Vern and Karen Buchanan retired from Salt Lake City to Manti in 1990. Vernís great grandfather, John Buchanan was one of the early settlers of Manti. Although he had never lived here, Vern said it felt like moving home.
One day, while the Buchananís were walking down Main Street, they stopped to read the historic plaque on the Old City Hall and discovered that John Buchananís name was listed as one of the carpenters who worked on construction of the building. It had been placed on the State and National Historic Register several years before. Long since vacated by the city offices and in a deplorable state of neglect, the Old City Hall now housed a struggling dance studio. After they moved on, it was used by the city to store whatever junk no one wanted, or dared to throw away. It even served as a haunted house for two Halloween seasons.
The building had become a white elephant. In its current condition it was unusable and yet the city was obligated to pay insurance and utility bills on it. Since they couldnít afford to restore it and no one seemed to want to buy it, the city council were in a quandary as to what to do with it.
When Buchanan heard that the building was in jeopardy, he declared, ďGrandpa John will come back to haunt me if I donít do something about that beautiful old building.Ē He is a retired carpenter/general contractor who knew that, although it needed a lot of work, the building was sound and most of the restoration work was cosmetic. He consulted with the State Historic Architect, the local building inspector and another contractor and they agreed with his evaluation.
He proposed a detailed plan to the city council that included the scope of the work needed, estimated costs and even ways that the restored building could be used by the city so that it would become an asset instead of a liability. The forward thinking city council and Mayor Kim Anderson accepted his proposal and gave $10,000 seed money to get the work started.
The Buchananís, along with another couple, Alvin and Mattie Jean Kilmer, Garry Bringhurst, Alan Justesen and many other talented and willing helpers, began the restoration in June 2002. By March, 2005, with over 4,400 hours of donated labor and the cityís $10,000 swelling to $61,000 earned from several grants and other monetary donations, the interior restoration was basically completed.
With additional restoration on the exterior and grounds as well as an added elevator, Manti's Historic Old City Hall is another jewel in the city's crown of beautiful buildings.