.  This is the border strip which has now been placed on the new building.  Sorry for the glare, but I had to take this picture from the office window, since this area of the school is not accessible to anyone who is not a construction worker.

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