Park City’s houses of history
It’s not often the general public can take a day to peep into people’s houses without any legal repercussions.
But that’s exactly what hundreds of people will do in 14 buildings on Saturday, June 16, during the annual self-guided historic home tour, said Sandra Morrison, executive director of the Park City Museum.
"People can spend as much or as little time as they want in each house, although most people spend an average of about two hours at each stop," Morrison said during an interview with The Park Record. "They learn about the history of the house and see how the current residents live."
This year, the homes chosen for the tour are located on upper Park Avenue.
"Last area we chose was a lower portion of Park Avenue, so this year, we’re starting the tour at the National Garage, which is now part of the High West Distillery and then we’ll go four blocks up Park Avenue towards Fourth Street," Morrison said. "We have houses in the 600, 400 and 500 blocks that we’ll highlight."
For 15 years, the Park City Museum and Historical Society has presented the home tour, which helps its mission to "preserve, protect and promote Park City’s history and heritage," Morrison said.
"The historic home tour has always been one of the cornerstones of our program," she said. "We recognize the historic preservation that is going on daily around us, thanks to the homeowners and residents of Park City."
The museum has a committee that each year picks a different street in town for the home tour.
"We typically pick four or five blocks on a street and then knock on people’s doors and ask if they would be interested in opening their houses for the day," Morrison explained. "Most people have been very generous."
Park Avenue is interesting because it is where the merchants who had shops on Main Street lived, she said.
"They had quite large houses that are still there, and there were other buildings, including two churches, that were built there as well," Morrison explained. "One is St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which is still in use as a church, and the other one was originally used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is now the Blue Church Lodge, a nightly rental hotel."
The Washington School House Hotel, which was originally a grammar school, and the residence of Hope Melville at 527 Park Avenue, are other buildings that will be open for the tour. (See accompanying story titled "Home-tour buildings have a charm")
"The owners of the Washington School House did an incredible remodel last summer, so people will get to peek inside and see what they have done," Morrison said. "It hasn’t been available for tours until now because they opened right at Christmas and have been booked up."
Melville’s property is a remodeled home that measures nearly double compared to the other historic homes in town.
"What is particularly fascinating is these homes are usually 800 or 900 square feet, although the ones on Park Avenue are slightly bigger because the merchants could afford to build a second story or have a basement," Morrison said. "It is interesting is to see how people live in 900 square feet today, because there are some interesting details that homeowners have come up with."
During a past home tour that took place on Woodside, a family who had two boys got creative with their sleeping quarters.
"They built a bunk bed that sat under the staircase and it was really cool," Morrison said. "The two boys loved that their beds were underneath the stairs, and the way it was set up reminded me of a berth on a ship where you’re tucked away. So it worked really perfect for them."
Morrison knows that hiking upper Park Avenue can be a daunting task for the elderly and physically challenged, so the museum is providing golf carts to help with transportation.
"This tour is mostly uphill, so they can take the golf cart to Fourth Street and walk down, rather than start at High West and walk up," she said.
Aside from seeing how current families live in the houses, the tour also gives people an idea of how families lived in the past.
"We have volunteers at each of the homes who have done some research on the buildings and they tell some of the stories that happened in those residences," Morrison said. "It is amazing what people learn about the houses. We’ve also had older and retired people who now live in Salt Lake but lived in some of these historic houses when they were children show up at the tours. That’s fabulous because they typically will stay at the house and tell people about their experiences in the home.
"I remember one time we had two elderly sisters who came and told us how they would roller skate around the inside of one of the houses during the winter," she said. "I find the home tour interesting because it’s not very often you get to see inside Park City’s historic houses and see how people live in them, and here we are 120 years later and the houses are still standing and they’re still functional."
The Park City Museum’s annual historic home tour will be held Saturday, June 16, from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m. The cost is $15 for the public and $10 for museum members. Tickets can be purchased at the Museum, 528 Main St., in advance or at the Historic Home Tour kiosk at the High West Distillery, 703 Park Ave., the day of the tour. At the end of the tour, from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m., Zoom Restaurant will host a reception where the Park City Historic Society will give out Preservation plaques that can be displayed on the homes. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityhistory.org or call (435) 649-7457.
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