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Summit County Courthouse, Coalville

To be a preservationist you need that "vision thing." Getting other people to share your vision, however, often requires a bit of creativity. By giving people a taste of the historic Summit County Courthouse's potential elegance, the Summit County Historical Society built a strong foundation of community support for the complete renovation of this local landmark.

During the late 1970s, the courthouse suffered an insensitive modernization which severely comprised the building's historic interior. A new suspended acoustic tile ceiling covered the building's historic pressed metal ceiling. The lowered ceiling also intersected the plane of the Original windows and doors which, along with much of the decorative trim, were removed or altered.

The courthouse's beautiful pressed metal ceilings remained hidden and largely forgotten until their existence was mentioned at a Summit County Historical Society Board meeting. Excited by this discovery, the group hired Smith Hyatt Architects to assess the condition and extent of the original ceilings. Smith Hyatt's survey found pressed metal ceilings throughout the courthouse.

The historical society knew, however, that a proposal to restore all the ceilings would be met with skepticism. Many of the staff who worked in the building remembered the 1970s remodel and were wary of any plan to undo the "modernization." Therefore, with the support of the Summit County Commission, the historical society undertook a smaller scale project to restore the original ceilings only in public areas.

The ceiling restoration project generated a new sense of pride in the historic courthouse among staff, commissioners, and the community as a whole. With support for a complete renovation growing, in 1996 the county commission directed the historical society to develop a comprehensive restoration/preservation plan.

The timing couldn't have been better. In 1997, the sheriff's office and jail moved out of the courthouse's 1970s addition allowing the renovation of the historic courthouse to be performed in conjunction with the remodel of the addition. The renovation included restoring elements of the historic interior as well as cleaning and repairing the building's sandstone exterior. With many of Utah's historic county courthouses demolished or abandoned, the Summit County Commission and Summit County citizens are to be commended for preserving their courthouse for its traditional use.