Alumni Report

Rebuilding BYU’s First Home


BYU's First HomeBy E. Liza Richards, ‘02

LEWIS HALL, the original home of Brigham Young Academy, burned to the ground on Jan. 27, 1884, leaving the academy homeless. Surveying the charred and smoldering building, one student exclaimed to academy principal Karl G. Maeser, “Oh, Brother Maeser, the academy has burned.”

“No such thing,” answered Maeser. “It’s only the building.”

As Maeser predicted, the academy survived, housed temporarily in churches and warehouses until new buildings were erected.

Lewis Hall faded quietly into the pages of history books until two years ago, when the BYU Women’s Conference committee began searching for a year-round home for the conference’s service and learning activities.

Ardeth G. Kapp, a committee member who was also vice president of the This Is the Place Foundation, knew that the foundation wanted to demonstrate the influence of higher education in pioneer life by constructing a BYU-related building in Old Deseret Village. Lewis Hall, she said, was the perfect solution for everyone.

Women’s Conference eventually contributed a total of $200,000 to build the two-story brick replica of Lewis Hall, but committee member Barbara Day Lockhart, ’71, says their involvement extended beyond financial support. “It wasn’t like Academy Square, where they restored the building,” she says. “We had no building, so we had to create the building by looking at pictures and historical documents.” Working with historians and contractors, Lockhart and the committee spent hours researching the details of the structure.

Once the building is completed, the main floor will house ongoing humanitarian projects in which park visitors and community members will participate. The upper floor will host musical productions and lectures on Utah’s pioneer heritage.

“It has been said that we can lose our heritage in one generation,” Kapp says. “This is why history must not only be recorded in books but infused into the spirit of each generation.”

“Lewis Hall will do that,” insists Lockhart. “In addition to filling our community’s temporal needs, it will help us discover our heritage.”

—E. Liza Richards, ’02

info: 801-582-1847, www.thisistheplace.org

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