Preserving yesterday for tomorrow: the Riverton City Historic Preservation Committee
Apr 09, 2018 05:06PM ● Published by Mariden Williams
Riverton City Hall, built in 1925, was originally Riverton Elementary School and is currently Riverton’s only building listed on the National Historic Register. (National Park Service)
Riverton City has grown a lot since it was first founded in 1865. Originally a small farming settlement, the population never even broke 3,000 people until after the year 1970— relatively recently in its 153-year history. Though the city is now home to 43,000 residents and counting, the Riverton City Historic Preservation Committee is devoted to making sure it doesn’t lose sight of its small-town roots.
“Riverton’s got a lot of historical dwellings and residents and sites, and we just are trying to do the work to make sure that that history is preserved for future generations, to see and learn from,” said Andy Pierucci, Historic Preservation Committee chair. “We’re also working to help inform and educate the public on the history of Riverton so people can understand what’s happened in the past and how that’s shaped the present.”
The Riverton City Historic Preservation Commission is the successor to an earlier organization: the Riverton Historical Society, originally formed in 1984. But as time went on, interest in the Historical Society flagged. Meanwhile, Riverton’s population grew, leading to increased infrastructural needs and construction but with nobody there to vouch for the preservation of historical buildings.
As more and more old was replaced with new, preserving the increasingly hidden past took a higher priority in the eyes of the city. In fall 2016, the Historic Preservation Commission reformed, like a league of particularly bookish superheroes coming out of retirement, to carry on the work of the past.
“There’s greater urgency now, especially with the work that’s being done on Redwood Road— that’s where a lot of the historic buildings are,” said Pierucci, who has served on the commission since it was first reinstated. “A lot of the homes are being altered, borderline torn down, and so we’re just trying to do our best to preserve what we can of what’s there.”
The commission has seven members. Five represent specific city council districts, while two represent the city as a whole. It’s a diverse group; members range from BYU history professors, to active PTA members, to Riverton’s own deputy city recorder, Joy Johnson.
“We’ve got people from all walks of life, all different age groups and genders—just people who are passionate about history,” Pierucci said. “It’s a really great mix of people.”
One of the commission’s chief responsibilities is getting Riverton’s historic sites officially recognized as such by the National Park Service on a local register of historical places and keeping that list up to date. This qualifies Riverton as a Certified Local Government, which earns the city funding from the National Park Service to preserve and maintain historic sites. The public is welcome to help in this endeavor.
“We’d really love to have the help of the residents of Riverton as we’re working to create this historic sites list,” said Pierucci.
Any site within city bounds that is at least 75 years old and free of major modern alterations will be considered for inclusion on the list.
“If anybody has any nominations, we’d love to hear from them,” Pierucci said.
In addition to maintaining Riverton’s own list of historic sites, the commission is also working with a contractor to identify a number of sites to nominate for the National Register of Historic Places.
“That’s not just the local Riverton register; that’s the national register, which would be huge for anyone who owns those buildings because they can receive a bunch of tax credit for the fact that they’re on the national register,” Pierucci said. Currently, Riverton only has one location on the National Historic Register: Riverton City Hall, which was originally built in 1925 as an elementary school.
In addition to cataloguing Riverton’s historic buildings and chasing down government grants, the commission also seeks to commemorate significant dates and events. Because 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the commission is planning to honor Riverton’s World War I veterans this year.
“We’d like to place poppies on the graves of World War I veterans in the Riverton City Cemetery,” said Pierucci.