Provo, Utah • What historians believe is the oldest surviving home in Provo, a 160-year-old adobe brick structure that’s hidden beneath a contemporary remodel, could soon be the casualty of a church parking lot expansion.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wasn’t aware until recently that the modern-looking house it purchased last year was apparently built in 1853 and belonged to an early church leader, Bishop James Loveless. The church has pushed the demolition date back from October to June, and offered to donate $10,000 toward a possible relocation.
“That takes it off the hot plate a bit,” said Steve Nelson, “mayor” of Provo Pioneer Village, in an interview with The Daily Herald.
It was historian Robert Carter that first recognized what the house was, based on a 1930s written history found in Brigham Young University’s special collections. The walls — which are shorter and thinner than adobe homes built a decade later — led him to believe that it was an original from 1853.
He told Nelson, who spread the word and has been pushing for the house to be preserved rather than destroyed.
It may not be possible to relocate the fragile house, which is built of mud and straw bricks. A company experienced in moving historic homes estimated it would cost $45,000 to move the building.
The last adobe home that was moved in Utah disintegrated along a freeway.
Carter said that if experts confirm the home is original, he hopes the public will “dig up the money to either move it or take it apart brick by brick and reassemble it, which would be quite a gargantuan job and cost bucco bucks. But if it could be done, it would be worth it to save this vanishing relic of the past.”
Loveless was born in Ohio in 1828, and his father was an early convert to the Mormon church. His family suffered two mob attacks in Missouri and Ohio before he crossed the plains and moved to Provo, according to the 1902 book, “Portrait, Genealogical and Biographical Record of the State of Utah.”
Loveless was a leader in the territorial militia, sat on the Provo City Council and served as bishop.
He had three wives and raised 36 children before his death in 1888.