Park City Library, once abandoned, nominated for historic designation | ParkRecord.com

Park City Library, once abandoned, nominated for historic designation

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

The Park City Library and Education building, constructed as a high school in the 1920s, abandoned decades later and then repurposed as a repository of literature, is soon expected to formally take its place among the city’s renowned historic sites.

City Hall recently nominated the building for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, a sought-after designation in many renovations of historic properties. The National Park Service oversees the National Register of Historic Places and is considering the nomination. Park City officials anticipate the decision will be made in mid-January.

The Library and Education Center occupies a high-profile location at 1255 Park Ave., across from City Park and close to Main Street and Park City Mountain Resort. It is among the largest buildings in Old Town and its architecture almost immediately still tells its educational history.

The municipal government owns the property and converted the building from a schoolhouse to the library in 1993, a project that remains one of Park City’s great historic accomplishments.

Another major renovation, the most significant since the conversion from a schoolhouse, was completed in June. Park City officials sought the National Register of Historic Places designation afterward.

There were scattered worries earlier that an addition to the Library and Education Center built as part of the renovation could jeopardize a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The addition, a modern design meant to separate itself from the historic building, was built at the northwest corner.

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"When you look at the library, you can still tell it’s a historic structure," said Anya Grahn, City Hall’s preservation planner and one of the municipal staffers who drafted the nomination, explaining that the addition is "distinguishable from the historic."

Grahn said a listing would increase the Library and Education Center’s eligibility for federal grants. Washington, D.C., meanwhile, would be required to conduct a separate study if federal funds are used at the site or if a project like a road improvement impacted the Library and Education Center, she said.

City Hall attached photographs and floor plans to the nominating form, submitting 42 pages as part of the nomination. Officials covered the historical significance of the Library and Education Center as well as in detail its architectural significance. They also address the addition to the northwest corner.

"While the alteration may detract somewhat from the historical integrity of the Park City High School, the original building is in excellent condition and will be easily discernable from the new construction," the nominating materials say.

A Utah panel known as the Historic Preservation Review Board recently approved the nomination for forwarding to the National Park Service. The National Register of Historic Places coordinator in the state historic preservation office, Cory Jensen, said he anticipates the building will be listed by the National Park Service.

Jensen described the Library and Education Center as an example of an architectural style known as collegiate gothic, illustrated by the brickwork, arches and towers of the building.

"There aren’t any other buildings like this up there," Jensen said, adding there are few buildings in Utah in the collegiate gothic style.

Jensen, meanwhile, agreed with Grahn’s assertion that the addition to the Library and Education Center does not detract from the historic building.

"That addition is more or less subordinate," he said. "It’s discernable as its own entity."

Inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places would be another notable success in City Hall’s long-running preservation efforts. It would be the fourth municipal property to be listed. The others are the Marsac Building, Miners Hospital and the McPolin Farm. There are numerous privately owned buildings in Park City that are listed as well as the historic Main Street district.

Park City leaders have for years pressed historic preservation as a priority, supporting efforts involving privately held properties in addition to ones under municipal ownership. Officials say Park City’s history, from its 19th century founding as a silver mining-camp to its resurgence as a mountain resort in the 20th century, provides a competitive edge over some other skiing destinations.

The renovation of the Library and Education Center was completed last summer at a cost of a little more than $9.6 million. The project, meant to create a 21st century library, involved a redone interior, numerous technological and environmental upgrades and the expansion.