Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Idaho State Journal Features OSA

The Idaho State Journal recently featured the Oneida Stake Academy in their Yesteryear magazine.

Rebecca Pyper (writer) and Doug Lindley (photographer) did a wonderful job capturing this story. (Note, however, that although the article states that a small wall will be removed from the main room, that WILL NOT be done. The building's rooms will remain the size they were when the building was moved. At one time, in the academy's past, it appears that a wall was removed to create one main room from two rooms.)

The magazine pages can be seen on page A19 at the following link: Yesteryear

Following is the text: 

Saving the town sweetheart

By Rebecca Long Pyper for Yesteryear • Photos by Doug Lindley

Over a century ago, settlers in Preston built a beauty of a building for educating their children. Now the next generation of Preston citizens has stepped up to save her.     WITH A MILLION-DOLLAR MOVE BEHIND HER, the Oneida Stake Academy is perched on the corner at 90 E. Oneida in Preston and awaiting her next touch-up.       Tall enough to be seen from the main road — and stately enough that you just can’t overlook it — this grande dame is in the midst of renovations that may take years or decades, depending on how quickly the foundation bearing her name can gather donations.    When the Edmunds-Tuckers Act fell out of practice, the academy became Preston High School; it later became an auxiliary building. In the 1980s, the building was restored and began serving the public too — art shows, concerts, wedding receptions and more were held within its walls.       In the late 1990s, however, the academy was condemned, and the school board needed the property. So they set a deadline: Someone had to step up to save the beauty by 2003, or demolition would begin.        This deadline turned Preston natives into activists and fundraisers. A loosely organized group called Friends of the Academy resolved to keep the wrecking ball far from the academy. Member and architect Joseph Linton sought and received grant money to pay for a feasibility study that indicated the structure was sound enough to save (and survive a move), and bids were collected. The final cost for that move? One million bucks.     With help from the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving historical sites associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a $250,000 donation from former Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and a handful of other hefty pledges from locals, the $1 million was raised — after the 2003 deadline but before the demo began — and the move was made to church property on Oneida Street.     Friends of the Academy became the nonprofit Oneida Stake Academy Foundation in 2006, and members have raised more than $2 million, but their goal of $4.02 million will yield a full restoration. When complete, the building will act as a welcoming post for the Pioneer Historic Byway that winds through Southern Idaho, and as a community center and museum for local memorabilia.        Renovations are being completed as funds are raised, but the structural integrity of the academy will remain intact. The group plans to remove one small wall that wasn’t original to the building, opening up the main room the way it was in the first place. The floors and walls are currently being reinforced, which should ensure that the building will be able to serve the public well into its second century, Seamons said.         Restoration has been a window to the academy’s past and its construction. The outside walls are double-layered, with rubble filling the space between. The exterior stone was quarried at the mouth of Cub River, a popular site for stone during that time. The wood moldings were all hand-coped, and renovators found a strip of original wallpaper hidden behind some molding and a nearby cabinet. Ten double-seater school desks were walled up in the basement; the desks will be placed in the turn-of-the-century classroom on the main floor when the building is complete. According to Seamons, most Franklin County residents have family that attended the academy, so it just makes sense that they step up to save her. “In short, this building embodies the soul of Franklin County,” Seamons said.  
Home for a host of students
The Oneida Stake Academy was the setting for educating children for decades.World, national and local leaders, as well as generations of families, have honed their skills within its walls. Ezra Taft Benson, U.s. secretary of agriculture, along with his upperclassman, Harold B. Lee, both became presidents of the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Other well-known graduates include national hero Samuel Cowley, who was inducted into the FBI hall of honor, and e.G. Peterson, former president of Utah State University.

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