Orem isn’t just a sister city of Provo; it has a unique founding among other communities in Utah.
One of BYU’s professors recently published a book illustrating Orem’s historic past. Jay Buckley, associate professor of history, published “Orem” in early April after working on it for two years.
“There are very few books on Orem, and there needed to be another one done,” Buckley said. “Arcadia Publishing contacted me. They wanted to do Provo initially but I decided to do Orem.”
The book is a collection of historical photos of the city’s founding up until more recently. It also highlights some of the most notable landowners of the city, including Jesse Knight, who donated a lot of the land in Orem.
According to a news release, 220 images from the 1800s to the 2000s are contained in“Orem.” Students at BYU, Nathan Painter and Chase Arnold, helped write the book with Buckley. The students searched archives for photographs, sorted through images and talked to residents, among other things.
“It was a good opportunity to work with students and produce something great for the community,” Buckley said.
The Geneva Steel Mill and the growth it brought to the city are highlighted in the book. University Mall was once the largest mall in Utah, around the ’70s, and a number of businesses grew around it.
Buckley presented the book to a crowd of about 50 people in the storytelling wing at the Orem Library on Wednesday. The book features images of the city and tells the story of its founding, which, according to Buckley, is unique among other cities in Utah.
“Those who settled the Provo Bench (Orem area),” Buckley said, “were not colonizers sent to build a city, like other Utah locales, but were settlers hoping to cull out a successful orchard community.”
Buckley said he hopes people will see the difference between Orem and other LDS communities in Utah. Orem is unique in that missionary families were never called to settle the city. He said it was settled in “Gentile fashion.” In the early days of the city, there wasn’t a downtown, and each farm was next to each other.
“Orem” is part of the “Images of America” series, published by Arcadia Publishing. Arcadia is the largest local history publisher in the nation, according to a news release on the book.
According to the publisher, “incorporated in 1919, Orem was transformed again during World War II when the U.S. government constructed Geneva Steel Mill on the shores of Utah Lake. Blue collar workers joined farmers and ranchers in building a city.”
Images for the book were collected from various sources, including the Orem Library, BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections, Utah State Historical Society, SCERA’s Orem Heritage Museum, Utah Valley University and private residents. The book can be purchased at the BYU Bookstore.