The home was originally built by Joseph Hunter in 1866 on 100 East and Center Street, and the event Aug. 3 was full of stories of the home’s past glory when it stood across from the Rock Church, and had its full addition making the home more than twice its current size.
Hunter family descendants walked through the rooms of the home, sharing stories and remembering sitting in the bay window watching people walk to the church, and how much the home meant to their grandmother, Maddie Hunter-Booth, who inherited the home.
Janet Seegmiller, devoted local historian and Southern Utah University associate professor of Library Media over Special Collections, offered the dedication.
She mentioned groups and individuals for whom the home, moved from its location across from the Rock Church in 2005, should be dedicated, including early volunteers who gathered at the Frontier Homestead Park determined to save the home, volunteers who worked to dismantle and preserve it in preparation to be moved, Mayor Gerald R. Sherratt who offered funds to preserve the home, and Hunter family descendants.
“This home is dedicated to the community who would not let it be torn down,” she said. “The home had become a community icon … I still wish I could drive past the Hunter House on Center Street … ”
Paula Mitchell, Iron Mission Foundation Board of Trustees chair, also spoke at the dedication as to the importance of preserving “our past and heritage.”
“(Every day that passes) a little piece of our heritage is chipping away,” she said. “A community without a past is a community without a future.”
Mike Liebhardt, who teaches construction at the Southwest Applied Technology College, did most of the work to restore the home with his students from both Canyon View and Cedar High Schools over the course of three years, and at the Aug. 3 event he shared some of the painstaking efforts involved in bringing the home to its current state of restoration.
He and his students did the majority of the labor on the home including replastering the walls.
Liebhardt said more than 220 students worked on the restoration project over three years and became emotional as he spoke of what it will mean to the students in the future.
“Those students will tell their children and their grandchildren about the work they did to restore that historic home,” he said.
The upstairs of the home is now open, and Mitchell said “The best days of the home are in its future,” and that they envision the home hosting wedding receptions, family gatherings, business events including holiday gatherings and parties, and princess parties complete with tea and scones, footmen and carriage rides.
Descendants of Maddie Hunter-Booth, Ray Booth, Craig Kitterman, and Sharlene Caron attended the dedication, and all helped dismantle the home when it had to be moved.
They stood outside it on the grounds of the Frontier Homestead and reminisced of when they lived in the home as young children, what it meant to have it preserved, and how much they wish it could have been preserved on its original site on Center Street.
“I’m still very, very sad it’s not in its original spot,” Sharlene said. “I’m still grieving over that.”
The family heard the home was going to be torn down seven years ago from other citizens and through an article in the newspaper.
“We were horrified,” Craig said. “I volunteered the family to come and donate time to save whatever we could of the home, and then called and told them I had signed them up.”
Seegmiller said some of the family was there at the first meeting when citizens gathered to decide what they could possibly do to save the home, when all other avenues allowing it to stay in its location on Center Street were exhausted.
Moving the home was the only option they had, although the large addition to the home, built in the Victorian tradition in 1891with beautiful, Victorian woodwork, could not be moved. Instead they saved almost every piece of the addition including the windows, doors, and bricks so someday it could be restored along with the original portion of the house.
Looking at the big front porch of the Hunter House, with the Victorian woodwork also added in 1891, all now located behind the one-room school house on the museum grounds, Ray Booth remembers cutting the porch and the wood work off the home so it could be moved, his heart pounding as he did so, hoping it all would later be reconstructed.
Craig said he thought Cedar City was determined not to let another historic home be torn down and citizens were dedicated to saving this piece of their history and community.
Seegmiller said Cedar City has not done nearly as well as Parowan and St. George, which have been more successful in preserving their beautiful, old and historic homes.
The large, beautiful bay window appointed with its original, wavy glass now faces north to the Cedar City Cemetery where it once overlooked the Rock Church and Cedar Mountain, but Craig said “Grandma (Maddie) Booth,” who taught first grade for 30 years, would love that the house is being used for education, and that so many people will get to enjoy it and learn from it.
Sharlene remains unconvinced, and still believes the first house of its kind in the valley belongs where it was built, across from the Rock Church, at the point of transition between the wild and rugged Cedar Canyon and the city Joseph Hunter and his descendants helped to build.