Built in 1935-36 at 1167 Woodside Ave, the Park City High School Mechanical Arts Building is part of the Public Works Buildings Thematic Resource nomination and is significant because it helps document the impact of New Deal programs in Utah, which was one of the states that the Great Depression of the 1930s most severely affected. In 1933 Utah had an unemployment rate of 36 percent, the fourth highest in the county, and for the period 1932-40 Utah’s unemployment rate averaged 25 percent.
Because the depression hit Utah so hard, federal programs were extensive in the state. Overall, per capita federal spending in Utah during the 1930s was 9th among the 48 states, and the percentage of workers on federal work projects was far above the national average. Building programs were of great importance. During the 1930s virtually every public building constructed in Utah, including county courthouses, city halls, fire stations, national guard armories, public school buildings, and a variety of others, were built under federal programs by one of the several agencies, including the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the National Youth Administration (NYA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), or the Public Works Administration (PWA), and almost without exception none of the buildings would have been built when they were without the assistance of the federal government. Built by the Works Progress Administration and designed by Scott and Welch, the Park City High School Mechanical Arts Building is also architecturally significant as one of five buildings remaining in Park City constructed in the PWA Moderne style.
Between 1933-39 federal agencies spent nearly $300 million in federal assistance in Utah. The longest-lasting and most extensive New Deal relief program in Utah and the rest of the nation, the WPA was established in 1935 and continued until 1943. The peak of WPA employment in Utah was in the fall of 1936 when more than 17,000 Utahns were at work on WPA projects. The New Deal era programs offered not only work relief, but also provided long-term benefits to the communities and the state in the form of improved public facilities. The Mechanical Arts building in Park City is one of the 233 public works buildings identified in Utah that were built during the 1930s and early 1940s. Only 130 of those 233 buildings are known to remain today and retain their historic integrity. Of the 233, 107 were public school buildings. The Park City High School Mechanical Arts Building is one of 7 public works buildings constructed in Summit County, 6 of which remain.
Art Deco and Art Moderne buildings are the most conspicuous elements of public works architecture but are overshadowed by a large group of buildings constructed in what David Gebhard has called the PWA Moderne style. During the depression years, Gebhard writes, “architects Streamlined Moderne… These buildings were fundamentally classical and formal, but just enough Moderne details were injected to convey a contemporary Moderne feeling as well as the traditional authority of the classical.” The PWA Moderne style combines the formal symmetrical elements of the Classical roots with Art Deco and Art Moderne details such as masonry wall surfaces, metal sash, vertical molded ornamentation, and decorative parapet. Many of these buildings-schools, mechanical arts buildings, city halls-appear at first glance plain and box-like. Upon closer inspection, however, in their rigid symmetry and abstract classicism, they remain fully consistent with the stylistic impulses of the times. The Park City High School Mechanical Arts Building is one of five remaining PWA Moderne style buildings remaining in Park City.
Most public works buildings were designed by architects. The most prolific firm was Scott and Welch of Salt Lake City. Carl W. Scott and George W. Welch were both prominent Utah architects. Scott was born October 17, 1887, in Minneapolis, Kansas, and graduated in 1907 from the University of Utah with a degree in mining. He was given credit for the idea of the concrete “U” that is still above the University of Utah campus. Following graduation he began a career in architecture as a draftsman for Richard Kletting. In 1914 he became partners with George W. Welch.
Welch was born in Denver, Colorado, on May 15, 1886, graduated from Colorado College, and came to Salt Lake City to begin work as an architect. Active in political affairs while here, he was a member of the Utah House of Representatives from 1919 until 1921.
Scott and Welch designed the Salt Lake City’s Elks’ Club Building, South High School, the Masonic Temple, and many public school buildings throughout Utah including Hawthorne Elementary School and Bryant Junior high School in Salt Lake, Park City High School, Tooele High School, Blanding
High School and Cedar City Elementary School. They also designed a number of commercial buildings including the Nelson Manufacturing Company Warehouse, the Nelson-Ricks Creamery Building, and the Firestone Tire Company building, all in Salt Lake City. Scott and Welch also
designed and built the planned community of Copperton. Copperton was a company town built by the copper mining company, Utah Copper Company, in the 1920-30s. Included in the plan was a Bingham High School, built in 1931. Scott and Welch designed more school buildings during the 1930s than any other Utah firm.
The Park City High School Mechanical Arts building is historically related to the adjacent Park City Education Center, formerly the Park City High School (1926), and to the Marsac Elementary School (1935-36). The Mechanical Arts building was built as an addition to the high school “campus” and incorporates similar materials and detailing to “harmonize” with the adjacent High School structure. The High School was constructed in 1926-27 and renovated in 1993-94 by the City to house the library, a theater, and educational facilities.
The Park City High School Mechanical Arts Building was originally constructed in 1935-36 as a part of the same bond issue used to build the Marsac Building. Approval for funding the building was given at a bond election in Park City on October 19, 1935. Approval was overwhelming: 169
in favor and 12 opposed. The two buildings used the same architects, materials, similar styles and were constructed and dedicated at the same time. The Marsac Elementary School was fully renovated c.1985 and is in use today as Park City’s municipal offices.
At its original dedication the Park City newspaper described the Mechanical Arts Building as follows:
The high school mechanical arts shop was built at a cost of about $15,000. Like the elementary school just described and the high school built ten years ago, it is fireproof throughout. In design and material it harmonizes with the high school building. This shop is the last word in Industrial arts housing. It contains one large room for general shop classes, a drawing room, toilet and locker rooms, paint and storage room. It is equipped with tools, benches and machinery for woodwork, cold and hot metal work, and auto-mechanics. Translucent glass is used in all windows. The drawing room is equipped with individual drawing tables and stools. Other special rooms are furnished with appropriate appliances. The shop is heated from the high school heating plant.
Construction began on the Mechanical Arts Building at 1167 Woodside in the fall of 1935, was opened for use on November 15, 1936, and was officially dedicated on December 4th, 1936.
When the high school program moved to its present location in Park Meadows, the School district began using the building as a bus barn for the City school buses. It was at this time that the structure’s mezzanine and the mechanical systems were striped out to make more room for the buses, plows and storage needs. The 1995-96 restoration of the building is currently near completion and will be used for architectural offices.
In Park City’s history there were few civic and educational structures built. Accordingly, they were and are particularly significant to the community’s history. This is especially true for this structure since it was in service as a school shop as recently as 15 years ago. Many still live in Park City who grew up, took classes, and created fond memories in this building. In a city faced with the pressures of development, the preservation of historic properties as a part of the town’s promotional vision is difficult to balance. The Park City High School Mechanical Arts building retains its historic integrity and contributes to the qualities of the town.