Lehi Historical Society
Editor’s Note: The following article was taken from A Guide to Lehi City’s Historical Sites and Places published by the Lehi Historical Preservation Commission in 1997.
In 1903, Lehi’s largest mercantile, the People’s Co-operative Institute (PCI), which owned both an uptown and downtown complex, completed construction of the 22,000-square-foot building at 151 E. State St., where Osmond Designs resides today.
It was one of the first stores in Lehi to be wired for electricity. The June 4, 1903, Lehi Banner commented that it was a nice place to do business because there were “no dark corners.” It was also the first building in Lehi to have cement sidewalks.
“This is something new in our city,” noted the Apr. 9, 1903, Lehi Banner, “and we hope to see our merchants on main street do likewise and help make our city look more metropolitan.”
In 1904, former Co-op manager W. E. Racker purchased the downtown Co-op, known as The Branch Store, which was located at the southeast corner of 200 West and Main Street, to open Racker Mercantile. To advertise the consolidation of its business interests, the People’s Co-op announced in the Aug. 4, 1904, Lehi Banner that “The ‘Branch is dead,’ long live the MAIN STORE of People’s Co-op on State Street.”
In 1912, the People’s Co-op, under manager S. I. Goodwin’s direction, purchased nearly an entire block of property immediately to the west of the large store. This included the Union Hotel, Peter Larsen’s Butcher Shop and the three Wines’ Cottages on the west side of First East.
In the mid-1920s, PCI business began to dwindle. The reasons were rather complicated. Although a gasoline pump and two 600-gallon tanks were installed in front of the store in 1916, the “age of the automobile” made it easy to shop in other communities. Although the Co-op remained Lehi’s largest mercantile, other local stores began to successfully compete for business.
From 1926-1936, the troubled PCI had at least six different managers. In 1929, the store listed numerous departments: yard goods, grocery, butcher shop, furniture, hardware and ready-to-wear clothing (Michael Sterns shirts, Rothschilds hats, Morris dress shoes, Wolverine Cordova work shoes, Ault Williamson’s shoes, Ault Shackford shoes, Durham and Rollins hosiery).
As the Depression descended on America, economic hardship struck ZCMI, parent company of People’s Co-op. In the fall of 1937, ZCMI management announced that it was abandoning 20 retail branches, including the Lehi business.
“The change in policy was made,” announced Vice President and General Manager Richard W. Madsen, “because independent merchants in smaller communities preferred not to buy from us because we were competitors in retail lines.”
Many of the former ZCMI branches were quickly sold in their entirety to local merchants, but the large Lehi property with its numerous buildings was sold piecemeal.
The largest Co-op building at 151 E. State St. became a roller-skating rink in February of 1939. In July of 1948, Harry Grass leased the place and established Grass Furniture. In 1955, a wholesale war surplus store was opened. In 1960, Christensen Department Stores purchased the building and operated a wholesale warehouse for their chain of stores and also for 65 other establishments throughout the western states.
In the 1990s, ZCMI placed a replica of its original “all-seeing eye” moniker on the original Co-op complex to highlight its history in Lehi. The moniker was also placed on the Co-op’s downtown location, which was then occupied by Colonial House.
On Mar. 4, 2005, Osmond Designs opened for business in the historic building on State Street and remains there today.
To learn more, go to the Lehi Historical Society’s online library at lehihistory.com. The online library is made possible by a Lehi City PARC grant and support from HADCO Construction.