CONSORTIUM WORKS TO KEEP SPIRIT IN GHOST TOWN 04/17/99 This town is worth more empty than occupied. And preservations want to make sure this cluster of crumbling buildings on the banks of the Virgin River remains an intact for future generations. After all, Grafton is one of the few remaining non-mining ghost towns in the West. It was started by Mormon pioneers in the late 1850s when Brigham Young sent families to colonize the area. But the silkworms and cotton plants meant to provide the region's livelihood didn't take, and now the place that was one home to more than 200 is uninhabited. But it is not unknown. In 1929, "The Arizona Kid" was filmed here, and in the 1960s the town provided the backdrop for the bicycle scene in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." Nor is it as desolate as ghost towns can seem. All around are stunning vistas of some of southwestern Utah's most famous landmarks, including Eagle Crags and Mount Kinesava. And nearby Zion National Park wants to build a turnoff area from state Route 9, where information stations on the park are located. From there visitors will be able to take a trail and foot bridge into Grafton. The park is just one member in a consortium of 16 government agencies, private groups and property owners coordinating efforts to preserve the weathered bricks and sagging timbers of the few structures still standing in the town abandoned more than 60 years ago. "The brick just turns to dust," said Doug Alder, a former president of Dixie College in St. George and one of the driving forces behind the project. Since the partnership formed in 1997, one home has been refurbished, 1,000 feet of fence rebuilt and more than $400,000 worth of land purchased to protect it from future development. The partnership also has an option to buy 220 acres around the town for just over $1 million. The consortium has raised nearly half the $1.35 million needed to complete the project, including a commitment from the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation to match every $2 donated with $1 from the foundation, up to $350,000. The largest task ahead is restoring the schoolhouse, which was built in 1886 from lumber hauled from Trumball Mountain and handmade clay bricks. In 1997, Washington County paid to have the neglected structure, which was slowly being eaten away by the wind, wrapped in steel cables to keep it from falling down. A new roof went on last November and the next project is to stabilize the thick adobe walls. Grafton is just one of many preservation projects going on in southwestern Utah. In Santa Clara, homes and church buildings are being preserved, and in Leeds an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp is being renovated. In Washington City, preservationists have saved a granary and old cotton factory that now houses a nursery. Also saved was a Relief Society meeting hall, the oldest standing in the country, says Priscilla Cahoon, who with her husband, Harold, started the town's historical committee in 1992. "People should know what their heritage is and how others struggled so they can live in the comfort they do today," Harold Cahoon said. "It's important that people know where they come from, and why."

LAWMAKERS MAKE MOVE TO REPAIR DETERIORATING COURTHOUSES Lawmakers are finally giving an ear to pleas to save dozens of quaint but crumbling Texas courthouses. After years of procrastination, key legislators have put courthouse preservation and restoration grants near the top of their list this year, heeding the cry from county officials, historic preservationists and Gov. George W. Bush. Bush has recommended that $100 million be earmarked for such projects in the two-year budget period ending in 2001, with an additional $100 million in 2002-2003 to finish the job. "It's a good start," Bush said last week. "Once people start rebuilding the courthouses, there will be continued momentum for the next session to continue doing so." Bush launched his courthouse restoration push when he announced for re-election. Officials said that gave the project the urgency it required. "The governor has been very supportive of this. This was originally his idea to set up this grant program, and he's made it one of his key issues," said Dan Utley, special projects coordinator of the Texas Historical Commission's division of architecture. With 254 counties, Texas has 225 courthouses deemed "historic" because they are at least 50 years old, are included on the National Register of Historic Places or are designated by the state as historic or archaeological landmarks. "Some have been abandoned. Some have some other uses, like as a library. The majority are still active courthouses," Utley told the Houston Chronicle. Collectively, Texas' aging courthouses, many of which serve as the centerpieces in small towns, have been placed on the "most endangered places" list of the National Trust for Historic Places. For years, county officials have been pleading for help from the historical commission, but need has outstripped state and local resources. The only money the commission has available to spend on courthouses is interest from the $6 million Texas Preservation Trust Fund. As a result, many courthouse landmarks are in need of overdue repairs. "Every kind of issue that you deal with in historic preservation is found in these buildings _ from inadequate wiring, which is what led to the (fire) problem in Hill County; to Americans With Disabilities Act issues; code compliance issues; environmental concerns; inadequate plumbing; roofs leaking; walls bowing out. You name it, and some of these courthouses have it," Utley said. "There would be no shortage of applications," he predicted. "We are already hearing from a lot of counties. A lot of them are strapped for money and some of them are low-resource counties that don't know what to do." Courthouses in Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty and Wharton counties are among those already considered historic, Utley said. "There's been a little bit of discussion with respect to whether you do the oldest courthouses first," said Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, author of House Bill 1341, which would create the preservation program. He envisions rehabilitating at least 25 courthouses with the initial $100 million appropriation. "My preference is that we do a combination of the oldest courthouses with courthouses that are publicly owned and are either used as courthouses or museums," he said. "I would rather that we first concentrate on the courthouses that are actually courthouses." A Senate proposal, approved in committee, would allow a county or a nonprofit foundation to apply for a grant. Gallego's bill, which restricts the grants to counties, was approved by a House committee last month but no date for full House debate has been set. It had been been less than a decade since historian Frederick Jackson Turner proclaimed the frontier closed. Just 31 years since the last major Indian battle. Only 42 years since gold was discovered, touching off Colorado's first boom. It was Jan. 1, 1900, in the Old West. The New West hadn't been invented. But its vague outline was gathering on the horizon.