Birthplace of David O. McKay to be featured on home tour

Saturday , August 26, 2017 - 5:00 AM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

HUNTSVILLE — A rare opportunity to visit the home where the 9th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was born and raised is offered next month during the 40th annual fall house tour sponsored by the Weber County Heritage Foundation.

The David McKay House, built by the parents of David O. McKay, is part of the house tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 9.

The original two-room house, located at 155 S. 7600 East, was constructed in 1872 by David and Jennette McKay, according to Weber County Heritage Foundation information.

It was a year later that the two welcomed the birth of their son, David O. McKay, who would serve as president of the LDS Church from 1951 until his death in 1970.

“I think it will be one of the major destinations for people, not just because it is so big and there is so much to see but because David O. McKay is so well-known,” said Katie Nelson, a member of the board of the Weber County Heritage foundation and a history professor at Weber State University. David O. McKay also is known for his role as principal of Weber Stake Academy, which evolved into WSU.

“The family has stopped doing public tours,” Nelson said. “If anyone hasn’t had the chance to see it before, it is a chance to see a Victorian era house that is full of antiques with vintage-era furniture in every room and get a sense of history.”

Although there are other houses on the tour, the David McKay house is the most famous one, Nelson believes.

David O. McKay’s grandson, John McKay, who will be conducting the tours, said he enjoys listening to people who come through the home in larger groups by appointment.

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“It’s interesting to me how many people consider President McKay their prophet,” John McKay said. “He was president of the church for 19 years. ... There were people who were born and called on their missions by the same prophet.”

Though members of the church love all of their prophets, John McKay said, some have prophets they feel particularly close to.

“There was a whole generation that felt close to President McKay so now we have generations coming through with their children introducing them,” he said.

Also of interest is the house itself and the way it evolved, Nelson said.

“It is rare to find a house built as early as 1870 that still resembles any semblance of its original form,” Nelson said. “When we find houses like this that are still in their original form, then they are a rare find and something worth preserving to help those historical structures remain. When people are able to go inside one and get a sense of how people lived back then, that is such an important part of people’s ability to connect to the past.”

Three bedrooms were added above the original two-room structure, and then the home received a major renovation years later.

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“This home wasn’t built, it grew,” said John McKay, quoting a relative, Quinn McKay.

While her husband served an LDS mission in Scotland, Jennette McKay had the home enlarged and finished in the Gothic Revival style, according to information provided by the Weber County Heritage Foundation.

At that time in the U.S,, architect Alexander Jackson Davis and landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing promoted this picturesque style with influential plan books published in the early to mid-1800s, according to the Weber County Heritage Foundation. “It proved to be a popular choice for houses in rural or small town settings,” the materials state.

The McKay house incorporates some Classical Revival features, such as the fanlight in the central gable, the box columns at the porch, and a low balustrade across the balcony. The interior has wood floors, molding and trim; walls finished with wallpaper and beadboard; paneled doors with transoms; period light fixtures; and many other original architectural details.

A wide staircase leads to the second-floor bedrooms.

“Family furniture, photos, quilts and other heirlooms help tell the story of multiple generations of the McKay family,” said the Weber County Heritage Foundation materials.

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A favorite item for John McKay is a Chickering piano that originated with Jennette McKay’s family.

“When they arrived in Utah, her father went back East and bought three identical pianos,” John McKay said. “He strapped them on their side in a covered wagon. ... That is a real treasure.”

Also a favorite is a display of pictures of the two oldest daughters of David and Jennette McKay, who died as children.

“The oldest was 12,” David McKay said. “She contracted rheumatic fever and died,” he said. “The day of her funeral, her sister, 9, and her best friend, died of pneumonia. They widened the grave and buried the sisters in a shared grave in the Huntsville Cemetery.”

Inside a shadowbox frame, the Relief Society at the time placed pictures of the girls, along with flowers and leaves.

“When you look close, you find that all of the flowers are handmade out of chicken feathers,” John McKay said. “It’s a beautiful work of art.”

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A favorite sight on the tour for Nelson is a worn wooden cradle in which Jennette McKay rocked each of her 10 children with her toe as she completed her needlework.

“She actually wore a groove in the wood,” Nelson said. “It is really sweet.”

For information and tickets for the home tour Sept. 9, visit webercountyheritagefoundation.com.

Tickets are $15 presale and $20 on-site with a $10 discount for students.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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