Provo City creates new app to explore historic downtown

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The Provo Historic App gives users a satellite map with 20 different historic stops.
The Provo Historic App gives users a satellite map with 20 different historic stops. (McKenna Park/Screenshot)

The new Provo Historic Tours phone app allows people the chance to explore downtown Provo in an interactive way.

Users can tour downtown Provo’s oldest buildings and compare the building’s histories to their appearances today with 20 historic stops on a satellite map.

Project manager Josh Yost said the origin of the application came from Provo Mayor John Curtis.

“He wanted an application that would help people explore and get to know downtown and the historic assets that we had in our downtown,” Yost said.

Yost commented on the appeal of technology when it came to carrying out this project.

“We wanted to use the technology of a mobile app to encourage people to physically explore the downtown,” Yost said. “We also wanted to use technology to show people history in a way they wouldn’t see otherwise.”

Most of the app’s historic stops are located on Center Street and are still standing today.

Stop 20 is the Montgomery Ward building built in 1872. The building was originally one of Center Street’s first retail stores and is now home to Canyon Bicycles.

Canyon Bicycles manager Preston Weeks described the unique challenges the old building presents to their store.

“It’s hard to work with an old building in a nice, high end bike shop,” Weeks said. “We’re held to a stricter design layout. It’s a weird old department store.”

Stop 14 on the Provo Historic Tours App is the Excelsior. While the building now houses several different small businesses, the 1890 building’s earliest occupants were a druggist, a dentist and a paint company.

One of the Excelsior’s current businesses is Bruges Waffles and Frites.

“There’s a lot that hasn’t changed so that it (the Excelsior) can keep its old features,” said Bruges employee David Voeun.

Another business facing restrictions is Station 22 Café, a business located at Stop 15.

“Our setup is different, because of separate line and prep kitchen,” said Station 22 kitchen manager Michelle Stephenson. “But the old layout forces us to do it that way.”

According to the app, the building Stephenson works in was built in 1885 by one of Provo’s early entrepreneurs, Russell Spencer Hines.

“There’s a lot of good research that went into the pre-exhaustive descriptions of the sites,” Yost said.

Yost said his favorite feature on the app is the image sliding overlays.

“You can swipe from the older image to a perfectly aligned modern photograph,” Yost said. “You can swipe back and forth to see how the settings have changed, how the surroundings have changed.”

Yost said his project team is looking forward to making additional improvements to the Provo Historic Tours app.

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