“Over my dead body are you tearing that house down.”
You may not recognize these words from Florence S. Jacobsen, the first female Church curator, but you may recognize the historic buildings she fought to preserve—the Lion House and the Beehive House, among others. On a recent episode of the Latter-day Saint Women podcast, Emily Utt, historic sites curator for the Church, discusses Jacobsen’s legacy.
Before Jacobsen, who was the Young Women General President in the 1960s, intervened, the Lion House was almost torn down and replaced with a new parking garage entrance. But because she spoke up, the Young Women organization was given a modest budget and put in charge of its restoration and preservation.
Utt says there is a key guiding principle in preservation work: “The best way to save a building is to make it useful.” Jacobsen did just that—suggesting a restaurant in the basement, compiling the Lion House cookbook, putting in staircases, and filling the home with donated furniture.
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Why was Jacobsen so deeply invested in preserving Church history? One reason may be that her family history is inextricably connected with Church history—her two grandfathers are Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant. But her passion for preservation was also cultivated over a lifetime of service as a curator and Church leader.
Utt recalls one of Jacobsen’s frequent teachings: “The best way to honor our pioneer legacy is by you becoming a person worthy of that story. . . . How you carry yourself, how you show who you are to the world is a reflection of your heritage. So, build the heritage that you want the generations after you to have, knowing that your heritage is built on the generations that came before.”
Listen to the full podcast episode here to discover how Jacobsen’s willingness to fight for preservation can be emulated in our everyday lives. During the episode, Utt also discusses her current work with the Salt Lake Temple renovation project.
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