Go West Young Man…


Back in the Rocky Mountains…and the beauty of the great Basin.

Perched on the mountainside at the mouth of Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake City Utah, sits a Gothic revival cross-gabled Farmhouse, built in 1863 by frontiersman and Mormon leader Brigham Young. As one of many buildings making up This is the Place Heritage Park, this home has been on my mind for several months now.  Shortly after arriving back in the Salt Lake area, I couldn’t wait to see it in person as if for the first time. In fact, driving the 45 minutes through Salt Lake City on my way to the park and Farmhouse, I couldn’t help but feel a peaked curiosity and anticipation of the opportunities before me. As I drove through the historic streets, passing excellent specimens of vernacular architecture, I saw stylistic elements and evidence of material cultural trends that only ten months ago would have escaped my notice.  What opportunities await me here at the crossroads of the west?

Upon arrival at This is the Place Heritage Park, I met with my supervisors and discussed what I will be doing for the next six months.  Over the following days, through various meetings, it was decided that I will be leading, building, and marketing Youth programming, assisting with reaching out to and developing programming for Touring companies, and serving in a consulting and somewhat supervisory role with the animal husbandry portions of daily programming. My focus will be marketing and developing the youth programming and tour programs.  I am especially looking forward to working with the youth programs.

After my meeting that first day, I met up with an old colleague and fellow tinsmith, and we walked down to Brigham Young’s Farmhouse… It was so exciting to cross over the threshold into the “central dining room,” and then explore the home with new eyes.  I followed Dr. Small’s example and began pounding (firmly but gently) on the walls of the dining room, hoping to determine by the sound if they might be adobe within. Surprisingly…they sounded hollow. This goes against my theory that the central portion might be made of adobe.  However…I’m not done yet. Sanborn maps, historic preservation documents, and journals await me in the LDS Church Library and Archives, as well as among the archives of the Utah State Historical Society. This research will continue, and thankfully with the blessing of my supervisors. Stay tuned for updates…046

….So all of this was within the first day.  Since then, I have participated in two youth programs, including as assistant trail boss on a handcart trek reenactment. Working with teenagers is difficult, especially when asking them to do difficult things.  We took 250 youth and adults 2.5 miles up the mountainside pulling and pushing handcarts laden with food, water, and other supplies for the day. Along the trail and throughout the day (an overall 4-5 mile journey) first person interpreters and participatory experiences in historical vignettes offered the youth opportunities to consider various moments in history of westward expansion and in many cases relating to their own personal heritage. What a powerful, affective experience. Tangible elements, addressing the intangible provide all participants with an opportunity to learn and appreciate their personal, as well as collective history.  I look forward to continuing as the new trail-boss for future treks.


Needless to say, these past few weeks have been quite the adventure. Research, youth programming, even some good old animal husbandry and horsback rides, coupled with a free admission day(6585 guests) and Day Care Appreciation Day (2100 kids)…I’m looking forward to Sunday…

To Be Continued…