More Dogs on Main Street
November 13, 2009
Last week, I took the chance to see the newly remodeled Marsac Building when the city had its open house. It was a great to see some old friends and check out what had been done to my old office. It’s beautiful. The building still has some of the look and feel of the old elementary school. The coat hooks are gone from the hallways, but the alcoves in the walls along the hallways where the coats and galoshes had been are still there. The exterior is still intact, despite some major structural changes inside. Like everything else in Park City, there is a sense that it could have been done for half the price. But I’m glad they didn’t do it on the cheap. It’s really nice.
When I worked there, the boiler was buried down in the bowels of the earth and it often took until about noon for the heat to get all the way to my office on the third floor. By then, the court clerk’s office on the main floor was a sauna. All winter, you could see your breath in the restrooms. And that was after a pretty substantial upgrade. A good friend who taught school there said it never really did warm up most of the winter. Now they have a razzle-dazzle geothermal heat pump system that provides both heat and air conditioning. In theory, the whole place will be comfortable. I understand there is more than one thermostat in there now.
Tina Lewis was on the City Council back then, and was the driving force (sort of like a tornado) in preserving the old school. She started the ball rolling to turn old City Hall on Main Street into a museum, Miners Hospital into a library, and the Marsac Building into the new city offices. There was no money available for any of it, but it happened. The council chambers were supposed to be elegantly paneled. But the money ran out, and it got a very wild paint job in the "city logo" color palate of blue and orange. The court used the room most of the time, and Judge Keller expressed grave concerns about the ability to carry out the dignified business of the court in a room that was painted in a Jimi Hendrix psychedelic plaid.
The first bobsled in Park City was the Marsac steps. The stairway is a grand design, but had a couple of little springs that surfaced in the cracks in the concrete. By March, there would be a glacier working its way down the hill to Swede Alley. They threw salt on it by the ton, but that only seemed to make it more slippery. The applesauce slime in the fall was actually more dangerous. That has been replaced by one of those new cheese-grater stairways with proper railings.
Code compliance doesn’t end with the stairs. The building now has an elevator. The original had long ramps between the floors rather than stairs. They only sort of complied with the ADA code. In other words, while it was possible to get a wheelchair up and down the ramps, they were so steep that it required a winch. Now there are stairs and an elevator. And fire sprinklers. And a gazillion dollars in seismic upgrades so that in the big earthquake that is predicted to happen in the next 400 years (or not, it’s about a 50 percent chance), the building won’t fall down.
For years, Chief Building Official Ron Ivie would sit down with the City Council and ask, "How can I enforce these codes on the owners of buildings on Main Street when we don’t enforce them on ourselves?" The council would respond, "We don’t know, but if anybody can do it, you can." I didn’t see Ron at the open house, but he has to be happy now.
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The best part of the whole upgrade is that my old desk is still right where it sat when I worked there. It’s a great old roll-top desk with what looks like a bullet hole through the top. Sandra at the museum gave me a copy of a photo of John Potts, one of the city’s early policemen, sitting at that same desk. Potts was part of the family that homesteaded the ranch where I now live. His brother, Tom Potts, made the initial homestead, and then died in his late 30s from "eating green corn," according to the newspaper at the time. John Potts bought part of the land from his widowed sister-in-law and ran it for a while. After some scandalous allegations of improprieties with a Mrs. Murphy, who lived nearby, Potts decided it best to sell, and relocate to Park City.
So, a little more than a century later, I worked at the same desk and farm the same land. It was good to see the old desk is still there.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.