Friday, August 27, 2010

The Gifford House

My Aunt Shirley is the Executive Secretary of the Capitol Reef Natural History Association. Several years ago there was an old house just outside of the area where the Capitol Reef Visitors Center is located. It was originally an old pioneer house….(read more about it here)

The original home was built in 1908 by Calvin Pendleton. His and his family occupied the house for eight years. The second residents of the home were the Jorgen Jorgenson family who lived there from 1916 to 1928. Jorsenson sold the homestead to his son-in-law, Dewey Gifford in 1928. The Gifford family occupied the home for 41 years (1928 to 1969).

The National Park Services was using this small pioneer home for storage. A few years ago the Park Services decided that they no longer needed the room for storage and made plans to tear down the small structure.

This bothered my Aunt. She hated to see the historic home torn down.

It was on a trip home from Historic Williamsburg that she felt inspired to save the Gifford House. Upon her return home, Shirley approached some National Park officials who just happened to be at Capitol Reef. They were indifferent as to the fate of the Gifford House. She was told that she would have to put together a proposal as to what she planned to make of the little structure. So, she put together a plan and the right people were at the right place at the right time for the proposal to be approved. Next, was putting the plan into place and making the Gifford House a historical site within the park that would preserve the Mormon History of the area. My Aunt was instrumental making the Gifford House happen. One thing that was a necessary part of the plan was that the Gifford House would be able to fund itself. In other words, they had to figure out a way to make enough money to keep the Gifford House staffed and taken care of without any money from the National Park.

The first year, the Gifford House barely produced $20,000 in revenue—not really enough to keep the Gifford House open. However, after just a few years, the projected income for 2010 will be over $300,000.

Shirley approached me a few years ago to make aprons to sell in the Gifford House. So, I spent one winter sewing one of a kind aprons to sell in the gift area. There is still one of my aprons on display with some of the other artifacts.

Another thing that Shirley did was to contract with a new restaurant that had opened recently in the town of Torrey to make pies. The owners of the Café Diablo, (which has been featured in magazines such as Sunset) agreed to make small, personal pies to sell in the Gifford House. In the beginning, the contract was for about 2 dozen pies per day. Now, they supply up to 10 to 12 dozen pies to sell each day.

the gang sampling some personal pies just outside the Gifford House, July 2010

Also for sale in the Gifford House are things like jams, jellies, cookbooks, bread, muffins, rolling pins, homemade soap, and other fun things.

On display in the Gifford House are pieces of original pioneer furniture, a bed with an old quilt, a baby cradle, linens, kitchen tools, rugs, and other period items from the area.

I think that it is pretty cool that one person can have an idea and set to work to make it happen. I am proud of my Aunt for her work in preserving this piece of Mormon History for others to see and learn from.


Jacobson Five said...

We went there and bought some pumpkin butter and ice cream and pies. Good stuff! I had no idea your aprons were there though! Shame on me, I should have bought one.

Shannon said...

Pretty cool! The guy I dated for a year and a half was a Gifford and Dewey was his Great Grandpa, I believe. It's a cool house.