Part two of two.
Jerry and Annette Harris became the proud owners of the historic train depot that had been a hub of activity since 1873 when the Utah Southern Railway came to town.
The Lehi Historical Preservation Society had eyes on the building as a possible museum and went to the city council for help. “I think Lehi should stand up and go for it,” said Councilmember Wayne Carlton, “I don’t think we can do any better in this area.” A motion was made by Carlton to approve a grant proposal that would raise funds for the project.
The majority of the council backed Carlton’s motion, with the exception of Councilmember Dee Ray Russon, who had objected only on the grounds that the grant was written to include open-ended clauses that he felt could end up costing the city significant amounts of money. He listed on-going maintenance cost overruns and additional costs associated with Department of Transportation standards, federal and state regulation that he felt could end up costing the city significant amount of money.
Russon contended that in addition to the financial concerns, 80 percent of the people he talked to were not for spending the money on the depot and felt that it was a project being backed only by special interest groups, such as the Historical Preservation Commission.
Carlton countered, “The project has unqualified, enthusiastic support from property owner Jefferson Eastmond who had agreed to donate all or part of the property to fulfill the city’s portion of the matching grant. Carlton also told the council the officials from Union Pacific and the State of Utah said, “This would be a great project.” Utah Transit Officials said the museum would be an enhancement to a potential light rail station near the area.
The Council voted to approve the restoration of the old railroad depot.
Richard Van Wagoner had prepared the grant and with Mayor Bill Gibb’s signature it was sent on to the Utah Department of Transportation for approval. Van Wagoner had spent several years writing the grant. In describing the value of this restoration, Van Wagoner wrote:
The relocation of the Utah Southern Depot to its original location to house an anticipated transportation themed exhibit will be a boon to state, county, and local tourism. A nation-wide resurgence of interest in the Pony Express, Overland Trail, and Transcontinental Telegraph, all of which intersected Lehi’s western boundary, has recently been fueled by various period special on PBS television, as well as the recent, cross-country walk of the Pony Express Trail by adventurer Joseph Nardone.
There is no other museum in Utah Valley oriented towards a transportation theme gallery. Nor is there another historic railroad building in Utah Valley of greater significance than the Utah Southern Depot. This project has unique tourist-drawing potential.
After input from Charles M. Shepherd, RA Historical Architect of the Office of Historic Preservation, Roger Roper, Historic Preservation Coordinator, Brett Bezzant, publisher of Lehi Free Press, Russell R. Felt, Lehi Utah Stake President, John Rockwell, Chairman of Lehi City Historical Preservation Committee, Harvard Hinton, President of the John Hutchings Museum and Orville Gunther Chairman of the Bank of American Fork, the Lehi Historical Preservation Commission received word that a $300,000 grant would be given to restore the building. The cost to Lehi City was $0.00.
The historic Utah Southern Depot now houses the Lehi Chamber of Commerce offices, but is open for tours each day