Historic Echo Church survives a flood and is open for summer-season tours
Public can visit Saturdays through Labor Day weekend
Although not quite biblical in proportion, a flood from a broken water main filled the basement of the historic Echo Church last winter and caused more than $50,000 worth of damage.
Thanks to community members who love history, the structure was restored in time for the summer season, said Sandra Morrison,a longtime volunteer of the Echo Community and Historical Organization, the nonprofit that oversees the church and local post office.
The church, accessible from the Echo exit on Interstate 80 at the mouth of Echo Canyon, is now open from 11-4 p.m. every Saturday through Labor Day weekend for free self-guided tours, according to Morrison.
The church is able to offer free tours thanks to support from the Summit County RAP Tax, Morrison said.
“We will also be open on Labor Day, so the public can come visit us on two days that weekend,” she said. “Docents, who all live in Echo, will be on hand to answer any question regarding the church and the history of the town.”
The flood was discovered in January after Chad Harper, Echo Community and Historical Organization board chair, checked on the church, Morrison said.
“It had been really cold and a pipe in the women’s restroom had burst, filling the basement with more than two feet of water,” she said. “Chad called another board member, J.J. Trussell, and they called the North Summit Fire Department who came over and pumped all the water out for us.”
The Echo Community and Historical Organization worked with the insurance company and found a disaster-cleanup company, Morrison said.
“They got on site and they loaded the church up with fans and dehumidifiers,” she said. “The water had soaked the historic plaster walls and all the flooring had popped up.”
While the main floor’s walls, pinewood floors and benches weren’t damaged, water caused the paint to bubble and peel and soaked the kitchen cupboards in the lower level to the point they had to be removed, according to Morrison.
“Luckily the basement wasn’t part of the original church’s construction,” she said. “It was hand dug in the 1920s, and the cabinets and linoleum were put in the 1940s or 50s.”
After the church finally dried out in February, Morrison began looking for contractors to help with repairs.
“Since the construction business is booming now, all the contractors we called said they couldn’t come out for another six months,” she said.
With the summer season approaching, Morrison decided to call Rory Murphy, a friend and local developer she has known for years.
“I know he loves historic buildings, and he told me he was going to make some phone calls,” she said.
The next thing Morrison knew, she was talking with Mike Kerby, president of Big D Construction.
A few days later, Big D’s Vice President of Operations Dick Whitney and one of his foremen, Lorin Madsen, visited the church for a walkthrough, Morrison said.
“Lorin has been working with the subcontractors and worked with the insurance company,” she said. “They started work at the beginning of March and completed it at the end of May.”
The church opened for the summer over Memorial Day weekend.
“The only thing that wasn’t quite finished were the stairs, but they are finished now,” she said.
While the doors were still in good shape and just needed new paint, contractors repaired the walls and cut a hole in the basement’s concrete floor for a sump pump, according to Morrison.
“That’s in case we have another flood,” she said. “The water will activate the pump that will move the water into the sewer.”
Contractors also installed a valve to shut off the building’s water when the church isn’t being used, Morrison said.
“During all of this, we took down the exhibits in the basement and rehung them,” she said. “We are also taking this time into looking to create some new exhibits for the future.”
Although the contractors have agreed to repair the church with insurance money, donations will be accepted and appreciated, Morrison said.
“The insurance is only covering the building, but not the contents,” she said. “We will eventually have to get new cabinets, and there was a stove and fridge in the basement as well. We haven’t even thought about replacing them at this point, but we will.”
Donations can be made by mailing checks to the Echo Community and Historical Organization at P.O. 46, Echo, Utah, 84024, Morrison said.
“Yes, we do still accept checks through the mail,” she said with a laugh. “Our organization also runs the post office, so we’re still pretty simple in rural Utah.”
The Echo Church was built in 1876 and is the second oldest building in Summit County, after the Kimball Stage Coach station, which was built by William H. Kimball in 1862 by Overland Trail, Morrison said.
The church, which measures about 1,000 square feet, had different owners, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, throughout its history. The Echo Community Historical Organization (ECHO) was formed in 1982 as a nonprofit to preserve and protect the historic structure.
The church is very popular for weddings, and the best way to make reservations is through the Facebook page, facebook.com/Echo-Church-309436816276750, Morrison said.
A couple of weeks ago, Utah-based musicians — singer Barb Hughes Chapman, violinist Scott Tanner and guitarist Greg Simpson — visited the church and filmed a music video with Christian Tanner of Christian Tanner Films.
The video, which is the trio performing “Amazing Grace,” can be seen here:
“We were open one Saturday a couple of weeks ago, and they came and wanted to shoot the video,” Morrison said. “Everybody who was there stood off to the side, so it looks like the musicians were the only people there. So that goes to show that you never know what’s going to happen when you visit us.”
OSTON returns home to Park City to perform a free concert at Canyons Village.
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