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Emotional residents heartbroken over demolition of historic Alpine home

Posted at 5:46 PM, May 16, 2024

ALPINE, Utah — The Carlisle House, as it’s known to community members in Alpine, was built in 1855 by Thomas and Fanny Carlisle on what is now Main Street.

The building is one of the city’s few remaining original pioneer dwellings and adobe homes. But it’s now on the verge of disappearing forever as its current owner, public charter school Mountainville Academy, which sits adjacent to the historic property, has begun careful demolition of the home.

“Unfortunately, we've been trying for the last six months to try and save the Carlisle House, create a win-win solution between Alpine City and Mountainville Academy,” said Kimberley Parker, a longtime resident of Alpine. “The fact is, is Mountainville is destroying the Carlisle House and that is a fact that will remain in history.”

The home was kept by the Carlisle family up until 2020, over 160 years, until it was later acquired by a photographer and her husband. It was eventually sold to Mountainville Academy in 2022.

The school plans to use the lot for construction of additional facilities, such as a STEM building and parking.

Mountainville said it purchased the land to protect the school from commercial and residential development on Main Street.

The home is notable because it was the first home built outside ‘The Old Fort Wall,' a stone wall that residents used for protection. But the home’s location was no accident as it was an inclusive place as the family welcomed Native Americans into their home, residents and even weary travelers.

“Fanny and Thomas always kept the lights burning,” said Wes Funk, a Mountainville Academy parent. “And so, one blizzard, a traveler who had lost his way only was able to find Main Street because of the Carlisle's light that's always burning.

"So I think that's a great symbol, always, always been there to receive the person who needs help.”

In the two years since purchasing the building, Mountainville has allegedltly received cash offers from two private buyers. The school considered the offers, but with stipulations such as the buyer couldn’t be involved in its preservation, and a buyer wasn’t allowed to use it as a residential location.

Those restrictions prompted the buyers to back out. The city then considered another alternative to the demolition with officials offering a land swap with another lot, also with stipulations.

“It wasn't really understood why they said no, said Jennifer Wadsworth, executive director of Friends of the Alpine City library. the non-profit that hoped to turn the location into a public library for the community.

“There is a lot of animosity between the city and Mountainville Academy, it's been here for years and this would have been the perfect opportunity to bridge that gap and to offer an olive branch between the two organizations.”

For its part, Mountainville put together a committee to determine the best course of action for the house.

"This included asking parents for their input," the school said in a statement. "At the end of this process it was determined that the house would not be functional for the school, and a new STEM building to further our current offering and support STEM activities in Utah County was desired."

The school said it is working with the Friends of the Alpine Library to preserve select items from the home.

"As board members, we are 'responsible for successfully ensuring the academic and personal excellence of the students of Mountainville Academy, that the school's programs and operation are faithful to the terms of its charter, and that the school is a viable organization,'" the school added. "Our decision has been made in accordance with the best interest of the school."

But while demolition has already been under way, the Alpine City Council, Friends of the Alpine City Library, Heritage Arts Foundation and other community members haven’t stopped fighting to keep the house and preserve its history.

According to Parker, who hired builders and engineers to survey the location, the house’s foundation and exterior can still be saved, only if it stays in the current location.

Moving the house, Parker claims, would ultimately lead it to crumble because of its adobe material.

“The important thing for me to get across is that history doesn't preserve itself,” Funk said. “It takes a lot of effort and energy and attention. And people who don't stop caring, and Alpine doesn't stop caring about their history, especially the Fannie and Thomas Carlisle history, because they're the best of us.”