Preservation group honors museum |

Preservation group honors museum

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The inside of the Park City Museum is hardly recognizable, as work crews continue an ambitious expansion of the Main Street repository of the city’s history.

The addition facing Swede Alley is spacious. Someone can look up the tower that houses the 10 o’clock Whistle. Brick is exposed at strategic spots. New lights brighten the space.

The newness, though, does not diminish the historic nature of the building, a state preservation group had determined.

The Utah Heritage Foundation recently named the Park City Historical Society as a recipient of its Heritage Award, a sought-after honor in the preservation community. According to the group, the award honors the expansion and the decision to turn the building into a museum in the 1980s. The building dates to 1885, and it housed municipal offices just before it was made into a museum.

"There’s a lot of people who were very hesitant when we got started," says Sandra Morrison, the executive director of the Museum & Historical Society, describing the time before ground was broken on the expansion in late 2007.

She expects the museum will reopen in October, with the 6,000-square-foot expansion expected to house prime artifacts like an 1870s stagecoach, a re-created Union Pacific rail car, the skier subway that took people to the slopes in Park City’s early ski days and an original backdrop from the Egyptian Theatre. Some mining-era relics from the shuttered Park City Silver Mine Adventure, which took people underground into a historic mine in the hills south of Old Town, will also be on display.

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Morrison says museum leaders wanted the expansion to be a model for preservation projects in Park City, with the work following strict federal guidelines. But she says the work also represents modern-era architecture. The addition is not meant to resemble the mining-days architecture that is popular elsewhere in Old Town, she says.

An official with the Utah Heritage Foundation praises the work at the museum, saying the addition melds into the building even though the architecture is modern.

"I think it’s complementary to what they’re trying to accomplish," says Alison Flanders, who handles publicity for the statewide group, saying the expansion illustrates "great commitment" by the museum. The work is a "great success," Flanders says.

Flanders says the Utah Heritage Foundation typically gives out 10 of the awards annually. Recent honorees from Park City include the Silver Star developers, who preserved mining-era structures on their land, and Hal Compton, an expert in Park City’s history who leads tours of historic places and gives lectures about the city’s colorful history.

Fifteen groups this year submitted their work for awards from the Utah Heritage Foundation, and 11 were selected. A jury of preservation experts chose the recipients.

The museum had outgrown the space in the Main Street building and had said prior to breaking ground that the new space would allow more space for exhibits and for the historical society’s other work. Museum officials and City Hall inked a 99-year lease for the property, which remains under municipal ownership.

Morrison says the expansion will cost just less than $9 million, and the museum continues trying to raise $230,000.

The museum will receive the Heritage Award, consisting of a framed certificate, during a May 1 ceremony in Salt Lake City.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the expansion and renovation is tentatively planned on Oct. 16.