The exterior of the old Kaysville city hall and library building, which was completed in 1944. Kaysville leaders on Thursday decided to pause any plans for the future of the building that was considered for demolition. (Utah Division of State History)
Editor’s note: This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah and U.S. history for KSL.com’s Historic section.
KAYSVILLE — Nearly everyone sitting inside the council chambers of Kaysville City Hall Thursday evening had a memory or a connection to the city’s previous city hall next door.
That included those on the City Council.
“(M)y grandpa was the one … who requested the original bond to build this building — $35,000. It passed 174 votes to 40,” said Kaysville Councilman John Adams.
But the old Kaysville city hall and library, which opened in the 1940s, now faces possible destruction. City officials met Thursday to discuss a plan that would tear it down as the city grows and needs more parking on Main Street. The plan has received plenty of backlash from residents and even the city’s Historic Preservation Committee, which launched an online petition — that has already received over 800 signatures and counting — calling for the city to preserve the longtime fixture within the community.
Following a passionate discussion that lasted about an hour, the council ultimately decided to wait and evaluate all options further before making a final decision on the building’s future.
The story of the old Kaysville city hall and library, located at 44 N. Main, actually dates back to the Great Depression. Henry Hooper Blood, a native of Kaysville, served as the state’s governor and helped secure funds for his hometown through the Works Progress Administration, according to a report of the building compiled by the Utah Division of State History.
Thornley K. Swan, Adams’ grandfather, announced plans for a new city hall in 1940. The WPA — a government agency that employed millions who carried out public works projects — ended up providing $20,000 toward the construction that began in 1941 while a bond filled in the remainder of the money needed. State historians wrote that the metamorphic stone used for the building’s exterior came from rock gathered from the region. It matched some of the earliest stone houses built in the area.
“The straight-forward classicism of the building is unusual for (WPA)-sponsored buildings, for it lacks the more abstract, streamlined appearance often associated with this period of Utah architecture,” historians noted in the report.
Construction on the city hall was finally completed in 1944, according to the city. It became home to the Davis County Health Department, Selective Service and the city library in 1962. It remained a library up until 2015 which is when Davis County moved its library to another location. The building was eventually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019 and remains the only nonresidential building on the register in Kaysville.
But its age has started to show. Cole Stephens, Kaysville’s parks and recreation director, told the City Council Thursday that Davis County officials contacted the city in 2014 to tell them one of the bookshelves in the library was sinking. A contractor was brought in and found plates under the building had “rotted and deteriorated” and it caused the floor to sink but nothing was done at the time.
The council voted in 2017 to remodel the building into office space but mold was then discovered in the building.
“We realized there was a lot more issues with the building that kind of made us pause and go, ‘Is this something that we want to continue pursuing?'” Stephens said.
Kaysville City Councilman Mike Blackham said there were other “huge structural deficiencies” discovered during assessments that would make it expensive to repair, which is why the city began to consider tearing it down. The area where the 77-year-old building stands was highlighted as an area to help out with parking in the area.
Word had gotten out prior to Thursday’s meeting that the council would vote to tear it down. Adams even apologized during the meeting if he had said anything that indicated that a decision was already made.
“I was under the impression that this was headed toward a wrecking ball and it scared me,” he said during the meeting.
But any development of the building site isn’t expected anytime soon. Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt said that does allow for time to think about what to do about the building. As Thursday’s City Council discussion transpired, it was evident that other city leaders agreed that there was no reason to rush a decision about the building’s fate.
“The impression I’m getting now from the mayor and council members is that we want to work together and I think that we should grab those reigns,” Adams said. “We should dust off any ill feelings and work together to preserve this.”
Adams added he believes the growing popularity of the city’s Main Street has to do with buildings like the old city hall and library. He pointed to other cities across the world that have sections where historic buildings are preserved because they can be enjoyed by multiple generations.
“I think the people value Main Street because of the history and because of these buildings,” he said. “I don’t think they value it just because it’s a street. I believe that comes from driving down this street where they see the same things they’ve been seeing since they were kids.”
While Witt expressed some concern about the building’s current state and the liability it may have in the near future, Councilwoman Michelle Barber said there was “minimal risk” to taking time on making a decision. She and her colleagues did agree that boundaries would need to be set, such as a timetable for when exact funds are needed to save the building.
“I do think that at the end of the day there needs to be some sort of timeline and also dollar amount,” Councilwoman Tamara Tran added. “We need to have some measurable achievements so that if we say we want to give it 10 years or we want to give it two years, we need to be able to know that during that time we’re making progress.”
Witt said she would support whatever the council decided; however, she voiced concerns about the costs to repair and stressed the importance of making a decision sooner than later.
“Either the City Council needs to put money in that building or they need to tear it down. We can’t continue to leave it to molder,” she said, during the meeting.
Meanwhile, several residents voiced their displeasure about the plan to tear the building down during Thursday’s meeting. That included the leader of Preservation Utah, which is the largest group supporting the fight to save the building.
David Amott, the executive director of Preservation Utah, talked about the importance of the building in the community but mostly offered the council possible options the city could explore to get funds to safely renovate the building without putting the entire cost burden on Kaysville taxpayers. Those include appropriations from state and federal governments, as well as grants from various organizations.
“I think there are resources that can be explored here,” he told the council. “I think there are real opportunities to help save the building. I have fond memories of the building myself and a lot of other people do — and you, as well, do. I’m sure a lot of you. … I see this as a wonderful opportunity to help bring the community together in a worthy effort.”
The council eventually ended the debate without making a ruling on the building just yet. Adams was appointed to serve as the council liaison to better assess the feasibility of repairs and options to preserve the building his grandfather first announced 81 years ago.
The decision was applauded by those who hope to save the building. Rob Dansie, a member of the Kaysville Historic Preservation Committee and the creator of the online petition, wrote that he left the meeting optimistic that the council would give the committee more time to try and save the old Kaysville city hall and library.
In a prepared statement sent to KSL.com Friday, Amott said he was also pleased with the city’s decision and that the organization he oversees is willing to help city leaders find a new use for the building.
“We thank Kaysville’s leadership for pledging to work with community members and other stakeholders to create a future for this building,” Amott said. “Preservation Utah is very anxious to help to create this future and we look forward to working with the people of Kaysville to insure that this architectural focal point is returned to productive use and again becomes a center of civic life.”
More stories you may be interested in
Kaysville council postpones decision on future of 77-year-old library /p>