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Front Page » April 1, 2003 » Local News » Holding onto the Past
Published 5,073 days ago

Holding onto the Past

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Restoration of the Crystal Rosenberg house continues

The Crystal Rosenberg house sits at Main and Center Street in Castle Dale.

The Crystal Rosenberg home has a long and varied past and it currently houses the Emery County Chamber of Commerce as well as the Emery County Community Foundation. The foundation has many plans for the old home. Below you will find excerpts from a history by Argene Olsen to give an idea of where the home has been and where it is going.

The history of the first home of Abinadi and Hannah Seely Olsen begins prior to their marriage on Feb. 21, 1887. The home is located on the corner of Main and Center Street in Castle Dale. Hanna is the daughter of Orange and Hanna Olsson Seely. Only three rooms had been built when the newlyweds moved in. Abinadi had been assisted by his father, Henning Olsen Ungerman (later known as Bishop Olsen), an old country trained mason from Denmark. He built the walls and did the plastering and white washed the walls. The center of the walls was built with adobe brick, which was previously dried by sunlight rather than being burned to a harder finish.He also built chimneys for two fireplaces. The three rooms were finished with space left above for upstairs rooms, which were finished later. In time a kitchen and cellar were added.

There was no running water in the house all through the years that this family lived here. Every drop of water that was used for several years had to be dipped into barrels from a nearby water ditch. The water had to stand until the dirt settled. Then it was carried a bucketful at a time across the street to the house for family use. Each morning while water was cool, it was carried to the cellar. This water was used for drinking.

The Dave and Elva Seely family lived in this home from 1909 to 1940. During these years there were building improvements, rooms added and others finished. When running water came to Castle Dale in 1914, the Seely family was already enjoying a kitchen sink, a bathtub, and laundry machine in their new bathroom and laundry room. Bedrooms had been completed upstairs, also.

This home in the center of town became a social gathering place. Every New Year's morning, Elva and Dave served breakfast for all their crowd. If someone did not attend the New Year's Eve dance, those who did, went from house to house and pulled people out of bed and they assembled at the Seely house. DeLon Olsen was always the cook serving his famous sourdough hot cakes, ham, bacon, toast, and plenty of black coffee to neutralize the "liquid spirits" consumed before arriving at the party. These breakfasts lasted until about noon on New Year's Day.

There were vegetable gardens on the north and west side of the house. On the east and south grass grew. In 1928, Mrs. Cash appeared at the door with lilac plants and took Elva out to show her how to plant and care for a few flowers. That gave Elva the gardening "bug". She went to Salt Lake and had a nursery lay out a plan for landscaping the whole yard. How she worked to get it all finished and maintained! In the spring and summer she would be up at 4 a.m. to water and mow the lawn. It looked like velvet. Her flowers and shrubs were beautiful. It was one of the prettiest places in town.

Kathleen Truman looks over the newly refurbished rooms of the house.

Crystal (Olsen) and Angus Rosenberg and their children moved into Crystal's childhood home in 1944. There was no need to remodel the home. It was well suited to the needs of this family. The hospitality that radiated from the walls of this home from its very beginning in 1887 still continued. Crystal maintained a beautiful outdoor landscape of flowers, bushes, and trees. Her vegetable garden each summer was a glorious sight to see and became the topic and admiration of all who passed by. Crystal lived in her childhood home until about 1987, when at about 86 years old she moved to the nursing home in Ferron where she died in 1988 at age 87.

What's happening to the old Crystal Rosenberg house on the corner of Center and Main in Castle Dale?

You may remember that Crystal Rosenberg's son, Nad Peterson, and her grandchildren chose to donate Crystal's home to the Emery County Community Foundation nearly one and one half years ago. The Visitor Information Center for the Emery County Chamber of Commerce has been in the house since that time. But other exciting things have been happening in the downstairs rooms in the meantime.

Glendon and Franklin Johnson and the Castle Valley Ranch in Moore have donated time and money to help the Community Foundation "turn back the clock" on Crystal's house. Years ago, the ceilings had been lowered; the wood floors carpeted; and wood paneling installed to cover up those old, uneven adobe walls. Weeks were spent taking out the ceiling tile, removing the wood paneling, removing 100 years of paint and wall paper from the walls, and stripping paint off the beautiful old wooden doors and window frames. Bonnie Swenson fell in love with the wooden stairs and spent countless hours stripping them down so they can be stained to match the rest of the wood. Frank chose the historical colors for the rooms that had now been stripped bare. Foundation members wondered at how the dark colors brought back from the past would ever look. As you walk through beautiful leaded glass doors, a glowing yellow greets visitors in the entry way; this is followed by a blue gray straight from the Mancos shale hills; go a little farther and you are greeted by the soft coral of the Castle Valley hillsides; and then into a dark green room mimicking the pinon-junipers on those hillsides. The color palette reflects the colors of Castle Valley and the San Rafael Swell.

The foundation still has a few more things to finish inside and the outside still needs to be repainted. Thanks to a donation from someone in the community concerned with historic preservation, the inside will hopefully be finished next month. When the restoration is complete, the Emery County Community Foundation plans to use the first two rooms to showcase the local folk art of the many talented people in Emery County. They hope to share the "green room" with another non-profit dedicated to assist the people of Emery County. The Foundation also hopes in the future to restore the beautiful gardens of Crystal Rosenberg. The foundation is planning a rose garden to honor the women who came to Castle Valley and truly "made the desert bloom like a rose." There will also be a kitchen herb garden, a Mormon medicinal plant garden, and eventually a large vegetable garden. Produce will be donated to the food bank. The foundation is hoping the community will join in this beautification and restoration project honoring pioneer women by donating rose bushes, plants, drip irrigation systems, or the labor for the gardens, or paint and labor for the exterior of the house. This could include eagle scout projects and service projects by county youth or adult groups. A plaque honoring the name of the pioneer woman and years of her birth and death will be displayed for each donation. The goal is to have the restoration completed by the end of July when the Castle Valley Pageant begins so an open house can be held to showcase the contributions of pioneer women to the settlement of Castle Valley. Hopefully, the "Crystal House" will soon "radiate hospitality that has characterized the house since 1887" to visitors and county residents alike.

The Emery County Community Foundation's mission is to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of Emery County, now and for generations to come and seek creative means to solve community problems. In the past, the foundation has funded educational scholarships for local students and supported efforts to preserve the Emery Church. For more information about how you can help our community while receiving a Utah income tax credit contact Linda Jewkes, Bonnie Swenson, or Kathleen Truman.

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