In 1882, for the first time, the church set up a normal fund for the Academy, with $400 for tuition for training teachers. During the years following Brigham Young’s death in 1877, the Academy continued to grow and they recruited from the very large Utah Territory. In 1883, the Academy had 402 registered students. By 1884, the Academy had students from what would become seven surrounding states.
But, on January 27, 1884 the Lewis Building, on Third West and Center Street, caught fire and was destroyed. Much of the furniture, organ, musical instruments, the library and physical apparatus was saved. Financial loss was at least $15,000. The Young Women’s Journal said:
Of all who gazed on that sad spectacle that night, there was no heavier, sadder heart than that of its foster-father, A.O. Smoot. The Institution had grown into his very heart of hearts, and to see the results of years of toil and hard-earned blessings blazing on the altar of sacrifice, wilted his feelings to the uttermost… With steady courage he calmed the fears and murmurs of excited pupils, raised the fallen hopes of [the] crushed principal, infused life and energy into the board and faculty, and with the loss of only one day, the school resumed its session, and BY Academy went bravely on with its work.
Quick assignments were made to hold classes in the Provo Tabernacle, the Smoot bank building and the Jones furniture store and school reopened, missing only one day. But enrollment slackened and financial stress increased. Within a year, classes were moved to the church-owned ZCMI warehouse on 500 South Academy (University) Avenue, where all of the upper floor and half of the lower floor were used.
At the same time, the Board of Trustees, with encouragement from President John Taylor, decided to build a new academy building on Fifth North and Academy Avenue. President John Taylor assigned $5000 of Church funds toward the erection of a new building. In April 1884, using some of the money advanced by the Church, $1300 was paid toward the price of the land which cost $4,800. Land was purchased and the foundations were dug and completed by October of 1884. But by 1885, enrollment had declined and lack of funds caused the work on a new academy building to be halted indefinitely.
Additional challenges resulted from the involvement of heirs of Brigham Young who held visitational and veto rights, together with control and management of academy property. This made administration more complicated and obtaining private donations was more difficult.
This arrangement was dramatically changed in November, 1890 when Brigham’s heirs gave full authority to President Abraham O. Smoot and the Board of Trustees for all aspects of Academy administration. This led to new life in the Academy and the Board of Trustees immediately moved forward to complete the Academy Building.
Architect Joseph Don Carlos Young, Brigham’s son, completed the design of the Academy Building. The Board of Trustees borrowed substantially more money with several board members signing personal guarantees, particularly A.O. Smoot. A.O. Smoot endorsed $65,000 in BY Academy notes, outstanding against his name, with interest up to 12%. These were all for the Academy and likely for the building. Also H.H. Child, Harvey H. Cluff, David John and Wilson Dusenberry signed personal guarantees.
The total cost of the Academy Building was about $100,000. In 1893 (during this period of loan guaranteeing), A.O. said to his wife: Anne, I haven’t a piece of property that is not mortgaged. I have had to do it to raise money to keep the Brigham Young Academy going. That was given to me as a mission and I would sooner lose all than to fail in fulfilling this responsibility. I love that school and I can see what it means to our youth to have a spiritual as well as book learning. It must live.
Construction resumed in early 1891 and was completed in late 1891. It was dedicated by George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, on January 4, 1892. President Wilford Woodruff, A.O. Smoot, Karl Maeser and others spoke. This beautiful building was said to provide the Best Education and Accommodations in the Territory, and was critical to the survival and growth of the BY Academy.
President A.O. Smoot, who conducted the dedicatory services, said on this occasion: My heart swells with gratitude as I look upon this assemblage. I have been watching the academy since its commencement and its reverses and successes. I have taken an almost fatherly concern in it. Its graduates are known throughout all Utah and its surroundings. The prospect for the academy is very flattering for the future. The old walls of the academy were very dear to me. The old walls will be remembered with gratitude by many a Brigham Young Academy student. We are prepared to accommodate 600 students. We have the furniture and all the appliances. We feel that the present academic year will not close with less than that number. I ask the people here today not for their gold and silver, but for their faith and assistance. I have spent many a sleepless night for the academy. I feel confident that the success of the Brigham Young Academy is assured. It will never go backward but onward [Applause.] My association with Dr. Maeser has not been limited. I have spent many an hour with him and feel that in his retirement he has a greater field of usefulness in which to labor. May his mantle fall upon his successor, Benjamin Cluff, with becoming dignity.
An early photograph shows the BY Academy Building as it appeared on Founders’ Day in 1900, about eight years after its dedication. Three years later, the BY Academy became Brigham Young University and Academy Avenue became University Avenue.
|Provo City Center Temple Dec 2014 (see more)|
 This Academy Building, after being sold by the Church in 1978, was abandoned and in terrible disrepair; but it was beautifully preserved and expanded (1995-2001) at the cost of about 24 million dollars and currently houses the Provo City Library at Academy Square