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John Henry Shafer House

The John Henry Shafer House, constructed in 1884, is significant under Criteria B and C. Under Criterion C, it is significant as possibly the oldest extant residence in Moab, Utah, and is identified with the colonization of the area. The cross-wing form of the house, although not an early type of residence in Utah, was early for that region. The home is also significant under Criterion B for its association with John Henry Shafer, the original owner, who was a prominent citizen during the settlement era of Moab and Grand County. Mr. Shafer contributed to both the local government and the education system. He helped organize the county government and select the first county employees, was Grand County’s first representative to the Utah State Legislature, commissioner of Grand County for several years, and served on the school board. The site retains much of its integrity, with several mature trees and vegetable gardens. Although the house has been abandoned for years, a complete restoration is planned for use as office space.

1884-1891 – J. Shafer
1891-1916 – J. Tangren
1916-1919 – D. Parriot
1919-1930 – M. Martin
1930-1941 – D. Perkins
1941-1973 – R. Holyoak
2002 – Restored by Grand County Historical Preservation Commission

Located at 530 South 400 East in Moab, Utah and added to the National Historic Register (#94000366) on May 2, 2001.

The Moab area, located along the Old Spanish Trail in an area known as Spanish Valley, has been important to many groups throughout Utah’s history because the Colorado River could be easily crossed at that point. Both Ute and Piute Indian tribes claimed the land, and were partially responsible for the quick demise of the Elk Mountain Mission (National Register listed), an early Mormon colonization effort from 1854 to 1855. The area was also used sporadically as grazing lands for cattlemen from both Utah and Colorado in the 1860s and 1870s.

The idea of colonization was revisited in 1878 when settlers established the town of Plainsfield in upper Spanish Valley. The present town of Moab was officially founded with the establishment of the Post Office on March 23, 1880. The town served as a regular stop on the mail route from Salina, Utah to the northwest, to Ouray, Colorado to the southeast. At the time, it was the only route in southeastern Utah and much of western Colorado.

John Henry Shafer

The original owner, John Henry Shafer, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on April 25, 1851, the son of Mormon immigrants. Although Shafer worked primarily as a rancher, he took part in many colonization efforts. When he was about twenty, he packed supplies for Major John Wesley Powell’s expedition when they emerged from the depths of the Grand Canyon at the mouth of the Virgin River. In 1878, Shafer arrived in the Moab area with other settlers and colonized the upper Spanish Valley, southeast of Moab in San Juan County. He helped build the grade for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad through Grand County in the early 1880s, having charge of a crew of men, and also hauled freight for the construction of the first telegraph line between Denver and Cheyenne.

John Henry Shafer moved to Moab in 1880 and married Mary Forbush in 1881. Very little is known about Mary except that she was born October 7, 1865, and died May 14, 1889. John married Sariah Eveline (Essie) Johnson in November that same year. Sariah Johnson was born December 18, 1872, in Mona, Utah, and moved to Moab with her parents when she was 10 years old. As a midwife, “Aunt Essie” helped Dr. Williams deliver a number of Moab babies. She was also an accomplished seamstress and made dresses for many of the women in town.

“Uncle” John Shafer made many significant contributions in the formation and development of the community. He was referred to as the “father of the Grand County school system,” and it was largely through his efforts, aided by a few other citizens, that the county was established and maintained as a political entity. In 1890, he was one of three selectmen appointed under the Territorial Legislature to organize a county government. During his appointment, he helped select the first county clerk/recorder, assessor/collector, coroner, prosecuting attorney, and sheriff. When Grand County was created, Shafer was named as a member of the school board. The new county had no funds, and inevitably, there was no money available for the operation of schools. Shafer advanced the funds to build the first schoolhouse in Moab and to pay the teachers’ salaries. Shafer was Grand County’s first representative to the Utah State Legislature, serving two terms, and was elected to the position of county commissioner several times. He was also politically active and organized the Republican party of Grand County, being chairman for many years. John Henry Shafer died two weeks before his 80th birthday in 1931.

Other Owners

In 1891, the property was deeded to John and Ester Tangren. In 1912, the property was bought by Dale M. Parriot. Richard L. and Sarah Schofield Holyoak purchased it in 1941. Since then, the property has been known as the Holyoak Farm.

John Tangren was born July 27,1859 in Sweden and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah with his parents at the age of 12. He married Ester Alien in1878 and they moved to Moab 1890. In addition to ranching and farming, he was a member of the board of trustees of the Grand County high School for many years, serving in that capacity until his death January 18, 1912. Ester Alien Tangren was born September 27, 1859 in Ogden, Utah. She served as president of the Relief Society and president of the Primary Association for the local ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She died October 6, 1924.

Dale Martin Parriott was born April 13, 1885 in London, Iowa. He came to Utah with his mother and father in 1890 and moved to Moab in 1904. In 1914, he leased his land while he operated one of the first motor stage lines in the area. Two years later, he soled his interest in the stage line to the Moab Garage Company and returned to farming. He married Ruth Cartwright of Delta, Colorado in 1920. No information regarding her has been found. Grand County is the leading corn producing county in Utah and Moab corn has a history of national recognition. For example, at the 1925 Hay and Grain show in Chicago, Moab corn was awarded four out of five possible places with Mr. Parriott receiving second prize. In addition to farming, Parriott served a 2-year term as Grand County commissioner. He died November 19, 1958.

Richard Leroy Holyoak, a lifetime resident of Moab, was born January 11,1898. He was well known locally as a guide, a great camp cook, and as having a knack for treating both people and animals when they were sick. He married Sarah Victoria Schofield in 1922. In addition to being a farmer and a rancher, Holyoak served as president of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association and the Sunday School Superintendent for the local ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. He also served as president of the Moab Irrigation Company, director of the Water Conservancy District, and was a member of the Grazing Service Advisory Board for the Taylor Grazing Act. Richard Holyoak died June 2 1975. Sarah Victoria Schofield Holyoak was born June 2, 1897 in Manassa, Colorado where she grew up and taught school prior to getting married in 1922. She served as secretary, and later president, of the Relief Society for the local ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sarah Holyoak also sang with the Singing Mothers, and was a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Sarah died June 6, 1979.

Architectural Significance

According to survey information at the Utah State Historic Preservation Office, this simple, one-and-one-half-story, Victorian Eclectic style building with a cross-wing plan is architecturally significant for a number of reasons. There are only four known adobe residences, two with a cross-wing plan, left in Moab; the Shafer House is the oldest of the city’s seventeen remaining Victorian style; and of the six Victorian Eclectic style residences in the city with a cross-wing plan.

The cross-wing house plays an ever-present role in Utah. Because Mormon town planning based on Joseph Smith’s “Plat of the City of Zion” was promoted early on, nucleated villages were set up in a gridiron fashion. With a prescribed number of lots per block, housing, a garden, and a small family farm were incorporated into each homestead. Houses were usually placed at the corner of the lot nearest the intersection of the streets, which left two sides of the house as potential formal facades. With symmetry being a principle concern in the design of a house, the ambiguity of placement was somewhat disconcerting to the designers.

Nevertheless, house builders devised solutions that were also in keeping with changing architectural trends. By adding another wing to the common single-cell or hall-parlor, another less-formal façade was created so that there was now an entrance onto both streets. With the addition of the wing, the classical form of the house was altered to a Victorian type. Thus, not only was space increased, but the entire appearance of the house was updated as well. The familiar, and proven, hall parlor plan was maintained with the addition of another room, usually in the form of a kitchen.

By approximately 1880, cross-wings were being constructed as a general type, rather than just as additions to previously existing homes, although cross-wing additions continued to be a popular way to update and enlarge an existing home. The cross-wing ushered in the Victorian house type in Utah that would dominate through the first decade of the twentieth century.

In rural areas of Utah, the Victorian Eclectic was the most common of the Victorian styles. This style allowed builders and architects great freedom in selecting decorative motifs to achieve picturesque intricacy and enhancement of the irregular massing of their designs. As the name implies, however, this late-nineteenth-century expression is not a distinct style, but a term used to identify buildings that show a combination of elements from popular styles. Like other late picturesque styles, it was applied to cottages and other small residences in scaled-down form. The characteristics that the John Henry Shafer house exhibits are irregular plan, asymmetrical façade and roof silhouette, and arched windows and door openings.

Narrative Description – Residence

The John Henry Shafer House, built in 1884, is a simple, one-and-one-half-story, Victorian Eclectic style building with a cross-wing plan. It is constructed from adobe brick with a stucco finish. It has a relatively steep cross-gable roof with open eaves, and the asphalt shingles are mostly failing, revealing the original wood shingles. Two brick chimneys extend from the ridge of the roof, one on the south wing approximately two thirds of the way toward the gable end and the other on the north section just east of where the two wings intersect. The main and upper stories of the original portion of the building have single-hung, two-over-two sash windows with simple details such as brick segmental relieving arches. Outside entrances are located on every elevation of the house and are all similar, having segmental arches and transoms.

There have been two additions to the house, a kitchen (southeast corner) built in the 1920s and a bathroom (east-center) built in 1972. 1 These two shed roof additions are attached to the east side of the south wing, constructed of brick with a stucco finish, and covered with a corrugated steel roofing. Overall, this historic structure is in fair condition; the primary structural failure is the stucco which has fallen from all the walls except the north wall and the additions, i.e. kitchen and bathroom; also the gable end has fallen in on the south wing. Many of the windows and doors have been boarded up and their condition is unknown. Those that have not been boarded up are missing their glazing. A complete restoration using tax credits is planned pending National Register listing.

Narrative Description – Outbuildings

One non-contributing structure is located within the boundary area of the nomination. This is a small (6′ x 10′) frame and plywood shed used for storage of gardening equipment. This was placed on the property in the late 1990s. There are no other contributing or non-contributing outbuildings located within the nomination boundaries.

Narrative Description – Site

The house is surrounded by open, sandy land adjacent to a schoolyard. To the north of the house, the property slopes down to the banks of a creek. Landscaping on the property consists of mainly native vegetation including several large cottonwood trees near the creek, a few fruit trees adjacent to the residence, and an adjacent community garden to the north and west of the house.