Historical Sites Tour

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Site: Olmsted Power Plant
Address: 1600 East 600 North
In 1830 Michael Faraday of England discovered that when a coil of wire was moved near a magnet, the magnet induced a current of electricity in the wire. Faraday's experiments resulted in the dynamo which generates electricity.

Anxious to capitalize on this exciting new power source, investors throughout the world began to develop and build these dynamo machines. Installation of the electric lines began which would transform the world from a labor-intensive planet to one in which electrical energy could multiply the efforts of people by thousands of times.

One of the unique features of the Olmsted Power Plant was that it used some of the most knowledgeable engineers in the country to establish on-the-job training programs for its employees. At the time, Olmsted offered one of only two competent training programs in electrical engineering in the entire United States, with the other one offered at Ohio State University.

In 1912, with lest than 1,000 residents living on the Orem Bench, poles were erected to carry electric wires which were supplied with power generated at the Olmsted Power Plant.

Also in 1912, Utah Power and Light Company purchased the Telluride Power Company, which included the Olmsted Power Plant. This plant is still a fully operational power plant, operated by PacifiCorp, Utah Power's new owners.

Site: Site of Former Sharon School
Address:48 West 300 North
To provide badly needed classroom space for grades one through eight, in 1894, Orems second school was constructed. The Sharon School was named for Sharon, Vermont, the birthplace of Joseph Smith, the founder of the L.D.S. Church. It was build on the northeast corner of 300 North State Street on a two-acre parcel donated by John S. Park. Initial financing came from Mr. Park and Elliott Newell, each of whom contributed $100.00 toward the building.

However, the original structure soon proved inadequate for the number of students and an addition, comprising the east room of the school was erected in 1909.

In the cold weather, the Sharon School was heated by a small stove in a corner of the room with fuel provided by the school district. Older male students took turns retrieving the fuel from a large box at the back of the stove and keeping the stove running. On dark school days or during evening meetings, a kerosene lamp on a corner shelf provided light.

Sharon School was in operation until the end of the 1954-55 school year when it was sold for private use following the erection of a school also named Sharon School located at 500 North 400 East.

The building was then used for several more years for several other purposes, including a dance studio and a preschool. It was torn down in 1990 and a new commercial strip mall was built on the site.

Site: Former Prisoner of War Camp
Address: 950 North 700 East (Canyon View Jr. High Campus)
One of the most unique chapters in the history of Orem relates to its agricultural economy. From very small beginnings in 1861, agriculture grew to important proportions by December 7, 1941, when the United States entered World Wall II.

With a number of Orems young men joining the Armed Forces in 1942 and 1943, the supply o labor in the community had dropped to where labor had to be imported to work the fields and harvest. As a result, the Utah Farm Labor Association in cooperation with the State of Utah, built a labor camp at 1000 North 800 East on a five-acre site owned by James G. Stratton.

However, the first major occupants of the camp were displaced Japanese-Americans from the Topaz Relocation Camp. Some 200 or more of those people occupied the barracks and tent-top cabins which comprised the Orem camp. Many of them were employed by Orem and other Utah County farmers.

In the autumn of 1944 a number of Italian prisoners of war were brought to the camp to build a high wire fence and watchtowers, as the Japanese-Americans were relocated. The Italians, also, were employed in local farm work.

With World War II winding down in Europe, the Italians were reallocated and the camp became home to 240 prisoners of war, captured in Germany. They, too, found employment with local farmers, and some of them were able to establish lasting relationships with those who employed them.

At the end of the war the Germans were repatriated. As the need for farm laborers increased, Mexican nationals found their way to Utah, many of them being housed at the former prisoner-of-war camp in Orem. For the next 25 years they occupied the Orem Labor Camp until it was dismantled in 1970.

Site: Former Orem City Hall
Address: 870 West Center Street
Although less than 1,200 people constituted the town of Orem when it was incorporated in 1919, there were still matters of business for the community. The first concern addressed by the City founders was the construction of a water distribution system for the residents and a 175,000 gallon tank on the foothill north of the mouth of Provo Canyon. For many years, meetings of the Orem Town Board were held in Mayor Lawrence J. Snow's store for which the rental was $14.00 a year.

The location of the new town hall had been a controversial issue on the 1937 election, in which B.M. Jolley, who favored a location in the center of town, was elected town board president. In 1938, the new Orem Town Board named Trustee W.P. Williams, chairman of a special committee to study the construction or acquisition of a building for a town hall. One of the locations studied was the former home of James G. and Nina V. Stratton.

In 1924, the Strattons, some of Orem's most successful fruit growers, had built a large two-story, prairie-style house at the intersection of State and Center Streets, at a cost of $19,000. The Stratton family was among those hard hit by the Depression, losing the house and the surrounding property to foreclosure by the Utah State Banking Department.

The Town Board purchased the 37 and one-half acre farm and home of the Strattons on February 28, 1938 for $14,00. Thus, the new Town Hall was established as the center of town, and the numbering of the streets and houses was planned to start at that point. The building housed City offices, the Post Office, and City library until 1969 when the city, having outgrown its quarters, built a new City Center on the same site.

Van Washburn bought the building for $100.00 and moved it to its present site on August 10, 1970, where it was eventually converted into an office building.

Site: Knight/Walters/Finch Pioneer Home
Address: 212 South State Street
Newell J. and Eliza Knight constructed this home c. 1909. Mr. Knight was prominent in the establishment of the Garden City Canning Co., one of the major canning companies in the area. He and his father homesteaded 160 acres on the Provo Bench and were one of the first four families to settle in that district. The Knights lived in the home until 1916 when they moved to Idaho.

Thomas and Anna Walters purchased the house in 1916 and raised their family there. They were involved in the early agricultural/fruit-growing industry that helped the Provo Bench thrive during the first half of the 1900's.

In 1926, Joseph and Ethel Davis Finch purchased the home and farmland. The Finches moved to Orem from Goshen were Joseph had worked as a coal miner. They moved to Orem so that they could breathe the pure, fresh air and work with nature in planting and harvesting their fruits and vegetables. The home served a dual role as a residence and as Mr. Finch's office while he served as an Orem City judge and justice of the peace as well as an L.D.S. bishop for several years. The Finches lived in the home until 1974 when Mrs. Finch died.

The type and style of this house indicate the success of these families in the fruit-growing business. The contrast between the humble, classically austere residences of the earlier settlers on the bench and the later Victorian residences is apparent in the extravagant use of architectural details. This is a good example of the Victorian-houses that were popular from 1885 to 1915.

The house itself has received a major addition to the rear, but the interior structure of the original building retains much of its historic integrity. The interior now houses a home decor and gift shop, Planted Earth.

This home has been placed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Site: Site of Former Orem Railroad Depot and Packing Sheds
Address: 400 South Orem Boulevard
Walter C. Orem was the man after whom the town of Orem was named. He was the president of the Salt Lake and Utah Electric Interurban Railroad which started to construct a line from Salt Lake City to Payson in 1914.

Local fruit growers were searching for a name for the area which they could print on their fruit baskets labels. Since Mr. Orem would be building his railroad through the local area, it was decided that it would be advantageous to name the community after him. Mr. Orem was so impressed with that action, he bought a 40-acre town site at 800 North State Street.

In 1919 when the town was incorporated, the name of Orem was officially chosen to designate the community. The valuation of the railroad property in Orem contributed greatly to the ability of the town to repay its indebtedness on the $110,000 in bonds issued to finance construction of the town's first water system.

Constructed across the Orem bench were four Orem train stations, at which passengers could board trains and locally grown produce and fruit could be loaded. The Orem station was located at 700 North Orem Boulevard; the Snow station at 400 South Orem Boulevard; the Lincoln station at 800 South Orem Boulevard; and Curtis Station at 1200 South Orem Boulevard.

At the Snow station there were also constructed produce packing sheds from which many shipments of fruits and other freight were sent to destinations all over the country.

During the 1930's, as automobile traffic increased, the use of the Orem line declined. However, it continued on a limited basis until 1951. Later, the railroad right-of-way was acquired by the City of Orem to construct the 2-1/5 mile Orem Boulevard

Site: Cordner Pioneer Home
Address: 440 South State Street
This Victorian Eclectic-style house was constructed c. 1898 by William Cordner. The Cordners were one of the first to settle on the Provo Bench and, according to some written accounts, were the first homesteaders to reside on the Provo Bench through an entire winter, in 1877. William, his wife Edna, and their family were heavily involved in the fruit-growing industry, the mainstay of the Provo Bench during most of the century. At that time, State Street was lined with the farms and orchards of a prospering farming community.

The house symbolizes the prosperity of the Cordners' fruit growing industry during the agricultural expansion era of the Provo Bench.

This is depicted in the Victorian architecture of the house with its asymmetrical form, a major contrast to the earlier, austere classical-type houses which were very symmetrical and unadorned. Victorian-type houses were popular in Utah from 1885 to 1915, and the Cordner house represents the stylistic changes that were occurring in Utah at the turn of the century.

After Edna's death in 1942, the house was old. It remained a home for other residents of the area for six more years but has been used for various commercial uses since then. It presently houses a flower shop/nursery, Thru the Grapevine.

There have been numerous reports over the years of the sighting of a gentle, kindly ghost on the upper level of the home. When the Cordner family descendants were told of this phenomenon, they responded that it must be Edna returning to her home. She had never wanted to leave because she loved her home so much.

This building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Site: SCERA Theater
Address: 745 South State Street
Sharon's Cultural, Educational, Recreational Association (SCERA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and advancement of culture, youth training, education, recreation and affordable family entertainment. It was founded in 1933 by members of the Sharon L.D.S. Stake, including Victor C. Anderson and Arthur V.Watkins.

The aftereffects of the Great Depression had robbed many of lifetime investments in farms and homes. Spirits were low, and worsened with the drowning of a small child in an unprotected canal. SCERA's new leaders met and determined to provide programs and facilities to build the body, enrich the mind, touch the soul, and unity the family. Their first goal was to build a swimming pool. To High School, with families admitted for one dollar per month. With the community rallying behind, donations of materials were also collected and eventually made possible the Rosalawn Swimming Pool, located on the site of the parking lot east of the SCERA Center. A more modern swimming pool was built just north of the original in the 1960's.

Within a few years, the original motion picture program grew in popularity enough to support a new building. The L.D.S. Church donated land for the building with the stipulation that SCERA did not show movies on Sundays and allow the church to use the auditorium for meetings. The new SCERA Show house was financed through $25 bonds purchased by area families and a massive cooperative effort from which came donated labor and materials. Ground was broken on March 23, 1940. The 745-seat Show house opened on September 1, 1941 with a showing ofShepherd of the Hills starring John Wayne.

Since that time, SCERA has continued its unique status by showing only G and PG-rated films. SCERA undertook an expansion of the building in 1995 to a full community center with multipurpose rooms, an art gallery, a second show house and a home for the Orem Heritage Museum. SCERA also owns and operates the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theater, a 4,000-capacity performing arts amphitheater.

Today, SCERA remains true to the vision of its founders.

Site: Site of Former First LDS Seminary
Address: 777 South State Street
Nine years after the opening of the Lincoln Junior High School here in 1912, the original building was expanded to more than double the original size. Ora Cunningham was named as principal of the combined high school and junior high school facility which took the name Lincoln High School.

Sometime after that, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established an L.D.S. Seminary program for Lincoln High School students in the nearby Timpanogos L.D.S. Chapel. Young members of the Church and many of their friends attended the seminary classes there for a number of years.

On September 15, 1929, the Sharon L.D.S. Stake was organized in Orem with the division of the Utah stake. Among the challenges the new stake presidency faced was the growing popularity of the seminary program, still housed across the street in the Timpanogos L.D.S. Chapel. The decision was made to construct a new seminary building on a plot just west of Lincoln High School. The building could also serve as offices for the Sharon Stake Presidency.

The Sharon Stake Seminary was completed less than two years later and dedicated by Elder David O. McKay of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 20, 1931. The facility was used intensively by high school students for the next 25 years. In 1956 the new Orem High School was completed, and the Sharon Seminary continued to serve Lincoln Junior High School students for several years.

Today, the former Sharon Stake Seminary Building is owned and occupied by the Orem Commission for Economic Development, and is meeting an important need in the community by financially mentoring new businesses.

Site: Site of Former Spencer Elementary School
Address: 340 East 800 South
Until 1912, only grades one through eight were being taught in schools in Orem. If further education was desired, students had to travel from four to twelve miles to Pleasant Grove or Provo. Many were denied schooling because family finances would not allow for the added expense.

In 1913, one hundred thirty-eight citizens, taxpayers and parents of Lincoln School District wrote a letter to the Alpine High School board requesting that the future needs of the young and growing community be addressed.

Three years later, the Alpine School Board officially began ninth and tenth grades in Orem. They were taught in the two rear rooms of the Spencer School located at 811 South State Street.

In 1921, the Lincoln High School building was completed across the street from the Spencer School. Grades nine through twelve were taught there. Because some students had been attending eleventh grade at other schools the previous year, there were eight students in Lincolns first graduating class in 1922.

Over the years, there were several additions to the original building including an east wing, a music room, an activity and physical education room, an Industrial Arts Annex and finally the lunch room and additional classrooms were built on the east side.

In 1956, Lincoln Junior and Senior High School became Lincoln Junior High School upon the completion of Orem High School. In 1962-63, when Orem Junior High School was built, half the students went there.

Then in 1975-76, Lincoln Junior High School was vacated. The building had been condemned as a fire hazard. Lincoln was closed and demolished with the exception of the Industrial Arts annex which is still standing.

Site: Site of Former Lincoln School
Address: 311 East 800 South
Until 1912, only grades one through eight were being taught in schools in Orem. If further education was desired, students had to travel from four to twelve miles to Pleasant Grove or Provo. Many were denied schooling because family finances would not allow for the added expense.

In 1913, one hundred thirty-eight citizens, taxpayers and parents of Lincoln School District wrote a letter to the Alpine High School board requesting that the future needs of the young and growing community be addressed.

Three years later, the Alpine School Board officially began ninth and tenth grades in Orem. They were taught in the two rear rooms of the Spencer School located at 811 South State Street.

In 1921, the Lincoln High School building was completed across the street from the Spencer School. Grades nine through twelve were taught there. Because some students had been attending eleventh grade at other schools the previous year, there were eight students in Lincolns first graduating class in 1922.

Over the years, there were several additions to the original building including an east wing, a music room, an activity and physical education room, an Industrial Arts Annex and finally the lunch room and additional classrooms were built on the east side.

In 1956, Lincoln Junior and Senior High School became Lincoln Junior High School upon the completion of Orem High School. In 1962-63, when Orem Junior High School was built, half the students went there.

Then in 1975-76, Lincoln Junior High School was vacated. The building had been condemned as a fire hazard. Lincoln was closed and demolished with the exception of the Industrial Arts annex which is still standing.

Site: Bunnell Home
Address: UVSC Campus
Stephen Ithamer and Mary Elizabeth Gammon Bunnell, Jr. Built this home in 1892, as they watched Indians bury their dead on the western slopes of this property.

The Bunnell Pioneer Home is one of less than thirty remaining in Orem from the Settlement/Farming period of 1877 to 1919. It is one of only six houses built prior to 1892 which retains most of its historic integrity. Of these six, only three have unaltered exteriors and reflect the vernacular styles common to that period.

Bunnell is said to have introduced Red Delicious apples to this area. He constructed a huge packing shed, barn, chicken coop, pig pen, root cellar, animal sheds, and a race track for training his thorough bred race horses on this site.

Following the death of Stephen Ithamer Bunnell, Jr. in 1914, his son, Thomas Joel Bunnell, acquired the property and moved into the Bunnell Home, where he and his wife, Zelda Holdaway, reared their eight children during the next 25 years. Sold by the Bunnells in 1939, it passed through several hands until 1966, when Wilson Sorenson, President of Utah Technical College, acquired it for the present-day UVSC campus.

In 1976 Carrol Ward Reid, Dean of Student Services, recognized the historic value of the home and led a three-year restoration project by faculty and students, with federal training funds. They restored original windows and door moldings, installed new cedar shingles, and repaired chimneys. Interior construction included a spiral staircase, skylights, a restroom, and kitchen for the hotel/restaurant management school.

Plans call for use of the home by the Lifelong Learning Center, Pride in Our Pioneer Heritage classes and the Alumni Association of UVSC.

The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Site: Site of Former Thomas Pioneer Home
Address: 1786 South State Street
The expansion of Orem's culinary water system required the digging of trenches the length and breath of the town, as new residents moved into the community and built homes throughout what was once a sagebrush-covered wasteland. However, some of the farm homes which had been build prior to Orem's incorporating in 1919, were not connected to the culinary water system for more than 40 years. One of those was the home of Daniel Thomas. Encouraging residents to avail themselves of culinary water, Orem offered to connect them to the water mains, if homeowners would provide the plumbing out to the street. One crisp November day in 1937, Thomas was digging his water trench, when he unearthed what appeared to be a large tooth.

Further excavations by University of Utah archaeologists revealed the remains of a hairy mammoth: Ice Age relation of the modern elephant. In a full-blown archaeological dig, according to local newspapers, there was found a complete skeleton of a mammoth that lived in the Great Basin, millennia ago.

Spectators were attracted to the Thomas' property to observe the scientists at work and to view the remains of the extinct animal. Thomas took delight in showing off the mammoth bones to the crowds coming to the dig. The archaeologists wrapped each bone in burlap as it was exhumed from the ground.

The strain of digging the water trench brought on a stroke and Thomas died in January 1938 - two months after finding the mammoth's tooth. The Thomas home was razed in May 1993 to provide a site for the present commercial building. Today, the bones taken from this Orem homestead reside in a private collection at the University of Utah's museum of Natural History. The skull is on public display in the museum, mounted on a block within easy reach of visitors who can touch a fascinating piece of Orem's prehistory.

Site: Nielsen's Grove (Also Known as Lakeview Garden)
Address: 1800-2000 South Sandhill Road
In a fond memento of yesterday, Nielsen's Grove recalled the people and events of another day. Those events colored and molded an era over a century ago, when life was simpler and the general prosperity of the time allowed people to do things for leisure, rather than by necessity.

Such was the milieu in which Danish immigrants, Jorgen Christian Nielsen and his wife, Annie Byer, found themselves when they moved to Lakeview in 1876. Annie died in 1880.

in 1880 Nielsen bought the Grove property from Harold B. Skinner, the original land patent holder. Although he followed the cabinetmaking trade for many years, Nielsen was also known as the first florist in the area. Using a natural spring as the central feature of the grove, Nielsen designed and planted an elaborate park and amusement area, attracting many people.

Surrounding the pond was silverleaf poplar, mulberry trees and shrubbery. Trellis structures, planted with grape vines and climbing roses, covered at least ten picnic areas. The grove was ornamented with four marble statues, allegedly carved by an itinerant stone carver. Two of those statues are presently on exhibit at the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum in Provo. A covered bowery with a dance floor was among the structures in the grove. A big attraction was a twelve-seat, center-pivot, human-powered swing.

It is believed that Jorgen Nielsen performed most of the work on the grove himself, assisted by special trades when they were necessary. There is no way of knowing if all of the structures were built at the same time or over a lengthy period of time. Today all that remains at the site are some of the trees planted by Nielsen and the spring-fed pond. A popular recreational area for many years, the site was purchased by the City of Orem in 1995 for park development.

Orem City

Orem, UT // 56 North State Street // Phone: 801.229.7000

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About Orem City

The City of Orem was organized in 1919 and named after Walter C. Orem, President of the Salt Lake and Utah Railroad. Orem is now the commercial and technological center for Central Utah and is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. Housing, educational, and employment opportunities continue to be in high demand as Orem's population approaches 91,000 residents.

The City of Orem is located on the eastern shore of Utah Lake and extends on the east to Provo and the foothills of Mount Timpanogos. It shares the general location with Provo, and its history is closely related to that of Provo. Its recent explosive development and growth have resulted in Orem's population exceeding 88,000 people, according to 2010 census figures making it the fifth-largest city in Utah.