SANTAQUIN — New life will come to an old church, thanks to the need for a city library and about $500,000 in cash, most of it from a federal community development block grant.

Built in 1896 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church, on the corner of Center Street and 100 South, served LDS congregations for at least half a century before it was sold to an Assembly of God church.

With the volunteer labor of early church members, the structure cost $3,660 to build.

Members changed the configuration of the church and bricked up the front doors and windows early on, said architect Lloyd Knowles of Spanish Fork. A door was opened on the east side, and a south end gallery was removed.

After the church was sold, more remodeling was done, including adding a dropped ceiling and a stage, he said.

"There's little written history on the church," Knowles said. So restoration also became discovery.

Excerpts from the diary and writings of Bishop J.M. Holladay, who led construction of this first edifice in Santaquin, said that the early builders traded hay for timber, which they obtained from a White River saw mill, 75 miles east.

Foundation stones came from a mountain quarry west of town. The sandstone in the structure came from White River, a trip that took seven days, Holladay is quoted as saying in "Santaquin Through the Years, 1856-1956."

The front door and windows have already been restored.

"We're really taking it back to its old glory on the outside," Knowles said.

"It's turning out better than expected," said Santaquin Library Board chairman Tom Hinckley. The highlight will be the restoration of the barrel vaulted ceiling that reaches up two stories. When the false ceiling was put in "it wasn't very attractive," Hinckley said. But with forced air and heating, it was needed.

Back in the old days, when a pot bellied stove heated the structure, the high ceiling didn't matter, he said.

"We're taking it back to the way it was. The space is great."

Federal architecture is typical of Christian churches of that era, despite the denomination. A nearly identical church built about 10 years earlier stands vacant in Payson. Presbyterians built that church, but it's so like the Santaquin church, Knowles calls them twins.

"It's just a difference in detail to the Payson church," he said.

In the Santaquin church the roof was removed and a new roof built, including a new barrel vaulted ceiling. Craftsmen also installed a steel framework for earthquake safety, cinched up the sagging brickwork and are restoring the original light fixtures.

"We're replacing all the windows to match the old ones," Knowles said.

The building inside will be modern and high-tech. A mezzanine at the back of the building will become a reading room, while underneath it, crews will build in an intimate children's library. A curved, sweeping staircase will lead to the mezzanine.

Just opposite the staircase a large, artificial tree called the learning tree will add balance to the stairs, librarian Lyn Oryall said.

"That wall was so empty," she said. Benches will be placed under the tree for children to sit and read. The learning tree theme will be repeated in a stained glass window above the front door.

Although small, barely 3,100 square feet, the new library will be three times the size of the current library, Knowles said.

The two-year, two phase project should end in the spring, with an opening planned for sometime in April.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com