FHSP History Part IV: Visuals

As we conclude our look into Frontier Homestead’s past, we thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the former site plans used to shape the direction of the park.



THE 1960’S

Having lost the rights to acquire the Depot property, the Iron Mission Park Commission moved forward with site plans for the Coal Creek location. They developed a series of fundraising brochures and sponsored a number of community fundraisers in an effort to fully realize their dream of a museum. The initial plans called for a “Hall of Transportation and Agriculture, to house the Gronway Parry Collection, a Relic Hall for the Daughters of the Pioneers and other private collections, a reproduction of the old Iron Foundry, and other buildings necessary to the comfort and convenience of visitors.”



THE 1970’S

With the establishment of Iron Mission State Park in 1973 and ongoing funding secured, designers with Utah State Parks began to develop an extensive site plan. Beginning with a welcome center on the south (near the existing Iron County Visitors Center) the design called for a sunken road that connected a carriage gallery (the site of the current museum) various log cabins and barns, and garden plots and orchard groves. Horse-drawn wagons would be available to move people through the park. This design would move Iron Mission from a static collection of artifacts to a vibrant living history village.



THE 1990’S

By 1998, with the construction of the present museum and wagon barn and the development of the south property by Iron County for a new visitor’s center, a new site plan was needed. The State of Utah, in partnership with museum consulting firms and landscape architects created a new Master Plan. The design revised the exterior of the park and significantly changed the back grounds by creating architectural and natural features surrounded by paved walkways. A group use area was added and exterior exhibits were included in contextual displays. This document guided the Park staff until it was replaced in 2012 with a new interpretive plan. Now that you have seen our past, come visit us and help shape our future.


FHSP History Part III: At last, a Museum

The battle over the proposed location of the new museum ended when Union Pacific announced they were selling the property to local developers. Undaunted, the Iron Mission Park Commission pressed forward and obtained land on the North end of Cedar City and continued to seek public support.

The first Iron Mission Sign

The first Iron Mission Sign

During the early 1970’s the Iron Mission Park Commission realized that they would not be able to financially sustain the operation they had envisioned. The Commission turned to their friends in the Utah State Legislature and agreed to donate the artifacts obtained thus far to the state as the inaugural collection of the newly created Iron Mission State Park.

Utah Code Annotated, Title 63-11-54 authorized the State of Utah, through the Division of Parks and Recreation, to secure title to “the Gronway Parry Collection of horse-drawn vehicles, horses, harnesses, figures, costumes, and horse-drawn machinery of the pioneer era, the Melling [granary], and the Osborne Blacksmith Collection.”  Furthermore, Title 63-11-55 directs the Division of Parks and Recreation through the Frontier Homestead State Park to “Acquire, construct, maintain, and operate any land, objects or structures as necessary to preserve, protect, display and enhance these [collections] and other historical objects or collections that appropriately contribute to the pioneer heritage of Utah.”

Cedar City finally had their museum.

Our first building.

Our first building.

Iron Mission State Park opened its doors on July 1, 1973. The temporary structure, located south of the current museum, held the Parry Wagon Collection and all the other artifacts acquired by the Iron Mission Park Commission.  The building proved smaller than anticipated and many of the objects had to be stored outside. In the winter months, the staff stayed warm by lighting a wood stove located in one of the cabins, as the main building had no heat. Soon, Utah State Parks, seeing the extreme need faced by the employees of the Park began to create architectural plans for not only a new museum building, but an entire living history village.

An early brochure promoting support for the park.

An early brochure promoting support for the park.

FHSP History Part II: Choosing a Location

With basic funding in place and a variety of artifacts to be displayed, the Iron Mission Park Commission began searching for a museum location. Cedar City and Iron County offered a 12 acre site northwest of the Coal Creek Bridge, just off Main Street. The Park Commission had something grander in mind—the Union Pacific Depot. The Iron County Record reported:

“This proposal would preserve the depot as a Travel Center, provide for complete storage and display of the Gronway Parry carriage collection, the restoration of Coal Creek Iron Mill, and would offer a Bazaar, Shopping Mall, carriage roads, and a formal English garden. The objectives would be to preserve and illustrate with authenticity the Iron Mission as it was pursued by the early pioneers. By setting the historic events in a recreational setting and making them more enjoyable to the general public, the Commission feels they will have the added benefit to the community of encouraging and fostering tourism in the area.”

However, the Park Commission was unaware that negotiations between Union Pacific and a group of local businessmen had been going on for nearly a year. The developer’s plans included: “a complex of businesses – department store, smaller stores, pottery shops, local handcraft shops, and probably a theatre. Offices will be part of total package as well. It would be a two-level structure, the lower level being constructed mainly on the lower sloping northern piece of the 14-acre plot.”

Cedar City Railroad Depot

Cedar City Railroad Depot

Both parties, the Iron Mission Park Commission and the local developers sought the support of the public as evidenced by the displayed letters to the editor. The battle over the museum location began in earnest.

letters 2 letters

Happy Birthday Frontier Homestead!

July is our birthday month and we are celebrating 42 years of collecting, preserving and interpreting the past of Iron County. We thought it appropriate to share our story over the next few weeks.

In 1962, the history department at the College of Southern Utah, now Southern Utah University, sponsored a workshop in conjunction with the college’s Founder’s Day celebrations. Representatives from all the local historical groups and civic clubs in town were invited. One of four projects discussed was the creation of a community museum.  In 1966, Dr. George Strebel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Institute of Religion was selected to head a committee that would further study the museum issue.

The results of the Strebel museum committee led to the creation of the Iron Mission Park Commission. This group of civic and community minded individuals researched possible collections, developed plans, and actively sought funding for a museum in Cedar City. Their efforts resulted in the acquisition of the Gronway Parry horse-drawn vehicle collection which would become the cornerstone of what is now named – Frontier Homestead State Park.

Gronway Parry’s hobby of collecting and restoring horse –drawn vehicles began as early as 1911. During the 1930’s Gronway began to actively restore and display his wagons and coaches. He later stated that: “An era was dying and its relics should be preserved.” He bought or made his own tools and his wife Afton sewed the upholstery. His collection quickly became nationally known and many of his pieces were used in motion pictures. Gronway felt strongly that his collection remain whole and in Cedar City. In 1968 he sold everything to the Iron Mission Park Commission for half its value. He considered the rest a gift to the people of Cedar City.

The Iron Mission Park Commission diligently strove to not only acquire the Parry wagons, but other donations as well including the Melling log cabin, the Osborn blacksmith tools, Native American artifacts collected by William L. Palmer, and the Alva Matheson gun collection. Community and LDS church leaders rallied support for the project.  A.E. Whatcott wrote:

“We are pleased to learn that plans are moving ahead for the acquisition of the Gronway Parry horse-drawn vehicle and farm implement collection. Also to learn of plans to house this valuable Southern Utah pioneer memorabilia. As you now launch this campaign to enlist the support of the citizens of Iron County and Southern Utah may we add our hearty endorsement and best wishes as well as to pledge our personal support. We shall further be happy to encourage the members of the Cedar Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to support this vital and worthwhile project.”



By A. E. Whatcott, President

Our first two historic structures, The Melling Granary and the Wood Cabin.

Our first two historic structures, The Melling Granary and the Wood Cabin.

With community support increasing, choosing a location would prove to be the next challenge. More on that next time.


Southern Utah Watercolor Society

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum is pleased to announce a special exhibit by the Southern Utah Watercolor Society (SUWS).  The public is invited to an artist’s reception on Saturday July 11th, from 2:00–4:00 p.m.  The reception is free to the public. Following the reception, the regular entrance fee applies.

SUWS also encourages those in the community with a passion for water media painting, or a desire to learn to come meet the artists and learn more about the watercolor society.  SUWS-Cedar City Chapter has been busy this year working together to bring new and interesting programs, demonstrations, and plein air events to Cedar City.

SUWS holds monthly meetings/programs on the third Monday of the month and are free to the public.   For more information about the exhibit, or the Southern Utah Watercolor Society, please contact SUWS President Larry Laskowski via email at larrylas@gmail.com.

The exhibit will continue at Frontier Homestead through August 30.  SUWS