Bunnell home at UVU to be torn down, replica to be built

2012-05-06T06:25:00Z 2012-05-07T06:48:51Z Bunnell home at UVU to be torn down, replica to be builtPaige Fieldsted - Daily Herald Daily Herald
May 06, 2012 6:25 am  • 

OREM -- A piece of history on UVU's campus is on its last leg of life before a reincarnation of sorts. The Bunnell Pioneer home, which was built in 1893, will be torn down and moved to make way for a new student life center.

The Bunnell home currently sits between the Sorensen Student Center and library on the north end of campus but will be rebuilt on the southeast part of campus near the Sparks Automotive building. The plan is to tear down the existing home and build a smaller replica of the building.

"The biggest thing right now is funding," said Jim Michaelis, associate vice president of facilities planning. "If we were able to do the complete move we would do that, but it is not. We have looked at all kinds of alternatives and this is just the most feasible."

The replica of the building will be about half the size of the original home and be made using the original bricks, windows and doors. The idea for building a replica actually came from the Bunnell family. Clyde Weeks, the husband of Helen Bunnell Weeks, who was born in the home in 1927, suggested the replica in a meeting with President Matt Holland.

"I think it was a very thoughtful and generous offer to take the time to meet with my family," Rosanna Weeks Ungerman, Helen's daughter, said. "I think the university has been very sensitive to the family in terms of wanting to be respectful of the work that has been done to preserve the home and focus on a way it could still be preserved and meet the needs of the growing university. We felt very grateful to President Holland for taking the time and making an effort to allow us to have some input."

While the Bunnells are pleased with the idea for the replica, others who are angry to see the original structure torn down in the first place. Alex Caldiero, senior artist in residence at UVU, was involved in a campaign a few years ago to turn the home into a small cafe and space for students to use between classes. He said it is a shame to the see the house destroyed.

"We have a student center. It functions really well and it is already giant and we are going to make it bigger but we need balance. We can't be thinking in these humongous kinds of terms," Caldiero said. "We have a new science building, which is fine. Build these big buildings. No one is saying don't do that, but also keep things to a human scale. Why don't they just destroy it and get it over with? We are in the habit of destroying old things. What is in Orem that is 50 years old? Nothing."

University spokesman Chris Taylor said they considered the proposal to turn the Bunnell home into a cafe but bringing the building up to code would have cost half a million dollars. He also said the new building is more than what the student center now is; it will be 168,000 square feet and will feature an exercise and recreation component, the wellness center, a reflection center, a student lounge and a parking structure.

"The idea of this building is to focus on the whole student," Taylor said. "This will give students a place to go when they are not in class and enhance the student experience. We don't have a true student union building, and it will fill that void."

Construction for the new building is scheduled to begin in June and is scheduled to be completed in December 2013. The time frame for tearing down the Bunnell home is still in the works, but Michaelis said it will be in the next 30 days. The home is being used for storage since it isn't up to code for use by students or faculty.

"Everyone said we value families, we value the individual, but let's really prove it," Caldiero said. "This is a symbol of those things we value. It should stay exactly where it is. If it's not totally destroyed sooner or later it is going to get in the way again. Things like this will always be in the way, and we are going to pay dearly for that. Growth is wonderful when it is part of an organic process, but growth becomes a cancer when it is done for its own sake or for the money. Then it becomes something that eats away at the community. It is very sad."

Michaelis and Taylor say they have heard students and faculty alike express sadness that the building couldn't be saved but Taylor said a difficult decision had to be made.

"It is a difficult situation trying to preserve history and accommodate growth at the same time," Taylor said. "This will allow us to do both in some measure. It is not a perfect solution, but the best case solution under the circumstances."

In addition to the replica of the original home a scholarship will also be established in the Bunnell family name.

"We are looking forward too it," Ungerman said. "I think it will be a nice piece of history and memorialize not just the Bunnell family but the pioneer history that settled in Vineyard."

The Bunnell Pioneer Home History

• Built in 1892 by Stephen Ithamer Bunnell Jr.

• Bought in 1914 by son Thomas Joel Bunnell, who lived there with his family until the 1930s

• Sold by the Bunnells in 1939

• Acquired in 1966 by Wilson Sorenson, president of Utah Technical College, for the present-day UVU campus

• Restored in 1976 in a project led by Carrol Ward Reid, dean of student services, placed on National Registry of Historic Places

• Used by UVSC as a culinary classroom until the late 1990s when the building fell out of code.

• According to Orem City's web site the Bunnell Pioneer Home is one of fewer than 30 structures remaining in Orem from the settlement/farming period of 1877 to 1919. It is one of only six houses built prior to 1892 that retains most of its historic integrity.

*Sources: Orem City website, UVU faculty and Rosanna Weeks Ungerman

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