Every year Utahns celebrate Pioneer Day with rodeos, parades and barbeques. This year, there’s an extra celebration in downtown St. George where the city is celebrating the reopening of a historic pioneer building, which used to be the Washington County’s Courthouse.
The historic structure opened in 1870 and was the focal point of county administrative services for half a century. Ken Sizemore, executive director of the Dixie/Arizona Strip Interpretive Association who helped organize the reopening, said the courthouse has a very colorful history, especially considering the current events that happened in the western U.S. during the 19th century.
“One of the most interesting [stories] is that there’s a cupola on the top of the building and it was designed originally to be a gallows for capital punishment. However it was never used as such," Sizemore said. "One nefarious individual who was arrested in Silver Reef nearby and was jailed at the courthouse was broken out of the jail cell by a lynch mob and lynched a block away from the courthouse. It goes from the days of the Wild West to now being a historic structure.”
The building, which Sizemore says is the core of the city’s historic downtown district, will now be home to the city’s visitor center and gift shop, which will include local-and state-crafted souvenirs.
“Our partnership with St. George City in intended to provide an anchor for visitor services in the historic district,” he said.
One of the missions of the interpretive association is to preserve history by sharing the stories of those who came before us.
“One of the sad realities is that generations who remember the 19th Century has passed on and so we need to preserve the hard work and dedication that those settlers engaged in to provide the comforts that we have today," Sizemore said. "And this historic building is a great icon in the center of St. George to remind us of that hard work and dedication.”
The grand reopening of the courthouse is happening on Pioneers Day, at 97 E. St. George Boulevard. The celebration is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. – noon on Monday.