Pe­teet­neet Mu­seum show­cases com­mu­nity’s his­tory

Serve Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Karen L. Wil­loughby

A three-story stone and brick build­ing con­structed in 1901 to­day houses the Pe­teet­neet Mu­seum and Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter. It is less a mu­seum of Payson than it is col­lec­tions of Payson res­i­dents’ mem­o­ra­bilia.

In what for 85 years were siz­able square class­rooms with gleam­ing hard­wood floors — car­peted in 1959 and now re­stored to their glis­ten­ing maple ori­gins — are housed more than a mil­lion items of in­ter­est or sen­ti­men­tal value to Payson res­i­dents.

“We’re act­ing like a stor­age house for Payson,” said Dee Stevenson, pres­i­dent of the Payson His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and a re­tired ed­u­ca­tor. “When you think of this build­ing, you think of Payson.”

The Vic­to­rian/Ro­manesque Re­vival build­ing housed gen­er­a­tions

of stu­dents from 1902 un­til 1988, when the Nebo School Dis­trict closed the ag­ing build­ing; it was deemed too ex­pen­sive to bring the build­ing up to then-cur­rent build­ing codes.

Af­ter the build­ing sat vacant for two years, prey to van­dals, a group of Payson res­i­dents formed the PPP — Peo­ple Pre­serv­ing Pe­teet­neet — to save the build­ing, and put in long hours for an­other two years to re­store the build­ing now owned by the city.

“To­day, the His­toric Pe­teet­neet Mu­seum and Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter rep­re­sents an on­go­ing act of love ex­pressed by the com­mu­nity to all vis­i­tors,” ac­cord­ing to the Pe­teet­neetMu­seum.org web­site. “Not only is it the restora­tion and preser­va­tion of a beau­ti­ful his­toric school build­ing, but it is a gath­er­ing place for chil­dren and adults who want to en­joy the fa­cil­ity and what it has to of­fer.”

Pe­teet­neet was the name of a Ute tribal leader who was kind to early-day set­tlers in what to­day is south­ern Utah County.

A va­ri­ety of classes for chil­dren and adults — var­i­ous kinds of dance, gun safety and the like — bring some peo­ple to the Pe­teet­neet. So do wed­dings, re­unions and nu­mer­ous other fam­ily and com­mu­nity gath­er­ings. Mu­seum vis­i­tors make up the bulk of the nearly 50,000 who signed the regis­ter in 2016.

The heart of the build­ing can be seen in the ren­o­va­tion of the build­ing it­self. A 15-minute video on the web­site gives some idea of the amount of work it took to re­store the build­ing to its orig­i­nal look. With­out view­ing the video, it’s not pos­si­ble to ap­pre­ci­ate the count­less hours and back­break­ing work the restora­tion took, as re­cently as 2015.

Three-hour guided tours take place at Pe­teet­neet Mu­seum and Cul­tural Cen­ter twice each week­day, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 1 to 4 p.m. Guides care­fully un­lock (and re­lock) each door in turn, so vis­i­tors can step in­side and see the con­tents.

The four rooms on the main level con­tain the con­tents of a Vic­to­rian-era well-to-do Utah fam­ily home; a mid-cen­tury school room; a room that changes ev­ery cou­ple of months with art ex­hibits by lo­cal artists, many of which are for sale; and a room of dis­play cases bought by and filled with mem­o­ra­bilia from var­i­ous Payson fam­i­lies.

A Western room in the lower level that’s ac­ces­si­ble via an el­e­va­tor fea­tures stat­u­ary by Fred­er­ick Rem­ing­ton do­nated by a Payson fam­ily; items dis­cov­ered by the rel­a­tive of a Payson fam­ily who had found items at the camp­site of the in­fa­mous win­ter-stricken Don­ner Fam­ily; and items from the four Payson res­i­dents who earned “World Cham­pion” rodeo belt buck­les. In a side room is a blacksmith’s shop do­nated by yet an­other Payson res­i­dent.

In the Fash­ions room — with items from 1850 to the 1990s — are gar­ments worn in movies by stars such as Doris Day, do­nated by a Payson fam­ily with a rel­a­tive who had worked be­hind the scenes in Hol­ly­wood. A time­less vel­veteen gown was hand­made from drapes, per­haps to “keep up ap­pear­ances” dur­ing an eco­nomic down­turn in the life of Payson res­i­dents.

The Com­mu­ni­ca­tions room on the top floor spans the gamut from feather pens and ink­stands to ro­tary-dial tele­phones and vin­tage cam­eras. The War room in­cludes a ri­fle used in World War I, and some­thing from ev­ery con­flict from the Civil War to the Mid­dle Eastern con­flicts, as well as a photograph of Gen. Jef­fer­son Bur­ton of Payson, who to­day heads the Utah Na­tional Guard.

Stevenson cred­its Glo­ria Bar­nett, who died in 2015, with or­ga­niz­ing the mu­seum’s con­tents and lead­ing in the ar­rang­ing of items re­flect­ing the Amer­ica in which Payson res­i­dents and their fore­run­ners were reared.

“We keep an in­ven­tory of ev­ery item,” Stevenson said. “We’re a non­profit. We kind of rely on peo­ple to do­nate.”

Ad­mis­sion to the Pe­teet­neet Mu­seum and Cul­tural Cen­ter is free, though do­na­tions are wel­comed. Special pri­vate gath­er­ings, events and classes do re­quire a fee.

The foyer be­low the first floor at the Pe­teet­neet Mu­seum and Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter is a great place for an in­ti­mate wed­ding.

Photo by Steve Parsons

What pre­vi­ously was an ele­men­tary school atop a hill in Payson when it was built in 1901 is to­day the Pe­teet­neet Mu­seum and Cul­tural Arts Cen­ter.

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