It had been quite some time since South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood sang the Granite High School fight song.
The tune faded away into history when the Granite School District decided to close down the school in 2009, after 103 years in South Salt Lake. So, who could blame her for forgetting words?
After fumbling around the first few lines, the lyrics slowly came back to her, as did a flood of memories. She thought of times she sang the song at school events or on the bus ride to games as a member of the school's soccer and basketball teams.
"In fact, I got slightly emotional just remembering what those years were to me in my life growing up," Wood said.
Moments after alumni sang the fight song, the mayor watched as children huddled around her and Salt Lake County leaders last Friday morning to cut a ribbon and open the new Granite Branch Salt Lake County Library on the grounds of what used to be her alma mater.
A crowd of over a hundred people, including several who once attended Granite High School, cheered as the doors swung open and they toured the new facility with their children and grandchildren. It put to an end a question mark regarding what would happen to the school after the century-old building was torn down in 2017.
Continuing a legacy in a new way
There were a lot of possibilities regarding the future of the Granite High School space five years ago. A group led by Granite High alumni tried to preserve the building as a historic site in 2017, hoping to revive it in the same way Trolley Square was put to commercial use. Those plans never came to fruition, as the building came down later that year.
Homes were quickly constructed in the space where an old set of bleachers once stood. The biggest question mark, however, was the northwest portion of the land, where the school itself once stood.
Planners had all sorts of development ideas early on, including a Walmart, which Wood ultimately vetoed. She and Salt Lake County leaders both agreed that commercial development just didn't seem like an appropriate way to honor the legacy of Granite High School.
"(We) really paid attention to what the residents were saying and they were saying that this is sacred ground. This is sacred space to our community," Wood said. "For over 100 years it had served our community and the surrounding communities by being one of the first high schools here in the valley, so we wanted to make sure that whatever ended up developing here continued on with that legacy."
Salt Lake County purchased the land for about $4 million, according to Jim Cooper, director of Salt Lake County Library Services. The future for the plot of land quickly morphed into a plan for a new library, keeping the theme of education at the corner of 3300 South and 500 East. Ground broke on the 33,000-square-foot facility in 2020.
"This has been a labor of love," Cooper said. "I think it augments the neighborhood (and) adds so much richness and value to a community. Libraries will continue to do that."
Inside, patrons can find books, movies, music and computers, as well as a large creative space section with virtual reality technology, an audio and visual recording studio and 3D printing. There is also a kitchen for culinary and nutrition classes, a large meeting room that can seat up to 100 people for community events, and smaller study rooms.
The exterior of the building features panels designed as an art display named "Irene's Irises," Cooper added. It was created by Day Christiansen, the grandson of a Granite High alumna who went on to open a flower shop in the county.
Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson pointed out that the grass outside of the building is water-wise and therefore more drought-tolerant, reducing the need to water it. It leads out to the play area outside of the library itself, where children can run around and have fun. Many children took advantage of that Friday morning.
"I always joke, 'It's not like your grandma's library.' ... This library is built for the future," Wilson said.
Paying homage to Granite High School
While the library is geared toward educating the next generations in South Salt Lake, pieces of the past are also all over the building.
The Granite Branch is a museum of sorts in that it includes several artifacts of the old school. There are pictures of Granite High athletic teams from a century ago plastered throughout, and the old school seal mosaic from the original building's entrance is on display, too.
A display cabinet in one corner features various school artifacts ranging from a brick from the old building to old pennants, yearbooks and jerseys. A trophy from Granite High's 1936 state boys basketball championship title proudly sits at the top.
Some of the lyrics to the school's fight song — the one that alumni sang Friday morning — are even printed in large letters across the building, as are a few references to the old school's Farmers moniker. Cooper said there's a rock outside of the library that emulates an old rock that once sat outside of the school after the county was unable to locate the original boulder.
It's clear that Granite High School lives on in a new form.
As an alumna herself, it's a dream come true for Wood.
"It was really hard to lose our over 100-year-old school but this is the most perfect thing to serve our community and the legacy of Granite High," she said, as children raced around looking for books to pick up behind her. "It's amazing."