Utah's history echoes off papered walls and whispers in arched doorways of vintage buildings. Ornate plaster wall trim and carved stair rails keep stiff lips on inside tales, and stately columns guard their secrets of life in an earlier day.
Stained-glass windows - even an old-fashioned garden, alive with roses, geraniums, daisies, day lilies, marigolds and purple-pomponned Himalayan onions - give silent testimony to an era when people took more time for such things.The Utah Heritage Foundation recognizes these historical remains as a valid textbook for Utah's schoolchildren. The foundation conducts tours of historic sites for schoolchildren as one way to learn "the most unusual history in the United States," according to Mike Leventhal, foundation director. "We try to teach children the difference between looking and seeing."
The Utah foundation is trying to develop a prototype program that can be used by other historical organizations, he said.
Approximately 3,000 Utah students take the tours each year.
For instance, for children from Crescent Elementary School, a seven-block trek down South Temple Street recently took their studies of Utah history from the abstract to the concrete - literally.
They started at the Governor's Mansion - the palatial former residence of Thomas Kearns - and ambled down the street to the Lion and Beehive houses of Brigham Young, taking in the ambience of mining magnates and pioneers along the way. In between, they stopped at such architectural "rec-ords" as the Keith Brown mansion and carriage house, the Wall Mansion-turned-LDS-Business-Col-lege and the First Presbyterian Church.
"This helps these children to understand the people who lived here," said Sharon Carrier, a Crescent teacher who has used the tours for many years to supplement her classroom instruction.
She herded a group of excited youngsters to the Governor's Mansion carriage house, where they could see Kearns' private barber chair through a window.
A group of parents from Crescent accompanied the children, armed with the knowledge they gained in training sessions for the architectural tour. Jeff Moon, whose daughter Lindsay was part of the group, said, "This is a lot better than looking at books. They can find out firsthand about what they were reading. I learned a lot of things myself." The parents attended an evening session at the Crescent School while foundation volunteers explained the program, then did a pre-tour tour to prepare.
At the red sandstone Presbyterian church, the Heritage Foundation's Adele Weiler, a former teacher who directs the school program, joined the children for a discussion of the church's fantastic stained-glass windows, the buttresses that begin outside and continue in the arched ceilings and the Gothic crockets that decorate the church spires.
Each student carried a small workbook prepared by teachers, and they hustled to identify such items as pediments, pilasters, leaded and stained glass, capitals, arches of various types and other architectural details.