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NUTHIN' UP MY SLEEVE!: A cow moose rests Tuesday in 3 feet of snow beside the Logan River just west of Tony Grove. / Photo by Mike Sweeney

Today's word on journalism

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Help Wanted: U.S. Defense Department Seeks Better PR Officers

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but . . . our country has not adapted. For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a 'five and dime' store in an eBay world."

--U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on why al Qaeda is winning hearts and minds, in speech to U.S. Council on Foreign Relation (Thanks to alert WORDster Mark Larson) WORD Note: The WORD will take the next week off for Spring Break, sleeping in and seeking wisdom. Return: 3/20/06

Wellsville's historic tabernacle needs repairs

SIGNS OF AGE: The floor has been torn up to get at rusted pipes. / Photo by Liz Lawyer

By Liz Lawyer

February 24, 2006 | WELLSVILLE -- The plaster on the walls of Wellsville's 98-year-old Tabernacle is peeling and there are dark water stains on some of the ceilings. Despite several renovation projects in the past few years, the historic landmark is still in need of repair.

Clarke Maughan, chairman and treasurer of the Wellsville Foundation, a private non-profit organization created to preserve the tabernacle, said the next big project on his list is getting new heating installed. He said one engineer's evaluation of the project estimated the price of installing heating without air conditioning would be $150,000. If the project were to include air conditioning it would cost approximately $200,000.

"We're hoping to install a forced air heating system," Maughan said. "We feel the cost is the same to repair or renovate it."

At a Town Council meeting Feb. 15, Clarke told the council the estimated cost and asked for funds to carry out the project. Clarke said the city gives some money every year to help the Wellsville Foundation keep up the Tabernacle. Last year the city gave $7,500 to the Tabernacle as support for a cultural aspect of the town. However, the council would not commit to giving any more money to the foundation.

Clarke said besides the money from the city, the foundation depends on donations to fund renovations. He said their next resort is to apply to the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Salt Lake City, for a grant to replace the heating system.

The current system, a low-pressure steam heat system, has been in the building since it was completed in 1908, Maughan said. The pipes, all original, are beginning to rust and split.

Tom Maughan, Clarke's nephew, has his own emotional investment in the building.

"It's a beautiful building," he said. "I'd hate to lose it. Pointing at a picture of the building in its original state, he said, "If I ever hit the lottery that's the way it'd look again."

In a museum kept by the Wellsville chapter of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, a corner of the floor has been removed and insulation and plaster is piled beside the opening. Rusted, bare pipes can be seen through the hole, many with braces on them.

Tom pointed them out. "We have to put the braces on them when they split," he said. "It's all original. It's lasted well," he said of the almost century-old piping. The Tabernacle was originally built with a 135-foot tower, the top part of which burned. The tower was not rebuilt, but the building was repaired, and now is in need of many other patch-ups.

Walking through the hallways, Tom pointed out foot-wide patches where plaster had peeled off the walls. In darker corners, water seeps in the basement windows when the snow thaws and creates a damp smell.

"We're trying to insulate the building better," Clarke said. "We thought we'd put double-paned windows in because we rent the rec room. It would save money on heat."

A dance class meets in the recreation room once a week and the chapel is used for Founders' Day celebrations, Clarke said. Besides the classes, town celebrations, a few board meetings and the occasional family reunion, the Tabernacle is unused.

In 1979 the LDS church sold the Tabernacle to Wellsville City for $65,000, which was nearly the same that it cost to build 70 years before, and built a new stake center nearby. Since then, church meetings have been held in the new building. In 1995 the city considered tearing down the old building and putting a new city hall in its place, but citizens opposed this idea and organized the Wellsville Foundation to preserve the building.

Clarke recently had the ceiling in the chapel replaced. Before, Tom said, there were big chunks coming off and falling on the pews. During a Founders' Day celebration one year, the ceiling was so bad that plaster kept raining down on the congregation.

"It was like Russian roulette sitting in here," said Tom, laughing.

The ceiling was replaced with drywall and the leaks and cracks sealed. Tom said Clarke has spent a lot of time getting the building renovated. Besides the chapel ceiling, new carpet has been put in and bathrooms have been restored and made handicapped-accessible.

Other projects Clarke says he has in mind are repairing the peeling plaster and installing an elevator to take people up to the chapel, a project that would take another several thousand dollars.

Everything looks fine -- from the outside. / Photo by Liz Lawyer

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