By David Buer
The Historic Provo Tour has a new crown jewel to show off to participants meandering through the self-guided tour of the Freedom Festival: the Provo Library at Academy Square.
The nearly completed masterpiece was once an eyesore and embarrassment to a community that prides itself on its rich heritage.
“Everyday I get people who are telling me how wonderful it is and how they couldn”t believe that it could”ve been made to look so wonderful,” said Lee Bartlett, president of the Brigham Young Academy Foundation.
The building is within its $23 million budget and is scheduled for a soft opening in July, said Gene Nelson, director of the Provo Library.
Randy Christiansen, chair of the historic tour event, could not be reached for comment but said in a news release that the BY Academy Library is one of the more significant historical buildings in Provo.
“It not only reflects community dedication to preserving history but also demonstrates some of the beautiful architecture of this century,” Christiansen said.
The Academy Library represents the heart of BYU and is a standing memorial to BYU, one of the most important institutions in Utah and the United States, said Thomas Alexander, a member of Provo”s Landmarks Commission and a history professor at BYU.
The Landmarks Commission nominates historical sites in Provo that are either approved or denied by the city council.
In addition to the renovated Academy Building, Alexander said the landmarks represent Provo”s heritage in a significant way.
“I would argue that the historic landmarks are more important than events like the parade and the Stadium of Fire, which are nice events for pop culture but they don”t tell us much about our heritage,” Alexander said.
A 20-page booklet provided free to the public details 60 structures around Provo that can be visited on the self-guided tour, June 15 to July 4.
Most of the structures listed in the tour are houses of prominent citizens or of significant architecture.
The Jesse Knight Mansion, located at 185 E. Center Street, was built in 1905 for the philanthropist who gave much of his wealth to BYU.
The Reed Smoot House was home to the U.S. Senator who advised five U.S. presidents and hosted several of them in his home, according to the tour booklet. The home is located at 183 E. 100 S.
The tour guidebooks are available to the public at various locations, including the Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building at BYU, the Provo City Library, and the Historic County Courthouse.