The goodness of a community can oftentimes be measured by how well it preserves and honors its past. When it comes to such matters, Grantsville hits the high mark with plenty of goodness to spare.
On Saturday, May 26, a rededication ceremony was held at the Donner-Reed Museum in Grantsville to commemorate the 157-year-old structure’s opening after being closed for more than two years for repairs.
In March 2016, the Grantsville City Council learned that the north wall of the museum was bulging outward, with a series of thick cracks lining the stucco on the building’s exterior. Inside, finer cracks lined the wall and ceiling, while windows separated from their frames and casings.
The museum is operated by the Twenty Wells Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers and has a colorful history. It was originally a schoolhouse, and then became City Hall. Later, it was used as an automobile repair shop when Clark Street was the Lincoln Highway. J. Reuben Clark Jr. had the structure fully restored in 1950.
But since then, excessive moisture had taken a toll on the museum, which houses a large collection of artifacts from the Donner-Reed Party that nearly perished on the Great Salt Lake Desert in 1846 while en route to California. As oxen teams began to fail, the group abandoned possessions on the salt playa to lighten their wagons’ loads. The museum also features several other items, including Native American grinding stones.
It is popular with school groups and people who want to learn more about the Donner-Reed Party. Visitors come from around the world including China, Germany and the Netherlands.
Faced with a hefty repair bill, Grantsville City officials could have had the museum’s contents put into storage and just let the structure fail — without a replacement. But wisely, and thankfully, Mayor Brent Marshall and the City Council chose to consider a variety of options to keep the popular museum alive.
In the end, they chose to restore the existing building — and they had help along the way. The city secured a $100,000 grant from the Utah Legislature in 2017 for the project, along with other assistance funding from the Tooele County Commission and Tourism Tax Board.
With $158,000 for the project, deteriorated adobe brick was replaced with cinderblock, while salvageable adobe brick was removed and reset in the wall. Meanwhile, students at Grantsville High School built new casings for the windows.
Also, electricity has been added, along with a new heating and cooling system to keep the museum’s interior and artifact displays climate controlled.
During rededication remarks, Mayor Brent Marshall said the restoration project had many challenges, “but looking back, this sentinel is now straight, strong and stable — a proud part of our community.”
Indeed it is.
Grantsville’s Donner-Reed Museum is one of our county’s most important and revered sanctuaries of local history. Grantsville City leaders, along with the Twenty Wells Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, and volunteers, are acknowledged for fighting to save the museum. They have kept a vital link to the past very much in the present for many to learn from and enjoy.