Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Little BYU History For You

     Yesterday's entry about BYU's use of the Central Building really peaked my interest about BYU history.  Most people recognize the Academy Building, which was renovated a few years back and has since been turned into the Provo library, as the start of BYU.  But the Academy Building was finished in 1892.  Brigham Young University (or Brigham Young Academy as it was known back then) started in 1875.  Where was it located before 1892?
     The wikipedia article about BYU states that "Brigham Young University's origin can be traced back to 1862 when a man named Warren Dusenberry started a Provo school in a prominent adobe building called Cluff Hall, which was located in the northeast corner of 200 E and 200 N."  Even though Brigham Young had previously hinted about building a school in Draper, in 1875 he purchased the Lewis building which was located somewhere along Center Street and turned it into the school with Dusenberry as principal.  This is known as the official start of Brigham Young Academy.  Here is a picture of it from 1879:

Photo courtesy of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University

     A history of BYU found on their website says, "The first home of the Brigham Young Academy was the Lewis Building. The J. W. Lewis Store was built in 1867 and was soon purchased by Brigham Young. The Lewis Building was a brick building located in downtown Provo. When Brigham Young executed the deed of trust establishing Brigham Young Academy he stipulated that the school be held in the Lewis building. Due to repairs that were being made on the old building, the new school’s opening was delayed until January 3rd, 1876."  The Lewis Building served as BYA's home until January 1984 when it was destroyed by a fire.  Here is a picture of it after the fire:

 Photo courtesy of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University

    Anyone who has ever eaten in the Cougar Eat in the Wilkinson Center on BYU campus may have noticed a mural of the Lewis Building burning.  The artists who created this piece stated that it is about the history of BYU.  The Lewis Building is found right above the head of the guy who looks like a missionary.  The only problem I have with the picture is that I don't think the artists ever looked at a picture of the Lewis Building because it looks quite similar to the Academy Building (where the Provo library is located).  Even if it does look like the Academy Building, it is supposed to be the Lewis Building.

Photo courtesy of Brigham Young University

     Brigham Young Academy resumed classes the day after the fire in several buildings around the area.  They did find a home after a couple of months in the ZMCI (Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution) Building which was located on the Northeast corner (although as I am now researching, it could have been the Northwest, where the swap meet parking lot is located.  The address was 589 S Academy Ave and odd addresses are on the west side of University.  However, it that is true, then the main entrance would have been on 100 W, which doesn't make sense.  I'll just keep thinking that it was on the Northeast untill someone corrects me) of Academy Avenue (now University Avenue) and 600 South.  Here are a couple of photos of the old building from 1884:

 Photo courtesy of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University

Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.

     Attached to the photos is a description of the ZMCI warehouse.  It reads: "Classes opened in that facility on September 1, the beginning of an eight year occupancy.  All of the upper floor and part of the lower floor were remodeled to provide classrooms, a music room, a laboratory, and a principal's office, with the entrance and stairway on the north side.  While the warehouse was rough and temporary, it provided more room that the school had had in the Lewis Building.  But the adjacent railroad yards were used by both the Union Pacific Railroad (which reached Provo in 1873) and the Denver and Rio Grande (which reached Provo in 1881), and there was considerable screeching, and roaring of trains to disturb the classes, according to Alic Louise Reyonds, an English faculty member.  A report in the Territorial Enquirer of August 12, 1884, tells of a tour through the building led by Professor James E. Talmage: 'We were amazed at the excellent arrangement that had been made for the work of the next academic year, and were compelled to acknowledge that the new premises, as now prepared, afford advantages, conveniences, and facilities that are superior to those enjoyed in the old building.'"
     The building has since been torn down (and the area is actually a little difficult to reach since University Avenue and 600 don't even intersect.  University Avenue now is overpass over the railroad tracks at 600 South) and replaced by the Interstate Roofing Supply Company.  The building that currently occupies the location is similar to the old ZCMI and even has wording on the roof like the old building.  Here is a picture of the current location:

     In 1892, the Academy opened at University and 500 N, and the rest is history.  I feel like BYU went through a huge building explosion in the 60's and 70's, during which it was decided that the entire campus should be brown brick.  Most people who I talk to today don't like that color and I think that BYU has started to listen over the last couple of years.  If you look at most of the new buildings that BYU is building, they are still using the brick, but they are using a cool marble at the bottom (like the JFSB and the Hinckley Building) or a more metallic look (like the new Communications Building or the JKB).  There is a lot of other stuff going on around BYU campus (look here for a list of a few of the projects).  There are also plans to build a huge building just east of the duck pond on 800 North which will cascade down the hill side (this building will replace the Widtsoe Building which will be turned into a garden type area.  While it is sad cause the Widtsoe is one of the oldest buildings on campus and was the tallest building on campus when it was constructed, it is also good because the Widtsoe is also one of the ugliest), a huge monstrosity of a church on 900 E, and a renovation to the Snell Building (which I am really happy about.  The Snell is often used by the construction management program, yet it is one of the ugliest).  I love the new renovations to the buildings, especially the Snell.  The Snell is going to look a lot more historic and university like, rather than a ugly box from the 60's.  I really like the transformations going on right now around BYU campus.

1 comment:

  1. 589 S Academy Ave would be on the east side of the street. Odd numbers are on the left side as you increase. So odd numbers are on the west side if you are North of Center St, and the east side if you are South of Center St.

    Love the blog!