Ogden High School renovation project uncovers messages from the past

Mar 30 2010 - 10:43pm

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(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) Tim Sobotka from Hughes Construction looks at the decorative plaster on the ceiling of the auditorium at Ogden High School on Tuesday.
(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner) Tim Sobotka from Hughes Construction looks at the decorative plaster on the ceiling of the auditorium at Ogden High School on Tuesday.

SLIDESHOW: Ogden High School auditorium renovation

OGDEN -- There are some well-kept secrets scrawled overhead in the Ogden High School auditorium.

In 1937, five men, believed to be either painters or construction workers removing scaffolding during the original construction, penciled their names and an October date onto the intricate plaster design about 45 feet above center stage.

Although impossible to see from ground level, the signatures were discovered after the auditorium restoration project brought workers and scaffolding up to the designs again after almost 73 years.

Above the ceiling, sneaky students have left graffiti messages on the brick walls through the years.

Tim Sobotka, project superintendent for Hughes Construction, said the messages are several years old, and the students who left them were able to sneak up to the ceiling level through the catwalk.

Some left only their names, but others had a few inappropriate words for their high school.

OHS has raised $7.1 million from the community to restore the auditorium and replace some windows.

"That is an amazing amount of money when we're in a recession," said Donna Corby, community relations coordinator for Ogden School District.

However, they are still short of their goal of $9 million needed for the construction.

Janis Vause, Ogden School Foundation executive director, said they will need to raise the money by next spring, when the construction is slated to be finished. The goal of the restoration process is to make the auditorium more earthquake safe, remove asbestos and add fire sprinklers, while still keeping the original, intricate details that make it unique.

"We're doing everything to make it new, and keep the old," Vause said.

Construction workers have removed the asbestos from the ceiling, gutted the auditorium and removed the seats.

"All of the seats have been removed from downstairs and the balcony," Sobotka said. "They are being stored in Salt Lake (City) right now, until we decide exactly what level of restoration will be with those. But essentially, they will feel like they did before."

The ceiling and plaster designs around the stage and the walls also will be revamped. Some pieces have been damaged by time, temperature and moisture, Sobotka said, so workers will resecure most of the tiles and repaint the entire design, which will include putting aluminum and gold leaf on pieces.

As for the graffiti and the 72-year-old signatures? The graffiti will go, but Sobotka said they aren't sure if the signatures will be left or covered up with a new coat of paint.

Vause said, "We hope they keep it."

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