ST. GEORGE — Springdale officials are planning a history center to showcase the town’s evolution from the time when a group of pioneers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled there in 1862 to its status today as the gateway through which millions of people visit Zion National Park.
The center will include displays, exhibits, artifacts, historic photos and oral history of Springdale, namely the history of the people who lived there over the years and how they impacted the community.
The items for the museum will come from Springdale residents, many of whom have historic items that have been passed down for generations.
“Here and there people have things that they’ve had in their families or passed down,” Town Manager Rick Wixom said. “There’s a lot of good stuff in the community, it’s just having a place to put it.”
The center will be located on Zion Park Boulevard next to the Best Western Plus. The museum will be put in an existing building on the property, currently owned by Best Western, which was first built as a house in the 1950s and was then used as the lobby for the Canyon Ranch Motel, Wixom said.
“It’s a town historic structure, so we’re going to give it a new life and new purpose,” Wixom said.
The 1,200-square-foot building is not being used, and Best Western agreed to donate the building and the property it is on in exchange for the town allowing it to build additional hotel rooms.
The town is conducting an environmental assessment for the project and will bring in architects to evaluate the building to determine what needs repairs before moving in.
“There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into finding a place and making it work,” Mayor Stan Smith said. “We’re still not done with that, but once it gets up and going it will be really nice.”
Wixom said the assessment will be completed no later than fall 2019, at which time they will have a more exact estimate of cost and when construction can begin, which could be months or years down the road.
Wixom estimates that the project will cost a few hundred thousand dollars. The town is working with community partners and searching for grants to fund the center.
Springdale officials expect the museum to be an attraction for tourists who may be interested in learning more about the town’s history.
“It is certainly a town that millions of people come through on their way to vacation and enjoy the national park. We think this is a good opportunity to teach them, to show them what the history was like,” Wixom said.
Springdale was established in 1864 after a group of pioneers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled there in 1862, well before Zion National Park was established in 1919, according to the town’s website.
The town remained fairly isolated until the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and tunnel was built in 1930, allowing easier access to the park and, in turn, Springdale.
“After that things started to change, and now park visitation is over 4 million people a year and Springdale is right at the heart of that,” Wixom said. “It’s got quite a good little history.”
Officials have also been in communication with the Paiute Indian Tribe in hopes of including their history, as their ancestors had been living in the area and cultivating crops along the Virgin River long before the pioneers arrived.
“Every town needs to remember their history,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of sacrifice that went on in Springdale to get us to where we are right now, and so this will be a place where we can look and see what brought us here.”
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