Pleasant Grove Main Street

Threatened neighborhood alert! Pleasant Grove Main Street could be lost forever.

Developers plan to demolish the eastside buildings onMain Street from Center Street to 200 South, replacingthem with mixed-use, high-density housing designed toresemble Victorian buildings. According to the PleasantGrove Historic Preservation Commission, a developerand realtor on the city’s Design Review Boardfrequently receives project variances. These includewaivers for height restrictions and reduced parkingrequirements. They have already purchased anddemolished two historic buildings and own a third, thehistoric Elijah Mayhew House, with plans to demolishby February 2025. Their projects, including a five-storybuilding that exceeds Main Street’s two-story heightrestriction, threaten the area's historic integrity.

The west side of Main Street is also at risk. Oneindividual owns nearly all the buildings on this block,except for Smith Rexall Drug, which they have the firstright of refusal to purchase. They plan to demolish theentire block, jeopardizing several historic buildings.

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The Elijah Mayhew home at 214 S.Main St, Pleasant Grove, is vacant, and plans areunderway to demolish it. It is one of the oldestremaining homes in Pleasant Grove, constructed in1865 in the Federal style for Elijah and LydiaFarnsworth Mayhew, who came to Pleasant Grove in1853.

Elijah was a polygamist and had three plural wives.One of his wives, Sarah Young Mayhew, whom hemarried in 1857, operated a boarding house in thishome. A large cloth sign hung on the front of the homewith “The Mayhew House” imprinted to advertise therooms. A barn and a livery stable behind the househeld the guests’ horses and stagecoaches that broughtthe mail, travelers, freight wagons, and travelingsalesmen into town. The salesmen displayed theirwares on the Mayhew’s large dining room table under ahanging candle crystal chandelier. Merchants andresidents then came to The Mayhew House to look overthe products usually brought from the eastern states.Studebaker buggies for sale were displayed outsideand could be ordered.

After Elijah and Sarah’s deaths, the house passed totheir daughter, Sarah Mayhew Meakin, and it remainedwith descendants of the Mayhews until 1992. In 1996,Scott Hancock purchased the property, which becameScott Hancock Photography Studio. Scott refurbishedthe house and restored its original appearance. In 2023, he sold the home to developer Drew Armstrong.

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The Alhambra Theater

This 1926 theater is at risk of demolition to make way for Main Street Legacy Village (see our previous post about Pleasant Grove Main Street).

Albert VanWagoner and his brothers (John, William, and Dean) built three buildings in 1926 at 20 South Main: the Alhambra Theater to its north, the Luncheonette Café to its south, and a large building to its south (which they leased to Dixon-Taylor-Russell Furniture).

The Alhambra Theater was a Spanish Revival-style silent movie theater and was the first and only Spanish-styled architecture in town. Albert Van Wagoner managed the theater. The first activity in the theater was the September 1926 Utah County Republican Convention. Silent movies began showing shortly after. From an orchestra pit below the stage, Mr. Moffit played pipe organ sounds to enhance the action of the silent pictures projected on the screen (fire truck bells, train whistles, gunshots, horse hooves, thunder, rain, or doors slamming). The theater was also used for live performances. Albert secured King Driggs and his young family to sing as they began to perform in public. They were later known as The King Sisters. Three years after the Van Wagoner brothers opened their silent movie theater, movies with sound came out, and the brothers had to decide whether to go further into debt to install an expensive sound system. Unfortunately, the equipment was installed just as the Great Depression began in 1931, and the brothers could not repay their debt with the decrease in patronage. The bank foreclosed, and the brothers lost their theater.

In 1942, John H. Miller, who owned two other theaters, purchased the Alhambra and renamed it The Grove Theater. He operated it for over 30 years. In 1978, Joseph and Johanna Major bought the theater, held live performances, and later operated it as a $1 movie theater. Jeffrey and Cathy Johnston purchased it in 1982 and named it Alhambra Playhouse. They also held live performances in it. After sitting vacant for years, in 1999, William and Suzanne Kirby bought the theater and renamed it Little London Dinner Theater. They served dinners to patrons who watched live productions. They closed in 2001.

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With development pressures high on Main Street in Pleasant Grove, we could loose thesepieces of history forever.

In 1913, Alex Thornton purchased a brick building at 40South Main and established AK Thornton & Son Co.General Merchandise there. Four years later, in 1917,he built a two-story building next to it at 30 South Mainthat housed a drug store, cabaret, and dental office.Alex’s son, Rollo Thornton, managed the ThorntonDrugstore. In 1929, the town’s two drug stores,Hedquist Drug, and Thornton Drug, were robbed of drugs the same night, sometime before daylight afternight watchman Heber Gardiner left for home. Therobber had been monitoring Gardiner’s on-duty hours.Thornton Drug was known statewide for its ice creamcones. The cones were coated inside with meltedchocolate and then filled with ice cream. Their sodafountain was where kids congregated for a cherry Coke, cherry root beer, wild horse, or other soda drink.When automobile travel became popular, they installeda gas pump on the sidewalk in front of their store onMain Street—the first pump in Pleasant Grove.

In 1927, Albert VanWagoner and his brothersconstructed the Alhambra Theater and LuncheonetteCafé, and this business was built forDixon-Taylor-Russell Furniture (22 S. Main St).Dixon-Taylor-Russell Furniture (DTR) employed severallocal men as managers and clerks over the 30 years itresided on Main Street. The store hosted cookingdemonstrations and cookoff contests for its patrons andsold kitchen appliances, lamps, furniture, andhousehold goods.

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On the corner of Main Street in Pleasant Grove (4 S. Main St) sits the Bank of Pleasant Grove, a 1905 building that was originally a Victorian brick building extensively remodeled inside and out during the 1950s. It sits on a corner next to Rexall Drug, which operates as a viable business. It would be a loss to our history if this building was gone forever.