Ogden's "Painted Ladies" show off on historic tour

(Photo by: Raychel Johnson) A line of people extends from the Eccles Art Mansion on Saturday morning. The mansion was the beginning of the Weber County Heritage Foundation's 2013 Historic Home Tour.
(Photo by Raychel Johnson) A line of people extends from the Eccles Community Art Center on Saturday morning. The mansion was the beginning of the Weber County Heritage Foundation’s 2013 Historic Home Tour.

Often called “Painted Ladies” for their multicolored exteriors and graceful architectural style, homes built during the late nineteenth century were the talk of the town on Saturday.

Highlighting historic homes that once belonged to some of Ogden’s most important families, the Weber County Heritage Foundation took patrons on a stroll back in time to the Victorian Era. The tour featured eight homes and a recent development in a historic neighborhood.

“It gets people walking around in historic districts that they may not otherwise get out of their cars and visit,” said Mary Galbraith, vice president of the Weber County Heritage Foundation. “While people are going into certain homes on the tour, they also get to see all the great work that other home owners are doing to improve the neighborhoods in some of Ogden’s older areas.”

Galbraith said the home tour also functions as the main fundraiser for the foundation. Funds raised are used for restoration projects, and funds are donated to public buildings and museums. She said the Weber County Heritage Foundation has supported restoration efforts in Ogden Canyon, the Union Station and Ogden High School among others.

“Its also a way for us to educate the public, and let people know about a certain architectural style,” Galbraith said.

The rain drizzle on Saturday morning didn’t halt the crowds; approximately 800 tickets were sold. This is a dramatic increase from last year’s attendance of a mere 320. Two neighborhoods in Ogden’s intercity were selected for the tour, the Jefferson Avenue Historic District and the Pioneer Stadium vicinity.

Connie Galbraith, a volunteer on the tour, was stationed at the Edwin Dix house, one of the featured homes on 17th Street. She has been volunteering since 1989, and said those who value history will take better care of their surroundings.

“Ogden has such a variety of architecture,” Connie said. “I love the art modern, which Ogden has more of that than almost any other city, Salt Lake included.”

The Dix house was constructed sometime between 1895 and 1903, according to the Weber County Heritage Foundation. Nick Kotok, the current owner, purchased the home and has been restoring it since 1974.

Jan Slabaugh, a former interior design professor at Weber State University, was also a volunteer at the home tour. She has volunteered with the foundation on and off since 1988. She said her favorite part about Kotok’s Victorian home was knowing his personal progress of restoration.

“He has taken something that was in total disrepair and made it a beautiful work of art,” Slabaugh said, “basically being able to recycle and make do in a totally different way.”

Slabaugh, when she used to teach, involved her students in the historical tours she guided.

“Houses like this just excite me,” she said. “I want to let Ogden know that they have such a marvelous history that they’ve tried to keep.”

She hailed Ogden for its history, especially the railroad and the auction center, and said Salt Lake City can’t even compare.

“I’ve always said that Ogden has much more interesting history in what communities were like at that time; Salt Lake deals with the history of the LDS church.”

Slabaugh said the home tours are important because they bring communities together.

“A community without history can never be a community,” she said. “It has to have the historical aspects kept so that other people can see it.”

The Weber County Heritage Foundation is planning a Christmas home tour, its first ever, for Dec. 13. More information about the featured homes and projects can be found at its website. www.webercountyheritagefoundation.com.