05/12/02 8:31
CONTACT: Lindy Casey, (702) 499-3017


The Piute County Courthouse Restoration Fund

Sunday May 12, 2002


The old Piute County Courthouse roof collapses under weight of roofing materials.

For the Reber family, owning a piece of history was a dream come true. When the old Piute County Courthouse in Junction, Utah went up for sale in early Fall of 2000, they were thrilled to be in a position to buy. Over the months they carefully set about restoring the stately red brick building. To protect the ornate and antique interior, a decision was made to re-roof the structure. That’s when the roof came crashing in.

On April 11, 2002, a local supply company delivered materials to the courthouse roof. Unfortunately, the structure was unable to withstand the weight of the supplies and within moments the roof caved in over the courtroom. Plaster, shingles, rafters and nearly 100 years worth of history came down in a thunderous crash that destroyed not only priceless architectural details but also a portion of the roof, walls, floors and staircase.

The owners, Jim and John Reber, a father and son, saw themselves as more than owners of a unique old building. They believed they were, and remain stewards of the past in a place where the past is important. Junction is a seemingly sleepy town but that facade hides a population that not only lives off of the land, but thrives on the hard work needed to turn fields into hay and cattle into milk and meat. With a population of only about 150 people, Junction is a close knit and family oriented community.

With plans for historic reenactments, and educational programs for local school children, the Reber men had felt that the future looked bright for the old building. Now they bleakly wonder how they will manage to protect it from destruction.

Both men are from Las Vegas, Nevada but stumbled across the tiny town of Junction and fell in love. Jim bought a farmhouse there and spent his retirement enjoying the fresh country air. Soon the family was spending as much time in Junction as they were in the big city. When the courthouse came up for sale, John jumped at the opportunity to own a piece of Piute County history and talked his father into joining him.

Built of local adobe brick, the courthouse is on the Registry of Historic Places. Within its walls the history of Piute County has been decided and decreed. Future statesmen have argued their first cases before the curved judge’s bench and local disputes have caused crowds to gather there. Now its future is up in the air.

Restoration experts have estimated the cost of repair in the neighborhood of $250,000. Though legal action is being taken to attempt to collect insurance benefits, the courthouse can’t wait. The roof must be closed in so that the weather won’t further harm the interior. The remaining roof and walls must be braced to prevent any more destruction. Attorneys say that it may be eighteen months before a legal decision is rendered and money made available. The courthouse can’t wait.

Local historical societies just don’t have the kind of grant money necessary to correct a problem of this magnitude. The Piute County Courthouse Restoration Fund has been established as a way to gather money so that the courthouse won’t have to wait. $250,000 is a lot of money but the history of Utah that is contained within this old red brick building is worth it.

To read more about the Piute County Courthouse, view photographs, and contribute funds, visit http://www.saltpress.com.

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