Aristotle proclaimed, “He is courageous who endures and fears the right thing, for the right motive, in the right way, and at the right times.” At the new Pioneer Children’s Memorial at This is the Place Heritage State Park, you can’t help but witness of this truth that is found in the stories of the children who crossed the plains. Stories of courage, strength, faith, despair, and triumph as they journeyed towards the Salt Lake Valley. It was a true honor and humbling experience to be part of this project, and we hope that the beauty and longevity of our work will honor these amazing children.
Working extensively with the owners and project design managers, it was expressed that using a local natural stone was highly desired. By using a local stone it brings an authenticity to the memorial and also helps connect the community to our history. We headed to Mountain Valley Stone, a quarry located just east of the memorial, a quarry that could bring those connections and authenticity. Walking around the quarry, just miles from where these children would have arrived into the valley, you could feel what it may have felt traveling through the Rocky Mountains.
After walking the quarry we decided on a beautiful quartzite. This natural stone is a very durable stone and full of a wide range of colors; whites, cream, blonde and orange. The colors chosen echo the reverence reserved for the memorial but also show of a brightness and joy that these children would have carried with them along their journey.
Having a very natural feel is very important to tell the stories and transport visitors into these children’s shoes. Along with the natural stone we had to work on creating a natural placement and flow of the stone. Nowhere is this as apparent as the Rocky Ridge Climb display. Creating that summit climb at a steep grade and having the stone ununiformed was very important in bringing to visitor into the pioneer’s world. Rocky Ridge is barren, harsh, and unforgiving area that was very difficult to cross. We portrait this fact with the protruding rock, unleveled stones, and different cuts just the way it would have been.
As we cross through the memorial gardens and come to the end of the visit, we cross into an area of solemn reminder of the souls that were lost on the journey. In this area there are many large stones that have the engraved names of all the children, that will not be forgotten, who lost their lives on the journey westward. We decided that by using these beautiful stone boulders we unsure that these 660 names will endure and not weather away, and that as visitors walk through they are granted a sense of privacy to process their thoughts. As the visitors pause to think, there is still a joy found here. With the warming and joyful colors found in this stone and the playful attributes of the memorial statues, there is a peaceful presence that can be felt.
This memorial is a beautiful reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by the many children and families that came before us. With the use of natural stone and high quality masonry we know the enduring beauty of this memorial will be enjoyed through the years, and that these children’s names and stories will not be forgotten.