History of Academy Since 1922
When the Edmunds-Tucker Act was repealed in 1922, the Oneida Stake Academy reverted to state ownership and became Preston High School. As the school district's need to grow advanced, additional buildings were constructed, until Preston's present high school was built in the 40s. When the present high school was built, it was located approximately 15 feet in front of the Oneida Stake Academy's front door. It was so close, the academy's staircase had to be remodeled. The academy became an auxiliary building to the high school.
Classes were taught in the academy, but the building began falling into disrepair in the 60s and 70s. In the 80s, under the direction and vision of valley historian, Newell Hart, efforts to restore the building succeeded in making it available not only to the school, but the public as well. The arts had a magnificent home in the Oneida Stake Academy. Concerts, art shows, wedding receptions, etc., were held there. Under the direction of Donna Shipley, a community art club was formed that met there. Basement rooms of the Oneida Stake Academy were used as a weight room for the high school until the late 90s.
At that time, the academy was more or less condemned and the school district began looking at the space it occupied as prime real estate for a desperately needed new cafeteria and library for the high school. The school board finally put a deadline of March 2003 on any efforts to save the academy from the wrecking ball.
Joseph Linton, a local architect, had rounded up enough grant monies to pay for a feasibility study that confirmed the academy was structurally sound enough to save, so a hunt began to find a mover not only capable, but interested in taking on the project. Dennis Lindsay, second generation owner of Lindsay Moving & Rigging, Inc., in Washington, was one of the movers that inspected the site and entered a bid for the job. Then the fund-raising began.
A loosely knit group of Preston residents, with the help of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation (whose president, Kim Wilson, attended classes in the academy), began in the summer of 2002 to search for over $1 million to cover the bids to move the building. About $200,000 had been identified for the project, but the March 2003 deadline came and went, and the group had little more than the $200,000.
As the school district began making plans to demolish the building, the trustees allowed the group to continue to try to raise the money to move the building. That's when the miracles began happening. First, Larry Miller, of the Utah Jazz, pledged $250,000 to the project. That was followed by two $100,000 pledges, another $250,000 pledge and $100,000 in individual pledges from local people. Work on the actual move began in August of 2003. The building was moved in December of 2003, and is now under restoration efforts.
To Mormon pioneers, education was a priority. Many of the institutions they started continue to educate students today. Some of the leaders the Oneida Stake Academy produced were two presidents of the church: Ezra Taft Benson and Harold B. Lee, a United States Secretary of Agriculture: Ezra Taft Benson and a Hall of Fame FBI agent: Samuel Cowley. Utah State University president E. G. Petersen and former Ricks College (now known as BYU-Idaho) president Joe H. Christensen gained their educational background within the walls of the Oneida Stake Academy as well.