LEHI — Todd Vincze realizes he's taking on a mighty challenge attempting to restore the historic Lehi Commercial and Savings Bank/Lehi Hospital to its former state of glory.

He understands it will probably take a fortune and at least two years of hard labor to put the building back to the way it was in 1891.

But that's OK with him. He believes in the future — and in the past.

"This was probably the first hospital in Utah County. It's already on the federal and state historical register. When it's done, you'll be very, very surprised," Vincze said. "It'll be beautiful."

Others in the community agree with him.

"I think what Todd is doing with the old hospital building is a wonderful asset to the community," said Richard Van Wagoner, Lehi's historian. "He's going to restore that to the condition it was when it was new, when it was the grandest building in Lehi. It has beautiful brick work, really intricate, interesting detail. There's nothing quite like it in town."

The building at 206 E. State indeed has a colorful history.

It was established in June 1891 with a capitalization fund of $50,000 as the Lehi Commercial and Savings Bank. Then it became the Utah Banking Co. It was closed temporarily by the state bank examiner in 1911, reopened as the People's Bank and then shut down as a bank for good in 1921.

Before it was closed, the east room on the ground floor was used as a church meeting place and the large upper floor room for community dances.

A dozen businesses had their offices in the building.

When there was a classroom shortage in 1917 and again in 1919, the building provided badly needed space for primary school students.

In 1923, N.O. Malan purchased the building and tried to combine an automobile repair shop and an undertaking parlor into a viable business. That effort did not succeed.

Dr. Fred Worlton opened the Lehi Hospital on the second floor of the building in 1926, with 10 beds and an operating room. The hospital saw 150 patients in 1928, when he added another four beds, a reception room, a bathroom and a kitchen on the ground floor.

After Worlton died, Dr. Elmo Eddington purchased the building from Worlton's widow and tried to open a practice. His first patient, after weeks of waiting, was actually a sick cow.

A slow-moving water-powered elevator sometimes made it exciting to get a woman in labor to the second floor delivery room in time. Eddington's daughter once brought her horse up the elevator for help.

In 1937, Eddington deeded the building to the city of Lehi so it could qualify for federal funds. A $14,000 Works Progress Administration grant helped pay for an upgrade to 18 beds. It remained in business for the next 35 years until competition took away most of the patients and it was condemned by the State Board of Health in 1965.

It has since stood mostly vacant and for sale except for an occasional rental as a furniture outlet, a music store and an apartment.

Vincze first saw it as the East Coast resident traveled through Lehi on business. He was immediately taken with what appeared to be a three-story white stucco structure.

"I liked the building. I saw the building. I had no idea what was underneath," he said. "I saw a price and said OK. Am I crazy? Probably."

The building is actually red brick and sandstone with a basement, two vaults and two upper floors. All of the wiring and plumbing will have to be replaced.

Many of the interior walls and stairs will come out. The original window arches will be uncovered, and the oblique glass front will be replaced.

"Not much of the interior is original," Vincze said. "We'll restore the exterior to what it was, but inside we'll add a place for nine guest bedrooms, a beauty salon, offices, a small florist shop and a photo studio. It'll become the ultimate bed and breakfast wedding stop for people who have family or friends getting married in the area."

What Vincze needs help with now is information. He's hoping to talk with residents who were born in the hospital or who can recall staying in there so he can build a computer database of the building's history.

He's looking for the original blueprints as well.

He's also selling sidewalk pavers to anyone who wants to help with the restoration costs, which he figures will easily come to a million dollars.

"I do have some investors and some money to do this," Vincze said. "But it would be nice to have some help."

To reach Vincze, call 427-1046.

E-MAIL: haddoc@desnews.com