February, 28, 2014

Housing Brigham Young Academy

BY-Academy-ca.-1892-page-3Brigham Young Academy (BYA), predecessor of Brigham Young University, was housed in a variety of buildings during its foundational years.  The initial location, the Lewis Building in Provo, served the academy well. While the building itself was not very grand, it played an important role in BYA’s legacy, for it was there that Maeser set out to establish fundamental programs that would shape not only BYA, but ultimately all other Church academies.

BYA grew over the years, and by 1882 the Lewis Building was too small. Funds were raised to help expand the building, but only six months later tragedy struck: the newly renovated Lewis Building caught fire and burned down.  Many worried that the academy would not be able to recover, but Maeser and Smoot were determined to keep the academy going. Smoot made arrangements to house the academy on his business property, and the school only lost one day of study following the fire! [1]

After the fair, arrangements were made to build a new permanent home for the academy. LDS Church President John Taylor selected a site, and a campaign began to raise money for the new school. George Q. Cannon was among one of the private donors and many wards in Provo were generous in their support. [2] Plans were made to lay the foundation of the new facility. The academy was moved to a local Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) warehouse in the meantime. Yet, due to nationwide economy problems, the academy collected very few donations. The foundation was laid, but the building progressed little in the next seven years.

The building was finally completed in 1892 when George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency dedicated it as the official location for Brigham Young Academy. This building, which is now the Provo Library, housed the school until the early 1900s when University President George Brimhall began expansion to Temple Hill.


*Information taken from Education in Zion Gallery text


[1] Wilkinson, Ernest L. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1976), 128.

[2] Wilkinson, Ernest L. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1976), 130.