Community help needed to restore historic schoolhouse in Spanish Fork
Sep 4, 2023, 7:50 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2023, 10:19 am
SPANISH FORK, Utah — A family new to Spanish Fork purchased a home recently that has a historic schoolhouse in the backyard. They’d like to open its doors to the community but need help restoring it in order to do so.
The one-room schoolhouse was built in 1872 by a group of young men led by George Brimhall. He gathered the group as they decided they wanted a place for them to educate themselves.
They took up a subscription in the community to help pay for it, hauled timber from Santaquin Canyon, and purchased desks. The schoolhouse was known first as The Young Men’s Academy, but held coed programs and functioned as a community center and general school.
Robert Burton, the now owner of the schoolhouse works at Utah Valley University.
“I direct the Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative there,” Robert Burton said.
The Burtons have six children with one expected. They both hold education and learning in high regard.
“It’s been my lifelong dream,” Naomi Burton said. “I love educating [my kids] at home.”
The Burton family hopes that by opening the doors of their schoolhouse to the community, it will have a greater and lasting impact.
“What I try to do is inspire my students to want to do the kind of self-education they were giving themselves here,” Robert Burton said.
The Burtons also hope the community might have more information or family ties to the schoolhouse, and possibly even have pictures of it from the past.
“My hope is people learn about the schoolhouse, and they go ‘Oh I remember my great grandmother or [some other family member] had an association with [that place]’ and they send us pictures or tell us their stories,” Robert Burton said.
The Burtons have decorated the schoolhouse for now with an organ, chairs and shelves. Naomi Burton teaches their children in the mornings at the schoolhouse.
“Connecting children (my children particularly) to history is really important for me to see the dedication and the different things they went through that’s very different from the challenges we go through in our lives,” Naomi Burton said.
Though the Burton’s efforts have celebrated the history of the schoolhouse, they’re in need of extra help to keep it in working condition.
“We aren’t able to restore it all on our own but it really does need work to be able to survive and be structurally sound. Particularly, [it needs] a new roof,” Naomi Burton said.
“It’s part of our history as a community and part of the educational history of Spanish Fork and Utah Valley,” Robert Burton said. “So we would love any support that people have, whether it’s in terms of skills or resources.”
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