ST. GEORGE – For more than 150 years, the Pioneer Courthouse has stood at the corner of St. George Boulevard and 100 East, serving as a county courthouse and administrative building for nearly a century before falling into disrepair in the 1960s.
After being threatened with demolition in 1970, St. George City stepped in and took control of the historic building, handing over its operation and use to four local historic organizations in 2019.
One of these organizations, the Washington County Historical Society, has attracted the national attention of the Daughters of the American Revolution through their work in restoring the building.
“The Washington County Historical Society was willing to ensure that we preserved one of St. George’s most iconic historic buildings,” said Valerie King, president of the local Daughters of the American Revolution. “I have great admiration for what they do and have done, and for what they preserve here not only for current citizens, but also for generations to come.”
Following a rigorous nomination and approval process, the Color County Chapter of the Women’s Organization presented the National Historic Preservation Recognition Award to representatives of the historical society on Tuesday afternoon.
The contributions of Jeanine Vander Bruggen, coordinator of the Pioneer Courthouse and a nearby museum, have been particularly noteworthy. Holder of a dual membership in historical society and the Daughters of the American Revolution, Vander Bruggen has been recognized individually with society.
She has also led the operation and management of space within the courthouse, balancing exhibits and events planned by the four organizations that share stewardship: Sons of Utah Pioneers, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Arts to Zion and the historical society.
Within the walls of the courthouse, organizations tell the story of the region through historical artifacts, personal stories, public documents, photographs and more.
These historic organizations see the courthouse as more than just an old building, said Vander Bruggen. For them, it is a monument to those who have inhabited this region in the past and a symbol for their values and their heritage.
“I think there is a great need for people to appreciate what it took to have what we have today,” said Vander Bruggen. “This area was seen as inhospitable and uninviting, but people who move here now don’t understand what it took to create this beautiful place where everyone wants to live. We must teach that it took effort to get to where we are. “
The historical society’s efforts weren’t limited to the courthouse, alone. In fact, the organization has several projects underway, including field trips to local historic sites and preparing to offer walking tours in downtown St. George.
The historical society is also months away from installing a statue of Juanita Brooks in the new Statue Garden on Tabernacle Street (located around the gazebo between the school district buildings).
Brooks was a famous author, educator, and historian who played a pivotal role in publishing details of the Mountain Meadows Massacre that had been omitted from official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accounts and stories. local.
“She is famous for her courage and resistance to community reaction,” said Jesse Stocking, special projects manager at the historical society. “She wanted to bless her society by going against the instructions and preferences of the LDS apostolate by making known (the details of the historic massacre).”
The historical society has secured funding for the statue, and it is expected to be installed within the next six months, Stocking said.
The Pioneer Courthouse and the nearby Pioneer Museum are open to the public and free. Details on opening hours can be found on the Pioneer Corner website.
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