A large portion of Tremonton is well on its way to being officially declared a historic district.
A consultant hired by the city to survey and inventory homes and other buildings recently completed her work, and found that approximately two-thirds of the buildings in the older part of town have attributes that qualify them for historic status.
Based on the findings, the Tremonton City Council earlier this month officially applied to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the publicity, sense of place and community pride it brings, the designation would also give owners of buildings within the district boundary the opportunity to receive tax credits to help pay for improvements to their properties.
Salt Lake City-based consultant Angie Abram of Storiagraph LLC found 470 buildings that had at least some historic qualities within an area bordered roughly by 800 North, 300 East, 700 South and 400 West.
Abram said that for an area to be awarded historic status, around 60% or more of the buildings need to found as “contributing.” City materials define a contributing building as “a structure that is 50 years or older and, due to its architectural integrity or other factors, contributes to the district’s historical significance or character.”
Abram said 67% of the Tremonton buildings she surveyed qualify as contributing, placing the district well above the typical threshold for receiving the designation.
The city recently mailed a notice to all property owners within the boundaries of the proposed historic district, inviting them to participate in an online presentation last week to learn more about the proposed district.
Of particular interest to building owners is a 30% tax credit on expenses related to certain types of property improvements. The program is voluntary and no one will be required to make changes or improvements to their properties, said Tremonton City Manager Shawn Warnke, who has participated in a similar program for his own home in Brigham City.
“There are no land-use restrictions associated with being listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” Warnke said. “My experience was that the tax credit program was a relatively simple process and financially beneficial.”
In a recorded presentation of her findings, Abram provided some historical context as to why the city is a good candidate to be included in the national register. She said Tremonton is one of only three cities or towns in Utah that was developed out of a successful water reclamation project (the others are Delta and Koosharem), and is unique as the only one of the three that was started by private developers.
“Tremonton evolved into an agricultural and commercial center, a thriving residential and commercial community, over a long period,” Abram said.
Early settlers in the area struggled to find high-quality water sources, but a canal project on the Bear River in the late 19th century changed that. When the project was announced, real estate speculators snapped up most of the available land, and Tremonton went on to become the commercial hub of the Bear River Valley.
Abram said the first settlers in town came from New Sharon, Iowa and built homes around what is now Iowa String Road, but it was a group of German immigrants from Tremont, Illinois that founded the city in 1903, naming it after the town they left behind.
Notable characteristics of the district go back to the way the town was originally built, with 2.5-acre blocks, narrow, deep lots and narrow roads – “a nice, tight density,” Abram said. Victorian and Foursquare styles were common among the first-built homes.
The town’s population grew quickly, from around 100 at its founding to 500 within two years. Tremonton boasted 1,000 residents by 1925, and was growing beyond its early settlement and development period into what Abrams describes as an “agriculture, small business and community development period” with a “vibrant commercial core” that brought new commercial and community buildings, many of which still stand and contribute to the overall historic qualities of the district.
Many homes during this period were built in an international style that was “very unusual” at the time, she said.
Abram said a new period started in 1955, a postwar period in which Tremonton got a big economic boost from the opening of a rocket motor plant owned and operated by Thiokol Corp. (now Northrop Grumman). At a time when many other agricultural communities were struggling, she said Tremonton continued to thrive due largely to the Thiokol plant, which also helped usher the city into the modern era.
The economic, social and other forces that shaped Tremonton are reflected in the city’s buildings, which Abram said is really the essence of a historic district.
“It’s a great place,” she said.