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Man’s Love of the Past Now Helping to Shape Helper’s Future

HELPER, Utah —Anybody who has cruised down Main Street over the past year has seen it. The town is rapidly changing.

Art galleries now occupy several storefronts, and the aging, vacant buildings that once cast their shadow over Helper’s historic district are slowly being restored to their pristine conditions last seen decades ago.

Prominent in this new landscape is Gary DeVincent, a man whose deep passion for old things has led him on a journey that is helping to reshape the mining and railroad town.

“It’s just unbelievable—the history here,” said DeVincent, beaming next to his most recent and currently most favorite project, the Elpe Hotel.

In its better days in the early 1900s, DeVincent said the building served as a stopover for weary travelers, and also was even used as a silent movie theater for a time.

A tunnel in the basement, he said, also suggested other purposes.

“During prohibition, ‘materials’ were coming and going and out to the back to the river,” he gestured.

When he acquired the building over a year ago, it was essentially in ruin.

Still, DeVincent—who had already restored two old gas stations that bookend the district—was never daunted.

Wednesday, some of the building’s original signage had been restored, and its exposed original brick stood as a timeless backdrop to what DeVincent intends to become a museum for his vintage motorcycle collection.

“Yeah, there’s not a whole lot of ‘em, but enough to fill the whole building, I think,” DeVincent smiled. “It’s the culmination of a lot of work.”

Next, to the museum, DeVincent is constructing a garage to refurbish old motorcycles and cars.

That’s where his passion began over 4 decades ago as he watched his older brother restore old vehicles.

“(When I was) probably 12, 13-years-old, I started building mini-bikes and then motorcycles and then cars and then back to motorcycles,” he laughed.

His interest in restoring old buildings centered around wanting a place to house the cars and motorcycles.

“And this is how this started was I needed a place to put this stuff,” DeVincent said.

DeVincent has partnered with his brother on his Helper restorations and has more planned among his nearly 10 Helper properties.

“(I) recently picked up a hotel down the street that’s going to be a really, really fun project,” he said.

DeVincent knows it might be easier to start over on construction projects with a clean slate.

“There’s no real reward at the end,” he shrugged.

Instead, he’s content to help find a place in the present for Helper’s long past.

“It would be quite the rewarding thing to do,” DeVincent said. “To see a lot of the old buildings down here is just the ultimate.”

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