The Heber Valley was built on the blood, sweat and tears of pioneers. The evidence of that hard work can be seen in the historic structures that dot its landscape today. These buildings give us a glimpse of what life was like before we got here and, if preserved, will continue to tie our future to our past.
As we grow, it is vital that we regularly check the tendencies to sprawl, to keep moving to the outskirts, to keep a building healthy city requires a healthy economic city center, and there is a push right now to both preserve and enhance Heber’s downtown district. Inspired by a beautifully renovated old warehouse in Springville, Utah, I met with the Heber City Planning and Zoning Department and expressed my desire to find a building downtown that needed some TLC. My business was in need of office space and I thought renovating a historic building would not only be a fun challenge, but also my way to contribute to the revitalization of our downtown. The Heber planning, zoning and building departments are motivated to help residents, business owners and developers bring life back to Main Street. These departments are also invested in preserving the history of our valley. When we met, they explained to me the many challenges of meeting current requirements in the downtown area, but also expressed their desire to help me overcome these obstacles.
The Lumber Barn
Back in the 1960s, the Craftsman Lumber Company occupied what is now Heber Valley Center Stage — the Christian Center’s thrift store in Heber across the parking lot from the thrift store is a building that began its life as Craftsman’s lumber barn. Originally a three-sided structure, it was built with post and beam construction, with large rough-sawn timbers and heavy metal plates. Later on, the lumber store moved and a new owner added a fourth wall, turning the building into an oddly-configured office space. The building languished through several owners and purposes, and became somewhat of an old, run-down eyesore.
As my life’s work has been building houses from the ground-up, I found the building’s history as a lumber barn both unique and fitting for my business.
Just as the Zions Bank in Heber was built with red rock to mimic the historic style of the Bank Block building, I looked to adjacent structures for architectural inspiration. In order to bring the building back to the era in which it was originally built, I chose to pattern the architecture after the old firehouse building across the street with red brick, heavy steel and black industrial windows.
It wasn’t easy. My team and I faced a lot of engineering issues, like bringing the building up to current shear codes, adding and upgrading structural footings and foundations, and upgrading all of the building’s mechanical systems to the latest technologies and energy efficiencies. We basically had to strip the building down to its bare bones and — in retrospect — it would have been less expensive if we had knocked it down and started from scratch.
It was worth every penny.
Instead, this building remains a part of our history. The half-century-old timbers, metal brackets and architectural features survive, and the soul of the building — one I’ve come to love — will live on, hopefully, for another 50-plus years.
Moving Forward, Looking Backward
I commend today’s well-designed and quality-built structures, but I also applaud those who find ways to take buildings from our past and re-purpose them into something of future value. Some of Heber Valley’s most iconic building have been re-purposed in this way, including the old Tabernacle, which hosts Heber’s city offices, and the old North School, which is now the Wasatch School district’s administration building. Structures such as the old fire house and the Bank Block still stand, and other historic buildings throughout the valley remind us of what came before.
Taking these pieces of history and weaving them into our tapestry today makes our community strong; it makes us better. We can both honor the hard work of the pioneers who settled this beautiful valley and continue to grow our heritage with needed new structures. Done properly, this can be the tapestry of our future — a bright future that intertwines with our past.