The City of South Salt Lake has made a community landmark into a community gathering place. The city bought the historic Columbus School in 1995 with an eye for the building's potential to be adapted to serve a variety of community needs. A feasibility study estimated the renovation costs to be about $5 million, far less than required for a new facility of comparable size. Cooper Roberts Simonsen Architects designed a six-phase renovation approach which allowed the city to spread out the costs of the project over several budget years.
The exterior renovation aimed at preserving the 1916 school's distinctive Spanish Revival-style architecture. Handsome terra cotta details were cleaned and preserved. A 1980s asphalt shingle roof was replaced with a Spanish barrel tile system in keeping with the building's historic character.
The interior of the building had been altered many times and retained few historic finishes. The remnants of an \ historic skylight were found in the main entry atrium and restored. During construction it was discovered that hollow clay tiles meant for use as infill only were supporting the massive roof. The fragile building was shored up with steel columns until a new structural system was installed.
Today Columbus School houses a senior citizen's activity center, a community auditorium, a sports recreation center, a cultural center, and a branch of the Salt Lake County Library. The resident's of South Salt Lake are thrilled to have a diversity of services available in a beloved historic building. The city's vision and investment insure that Columbus School will continue to serve as a source of community identity and strength.