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Helper Civic Auditorium - Helper Commercial District - Helper, UT
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member QuarrellaDeVil
N 39° 41.246 W 110° 51.265
12S E 512483 N 4393077
Quick Description: A National Register of Historic Places plaque at 19 S Main St, Helper, UT, notes this building, the Helper Civic Auditorium, as being part of the Helper Commercial District, and it provides some history.
Location: Utah, United States
Date Posted: 10/23/2016 6:14:36 PM
Waymark Code: WMTAK9
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member QuesterMark
Views: 1

Long Description:
Sponsored by the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, the plaque says:

Built in 1937, the Helper Civic Auditorium was designed by Salt Lake City architects Carl W. Scott and George W. Welch. The building is an excellent example of Art Moderne style also known as "Streamline Modern." The style was popular in the 1930s particularly in public buildings. The auditorium features Art Moderne elements such as the flat roof emphasized by concrete coping and coursing, smooth masonry with curved corners, glass block, and pilasters with abstracted capitals.

The Helper Civic Auditorium is part of the Utah Public Works Administration (PWA) and Works Progress Administration Buildings Thematic Nomination. The building is significant because it helps document the impact of New Deal programs in Utah during the Great Depression. The Helper Civic Auditorium was one of 226 buildings (two of which were auditoriums) constructed in Utah during the 1930s and early 1940s under the WPA and other New Deal programs. Of those 226 buildings, 130 are still standing. On a local level the construction of the building was a boost to Helper's economy by providing much needed jobs and funds through the purchase of building materials.

Marker placed in 1997

Division of State History


That marker number is actually the Utah Historical Society's site inventory number, and it is used by the National Register of Historic Places in the nomination form for the Helper Commercial District (erroneously called "Helper Historical District" on the plaque). The nomination form notes that the Helper Public Library is here, but the Mining Museum, also referenced, now occupies the Old Helper Hotel at 294 S Main St.

An eighteen foot coal miner by the name of Big John stands in front of the Helper City Library side of the auditorium. While maybe not unique, Big John is interesting in that, while he was cast from the mold of a Paul Bunyan highway giant, he never actually got to be Paul Bunyan. He's always been here in Helper, doing the job for which he was created, to serve as a symbol of community pride and a memorial to those in the mining industry who shaped this part of Utah. Big John is eighteen feet tall and completely black, so it's probably best to visit him during daylight hours, but there's nothing that says you can't visit him at night (he's not illuminated, though). A sign at Big John's feet provides some background:

Big John was an original idea, born from the creativity and enthusiasm of Helper citizens, the Mayor and the City Council. In February of 1964, many of the movers and shakers of Helper decided the city needed a civic attraction. On February 27, 1964, the first meeting for the formation of a museum was held, where Councilman Al Veltri was appointed chairman. Things snowballed from there.

On March 12, 1964 the Western Mining Museum was on its way. It was discovered that a firm, -International Fiberglass in Venice, CA.- made large fiberglass figures for promotional purposes. The company was a fiberglass boat builder that had begun making tall advertising figures in 1963. With some discussion, the order went out and created the largest resident of Helper. Paul Bunyan became a miner.

Of course the miner still needed a name, but that didn't take long. In 1961, the song of fame (the first was "16 Tons") about mining won the best Country Song and Album of the Year. It was of course "Big Bad John". What other name was fitting for the 18 foot miner in Helper except "Big John".

Big John is a proud symbol of pride for the mining industry. John also signifies the memory of all those who have given their lives in the local mines since the late 189's. John is the foundation of civic pride and strong work ethics for a unified community.

Stand was built from rails, spikes, and plates gathered from Castle Gate Mine Tram Way.
Name of Historic District (as listed on the NRHP): Helper Commercial District

Link to page with the Historic District: [Web Link]

19 S Main St, Helper, UT 84526

How did you determine the building to be a contributing structure?: Plaque on building (Photo in gallery)

Optional link to narrative or database: [Web Link]

NRHP Historic District Waymark (Optional): Not listed

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