ST. GEORGE —A Hurricane couple has renovated a 10,000-square-foot, three-story home in Hildale into a destination for group and family events.
Leanne Worwood, a retired language arts teacher and owner of Rockmoore Retreat, told St. George News she and her husband Danny weren’t in the market to buy property when they came across the 10,000-square-foot home on 1 acre in Hildale.
“When we saw this house we didn’t know why we should buy it, but we knew we wanted to be a part of the rebuilding of the community,” Worwood said. “We just felt like we needed to do this.”
Worwood said both she and her husband already had ties to the Hildale community: her husband works as a doctor in Colorado City and she helped reopen the high school in Hildale.
As such, they developed a love for the place, and she said they want others to see the changes that have occurred in the area, including oversized homes being converted into fun things, such as the Zions Most Wanted hotel.
“A lot of people see Hildale and Colorado City as this weird place that doesn’t want outsiders, but we have personal friends, and we know the hard-working, great attitudes of the people,” Worwood said.
Worwood said they purchased the home in May 2019, just before the pandemic, and knew that they were taking on a large renovation project. She said there was carpet halfway up the walls throughout the home, similar to those commonly seen in Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint churches, which would need to be removed along with flooring and ceiling renovations.
“When we first bought the house, my kids thought we had lost our minds. (They said), ‘You did what? You bought a 10,000-square-foot house in Hildale?’ My son, especially, was horrified, but then when we held our family Thanksgiving here, they all fell in love with the house and the community,” Worwood said.
According to the original sale listing, Worwood said the home was listed as 8.5 bathrooms, but once the sale of the home was complete, they found an additional bathroom behind an open bedroom door that was not listed in the sale.
While they had the floors and countertops redone, most of the work on the house was facilitated by her husband Danny Worwood, and most of the home’s furniture was acquired at yard sales or thrift stores. Through this, she said she even learned to stain wood for the first time. Her husband also completely renovated the outside deck and put in a new lawn.
He is currently working on building a pergola and plans to put in a zen garden with a hot tub, she added. There are also grills outside for barbecuing and a separate outside entrance to the basement.
During renovations of the basement, a level named Bedrock, which is available for rent separately from the rest of the home, Worwood said they knocked down walls to create a more open and spacious feel and even added a full kitchen. The Bedrock level can sleep up to 18 people.
They started out by renting out the basement only. By November 2020, the entire house was ready as a full rental. And they soon saw that reality exceeded their expectations. While initially setting a goal to rent the home eight times in 2021, they ended up renting the home over 40 times. Rockmoore has been used for quilting retreats, crafting retreats, family reunions and even fundraiser events.
The main floor of the home, called the Plateau level, is also available for rent individually.
History of Rockmoore
Leanne Worwood said the Rockmoore house represents the history of Hildale right before the year 2000. At the time, she said, Rulon Jeffs was the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was doing a “call to Zion,” which they considered as the Colorado City area.
Mike Barlow owned a trucking company in Salt Lake when he got the call to Zion and moved with his family to Hildale, she said. The Barlow family brought the exact blueprints of their current home in Draper, Utah, and built an exact replica of the house in Hildale. It took the Barlow family three years to build the house, complete with a red door.
According to religious beliefs at the time, red was considered a sacred color not to be used for decoration or to be worn, with the belief that Christ would come back to the earth wearing crimson, but the family proceeded with the red door anyway, she said. The home then became known as “The Red Door House.”
“The family was obedient enough to move here, but they also liked the color red. They were a fun family,” she said. “They also did things their own way, a little rebellious.”
On the outside of the home, the letters “UEP” can be seen in the brickwork, which stands for the United Effort Plan, a plan that originally required residents to donate their land to the church so that everything in the area became common property.
Worwood said that Barlow died in a plane crash one year to the date of Rulon Jeffs’ death. When he died, his wives got reassigned to an uncle, LeGrand Barlow, who then moved into the home. The loss of the husband and father was a large heartache for the family, Worwood said, and Barlow’s son, also named Mike, helped his mother move back to Salt Lake.
When LeGrand Barlow was excommunicated from the church, Worwood said he left and it became a community home with many different families moving in and out. And when the UEP got turned over to the state, the facility worked to get the houses back to the original owners as long as they paid the taxes on their homes.
Worwood said that’s when Mike Barlow’s son Mike paid the required taxes and gained full ownership. She said Barlow was heartbroken over the condition of the home and was really excited when the Worwoods wanted to come in and restore it, just one year after he had gained ownership.
Terrill Musser, who moved to Hildale with his family in 1987, told St. George News he decided to visit his hometown after he fell ill in 2014 and was heartbroken to see that the community he once loved “had been broken and shattered.” He decided he would move back and do whatever he could to bring the town back to the great place it was in his childhood memories.
At that time, Musser said, there were no public schools on the Utah side, no public library or even a high school. There were no children playing or riding bikes and very few adults even walking about in public. Hildale and Colorado City were run down, including Cottonwood Park, he said, and many of the homes were abandoned, falling apart and rotting.
“There was so much grinding poverty and hunger here the first few years after I came home,” he said. “I remember single mothers who fed their children a diet of popcorn and little else for weeks at a time. In other words, real grinding poverty that was perpetuated by hopeless oppression exercised by a selfish and self-important small elite group.”
Musser said things are very different now. The religious-based oppression has been removed, youth can be seen at the brand-new modern school building with the opportunity to graduate from a state-of-the-art high school.
He said in prior years, Hildale had some of the highest school dropout rates in Utah, along with the highest poverty rate and lowest education levels, but since then, the area has made significant strides. The beautiful parks have been rebuilt along with new houses. New sports programs have brought hope, courage and life back to the youth. He said he’s also seen community members go above and beyond, even creating nonprofit organizations for the children.
“You see life coming to the desert, and most importantly, you once again see a positive, happy town full of people that love each other and that are all family,” Musser said. “The oppressive spirit of the past which drove so many away is gone, and a lot of our people have come back, just like I did.”
Musser said it’s incredible to see how far the area has come in just seven years, watching people move in from out of town and even out of state, being drawn to the area by the beautiful scenery and lower cost of living. He said it is important to note that everyone is welcome and they are not a closed community whatsoever.
“It’s like we are rising out of the ashes as a phoenix, and we’re learning from the past to make a better future,” Musser said.
Musser said that purchases and renovations of large homes, such as Rockmoore Retreats, have had a significant, positive impact on the area.
Many of these homes, originally designed for large families, need a lot of work to be restored. Most families just starting out aren’t able to afford a project that big. The homes could easily remain empty and rundown and become an eyesore to the community, he said, but instead, these new owners walk hand-in-hand with the locals and listen to the narrative of the people while bringing life back into the community.
“As far as I can see, the people that are purchasing these houses have come here and sincerely want to help and bring good and do everything they can to make us a better place,” Musser said.
The Rockmoore name
Originally called the Red Door House, Worwood said they wanted to change the name, using the word “rock” to represent the surrounding beautiful rocks throughout the area.
“We named it Rockmoore because we joke it was so much ‘moore’ work than we could have ever imagined,” she said.
As an illustration, she said when they first bought the property, she and her husband went around the house and counted just the lightbulbs that needed to be replaced and it totaled over 300. She then emphasized that 300 wasn’t the number of total lightbulbs in the house, just the lightbulbs that needed replacing.
“It’s been such a good thing, though,” she said. “Rockmoore – a lot more than we ever expected in every aspect.”
What she finds the neatest about the home, she said, is that it came from families who were trying to be obedient and live their religion, which was followed by tragedy and hardship that fell on the community. But this came full circle and serves as a great example of family coming back and claiming what was rightfully theirs, she added.
“All those little pieces of the history of the church are kind of a part of this house,” she said.
The Rockmoore house has become a big part of her life, she said, adding that she loves and appreciates how welcoming the community has been to both her and her husband. She also said that she has included members of the community in the project, including a house manager they hired from the community.
Worwood said that they’ve had many guests say they are initially nervous to visit, but they completely fall in love with the home and community when they get there.
“They come here because they think they want to go to Zion, then they go hike Water Canyon, they meet the people here, they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, we love it here. We’ll come here just to be here,’” Worwood said.
Mindy Barlow, home manager of Rockmoore Retreats, said her favorite story so far was when a guest walked across the street and borrowed a waffle iron from one of the neighbors.
“It’s just so funny because people say things like, ‘Oh the neighbors and this and that,’ when really it’s like, ‘Come borrow a cup of sugar or a waffle iron.’ It’s very normal,” said Barlow.
Musser said he hopes Hildale will be able to create an infrastructure that keeps the community safe, while also growing in a constructive way that benefits the people and children that want to grow up there. He said they know growth is coming, and they want to plan for it so that it will occur in a desirable way.
“We can be a beacon on the hill for anyone that has lost their way to know that anything is possible with a strong community and dedication,” Musser said.
Rockmoore Retreat is now available for rent with 11 bedrooms and 8.5 baths. The home features a washer and dryer on each floor, custom barn doors, three large smart TVs, a billiard room, a game room complete with an old Pacman machine, a 1-acre lot with outdoor barbecue grills and more.
There are also custom-themed rooms within the house, with a mermaid room, a tree room, a medieval room, a wizard academy room, a garden room, a mountain room, a farm room, a fairy room and an earth room. The wizard room mural was hand-painted by Ashlie Davenport, a local artist and painter.
“The Worwoods are such an amazing family,” Davenport said. “I adore them. They were nothing but supportive and encouraging along the way. They give that same attitude to their guests. Anyone who has the pleasure of staying at the Rockmoore is going to be spoiled by their hospitality and attention to detail.”
For more information on Rockmoore Retreats, click here.
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