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The Gifford House History

The Gifford House History

Posted in: Historical places, Travel on April 9, 2019.

A Quick History Lesson

So, as you probably know, Capitol Reef has a handful of old buildings throughout the main section of the park. Most of them are located in the (now-defunct) town of Fruita. The residents of Fruita may be gone, but the history of the place is preserved in these structures (and also in the orchards, but we’ve written about that over here) and no building is as cool in Capitol Reef as the Gifford House. So, in case you’ve always wanted to know more about this classic building, here’s a quick history lesson:

The Gifford House, seen from the nearby wagon

Photo by shutterbug816 via focusingontravel.blogspot.com

Giffords in Fruita

In 1908, Calvin Pendleton built the house, which he lived in with his family until 1928. Then the Giffords moved in. They expanded, added a kitchen, a bathroom, and a utility room. They even put in a carport in 1954. The family held ownership of the property all the way until 1969. (Running water and electricity where added throughout the ownership, but for much of the time, the family made-do without them.)

While living in Fruita, the Giffords raised most of their own food. Small livestock, like chickens and ducks, hogs and sheep, and a dairy cow, where kept nearby. They also ranched cattle in the open plains of the South Desert. All the produce they ate was grown in their garden and in their orchards. Preserved foods for the winters, all the canned, bottled, fermented, smoked, and dried goods, where all kept under the house, in the root cellar. Since they where so far removed from other communities, the families living in Fruita – including the Giffords – had to provide most things for themselves. This built a strong sense of community among the residents there. At its zenith, the community would have lots of social activities, like quilting parties and dances. And they where always around to help each other get by…

A photo of the icon barn, near the Gifford House

Photo by Peter via betweenplaces.net

End of an Era

Which is why when families started leaving the area, it was so hard for those who remained to manage. Eventually too many people moved out, and the community of Fuita collapsed. A few “die-hard” individuals stayed until Capitol Reef became a monument in the seventies, but the Giffords had packed-it-in by 1969.

Today the Gifford Home is a museum and shop that preserves the life story of the family and their rural farm. We at the Lodge recommend visiting to experience the history, and to buy some of the homemade goodies that are for sale.

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