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At 120 years, the oldest building on the Utah Valley University campus is being torn down but will begin life anew as a smaller replica of its former self.
Crews began dismantling the historic Bunnell home on Thursday to make way for a new student life center. The charming adobe brick farmhouse will be rebuilt with the original bricks and materials as a replica roughly half its size.
The expanding Orem university had considered a number of options for the home which sits on the north side of campus, between the Sorensen Student Center and the library including repurposing it, moving it to another site on campus, or relocating it to the Orem Heritage Museum at SCERA Park.
At the beginning of the year, UVU proposed moving it to Nielson's Grove in Orem, about a mile and half away, at a cost of about $100,000.
But the home was "even more fragile than we first thought," said UVU spokesman Chris Taylor, and wasn't likely to survive the move. The question became: "How do we preserve the home in some fashion while accommodating the evolving needs of campus?"
University President Matt Holland met with Helen Bunnell Weeks, who was born in the home in 1926 and lived there as a young girl, and her family to discuss their options. The family ultimately proposed relocating the home and rebuilding it on a smaller scale to preserve its legacy.
Weeks' daughter, Rosanna Ungerman, said university officials have "extended great sensitivity" to her family and that downsizing the building is a good solution, as it wasn't salvageable. "We knew it was going to go sooner or later," she said Friday.
Taylor said UVU plans to establish a scholarship under the Bunnell name.
The replica will sit next to the Sparks Automotive Building on the south end of campus. It will be roughly 20 feet by 10 feet, compared to its current size of 24 feet by 32 feet, plus an addition. Taylor said he didn't know when demolition would be completed or when the replica would be finished. As of Friday, crews had removed the home's roof.
Five years ago, a campus group led an effort to convert the house into a cafe. Taylor said the university explored that idea, but bringing the building up to code would have cost about half a million dollars.
The leader of that campaign, UVU Senior Artist in Residence Alex Caldiero, was sad to see the historic home being torn apart, saying its size made it ideal for student interaction, as opposed to its replacement.
"The student center won't accommodate intimacy," he said. The Bunnell house is "a symbol of our humanity, because of its scale." Building a replica, he said, is "turning it into a caricature."
Taylor said though the university's decision is "not a perfect solution … the prevailing thought is this is the best solution" to preserve history while accommodating growth.
Once the work is done, construction will begin on the 168,000-square-foot Student Life and Wellness Center. Groundbreaking is scheduled for June 18, with completion expected in December 2013. The new facility will have exercise and recreation rooms, a wellness center, a lounge and parking, all sorely needed on a growing campus of 33,000 students, said Taylor, who added that the current student center has only dining and meeting space and is "not a true student center."
UVU has put the Bunnell house to good use over the years. Student chefs used it as a restaurant, and the motel management program turned it into a training station. Most recently the home was used for storage.