As we entered Spring City, Utah, for the first time, a small brick building with a bright yellow sign reading Horseshoe Mountain Pottery caught our eyes. Always on the lookout for local arts and crafts along US Route 89, we stopped to investigate. There appeared to be no one in the store but the door was open so we went in. A notice posted inside said that the owner, Joe Bennion, was off on a river trip but if we saw anything we liked, we could just leave our payment on the counter. We picked out a couple of nice ceramic tumblers, wrote a check and vowed to come back to meet this mysterious and very trusting Mr. Bennion.
Spring City is a small town south of Salt Lake City in the Sanpete Valley. Historically, US 89 was its Main Street. However, as highway engineers are want to do, they constructed a new, straighter highway between Ephraim and Mt. Pleasant which bypasses Spring City. The road to Spring City is well-marked so you can’t miss it.
After the Latter Day Saints settled on the shores of the Great Salt Lake in 1847, Brigham Young sent pioneers south into the river valleys to establish farms to supply the growing city. Spring City was established in 1859, deriving its name from the permanent spring that still flows in the center of town.
The layout of Spring City is a prime example of Mormon agricultural communities. The streets are a grid oriented to the cardinal directions. Each block is five acres with a family occupying each corner. Farm fields surround the town which were tended by townspeople during the day. Wide streets and houses set back in the lots give the town a spacious feel which is enhanced by many large old trees. This town plan was designed to foster community activities, strengthen church authority and provide defense against Indian attacks.
One of the most striking characteristics of the houses in Spring City is the is the cream-colored oolithic limestone with which many are built. Most of the original houses still stand today and the whole village is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Every year on the Saturday before Memorial Day in May, the town has a Heritage Day Celebration. The celebration includes a historic house tour and an art and antiques sale.
Although Spring City is still largely a farming town, it is also well-known as an artists’ community. Artists studios and live/work spaces are scattered throughout town and many display their art in the Spring City Arts gallery on Main Street. As a sort of bookend to Heritage Day, an Aritsts Studio Tour & Art Festival is held over the Labor Day weekend every year. Of special interest to artists is the plein air painting competition which takes place the week before the studio tour. The works created in that week are on display in the gallery for purchase during the art festival.
On a subsequent visit to Spring City, we spent and afternoon with Joe Bennion and his wife, Lee, talking about art and the joys of living and working in a small rural town. Joe splits his time between throwing pots and leading exciting river rafting adventures. Lee has moved into a new studio where she spends her time painting when not out riding her horses or working with Joe on a river trip. In the short time we spent with Joe and Lee, we experienced in person the generosity and trust that had been evident at the pottery shop on our first visit.
To find your way to Spring City, go to the Sevier to Spanish Fork Road Trip Guide.