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Murray Journal

Kathleen Stanford – an advocate for Vine Street’s historic buildings

Aug 29, 2018 12:06PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Kathleen Stanford stands in front of the historic Vine Street complex, which she has been involved in trying to preserve. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

She took a stand between the wrecking ball and the historic church and library on Vine Street, and now her quest is to transform the buildings into a thriving part of the Murray community. Kathleen Stanford was the woman behind the successful lawsuit that prevailed against a developer who wanted to tear down the historic Murray 1st Ward building and Jones Court duplexes and put an assisted living center in its place.

Murray is in my blood. My parents both went to Murray High School. I remember going to church with my maternal grandparents at the Vine Street Church. My father's family lived at the Jones Court Duplex when they first moved to Murray. My uncle left to fight in World War II from that duplex. My great-great grandfather was the Mayor of Murray in 1916. My grandmother often told us stories about Murray and its citizens.”

It was this love of Murray that caused her to come back after living on Salt Lake City’s eastside. She gave up her 3,700-square-foot home to move her family into her great grandparent’s 1,900-square-foot home that needed major renovation. Wanting to be involved in her community, she started attending municipal meetings, including the History Advisory committee. “I have always loved history and old buildings and feel that knowing and seeing our history teaches us important lessons and heals us from the hectic stresses of our current lives.”

In April 2017, she heard the Vine Street church, Carnegie library, and the two Jones Court duplexes were going to be demolished. For the May Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, she printed up flyers and personally delivered them to more than 400 homes, talking to people about the proposed demolition. “There was a good showing at the meeting, but the planning commission voted unanimously to approve the demolition. I didn't give up and got help from my two brothers, both of whom are historians, researching the city code and talking to old-timers in the city.”

Janice Strobell, who was also interested in saving the buildings, formed Preserve Murray with Stanford, Scott Bainbridge and Mitzi Remy. Preserve Murray frequented city council meetings to present opposing points of view and brought in experts to testify against the planning decision. In the end, the council felt it had no choice but to endorse the planning commission’s decision.

Having a narrow window in which to file an appeal in Third District Court, Stanford acted contrary to Preserve Murray’s position of not filing a lawsuit. Preserve Murray still had hopes of influencing the city and to work with the city to save the buildings and felt the city would not talk with anyone who had filed a lawsuit against them. 

Filing the lawsuit complicated Stanford’s relationship with Preserve Murray. “I was viewed as ornery and contentious and received threats of having lawsuits filed against me. I was shunned by most of the city officials. All of this must have frustrated Janice and she finally asked me to resign from the Preserve Murray board.”

After rejecting Murray’s appeal to dismiss, the court heard the case and ruled against the city, stating that they acted arbitrarily and capriciously. The city chose not to appeal and the developer decided not to develop the property. The property has since been put back onto the market.

“My vision for the old church and the Carnegie library has always been to restore them to something beautiful for the community, like a cultural center, museum and reception center,” stated Stanford.

After the court case, she still has plenty to do to attain that vision. “My family is tired of me working for preservation. They want me to cook dinner more often. Sometimes they figure I did my job to win the lawsuit, and I should drop preservation. But they are also proud of me for standing up for something I believe in. I see that the citizens of Murray love these buildings and are willing to save them.”