Utah Copper Company Mine Superintendents House
The Utah Copper Company Superintendent's House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Utah Copper Company Superintendent's House, located at 104 East State Highway, Copperton, Utah, is a one-story Craftsman style house with Spanish Colonial Revival style influences. It has an irregular, sprawling form, stucco exterior walls, a concrete foundation, and a multiplicity of roofs. Although the predominant roof type on the Superintendent's House is a hip, the facade features a gabled entrance flanked by hip and clipped gable sections. The front doorway has a slightly arched head and is framed by brick "quoins." Brick is also used for the window sills. All of the windows on the main floor are nine-over-one double-hung windows, often arranged in groups of two or three. Other decorative features include exposed rafters and the "battered" walls on the facade. Inserted between the entrance and the hip-roofed bay on the east is a recessed balcony. There is a bay window on the west side of the house off of the dining room. The house was built on a lot which slopes slightly to the rear, allowing for a two-bay basement garage at the back of the house with access to the road on the east. A copper rain gutter system goes completely around the roof and drains directly into pipes that go into the sewer system. The only alteration of note to the exterior of the house is the replacement of the original copper roofing with slate tiles.
The interior is also well preserved. The oak and maple floors, cherry-stained pine or fir wood trim, and the built-in china cabinets are intact and unaltered. The main floor of the house is 2,650 square feet. The front room is reached through a short entry hall with a coved ceiling, and is paneled with dark walnut up to six feet, topped by a plate rail that encircles the entire room. The ceilings throughout are nine feet high and coved in both living and dining rooms. The walnut wainscotting is original to the house, as is a plaster and wood molding near the cove. The dining room has walnut base molding and window frames and a built-in walnut hutch eight feet long, with leaded glass doors channeled with copper. The original crystal chandelier is still intact and hangs at the center of the room. A 38-foot hallway runs down the center of the house. Opening from the hall and the living room is a library with built-in floor-to-ceiling bookcases and a false fireplace. The kitchen, which opens from the hall and dining room, shows signs of alteration. A short arch and wall may have been removed between the kitchen proper and a breakfast nook, and replaced with a bar as a divider. New cabinets were installed at least 30 years ago [written 1985]. A small bedroom opens off a short hall behind the kitchen. The master bedroom and bath open off the main hall. The bathroom has the original tile on the floor, walls, and in the shower. The original porcelain knobs are still present, as are an oval pedestal sink, a linen closet and a medicine chest. Also opening off the central hall are a second bath and two closets. All closets in the house have door-jamb light switches, so the light turns on when the door opens. At the end of the hall is a 12'x22' room with two brass and crystal chandeliers and an attached cloak room. This room may have been used as a meeting room for the ladies; it is now being used as a bedroom. The six windows in this room and those in the master bedroom are equipped with wooden louver blinds. The original blinds for the kitchen and library are also still in place.
The basement is reached by two staircases — one beside the library and one off the short hall behind the kitchen. Off the kitchen hall, the stairs form a split entry at the west side of the house, with a tiled trash cubicle accessible from the inside and outside. On the bottom level is a laundry room with laundry tubs, a boiler room for the steam furnace (the original boiler was replaced in 1985), and a long hallway leading to a third bath and a bedroom once used by domestic help. Part of that bedroom at one time functioned as a coal room. The woodwork, base molding and windows in this part of the house retain their original stained and varnished finish. A door in the hallway provides rear access to a large bar room, also accessible by the front stairway. The curving oak bar is 12 feet long, with a curving copper foot rail, and a copper sink. Behind the bar hangs an eight-foot mirror. Both pieces were taken from a saloon in the nearby town of Bingham approximately 30 years ago. This room has one original light fixture and five-foot pine wainscotting, installed about 30 years ago. In the adjoining room, which originally served as a billiards room, wooden benches were built into the wall surrounding about half the room. The original racks and scorekeeping wire remain. The double garage fills the rest of the basement and is accessible through a door at the end of the hall.
Characteristics of the Craftsman style is the dominant, low-pitch roof with overhanging eaves, the exposed rafters, bands of windows, dark wood trim, and built-in furniture on the interior. The stucco exterior and entrance decoration reflect Spanish Colonial Revival influences.
Built in 1926, the Utah Copper Company Superintendent's House is historically significant as the home of the superintendents of the Bingham Copper Mine for almost 30 years. In keeping with the stature of the mine superintendent, the house is the largest and most distinctive residence in Copperton, a planned residential community for mine employees. Bingham Copper Mine, listed as a National Historic Landmark, is the largest open-pit copper mine in the world, and its significance to the economy of Utah over the past 75 years is unsurpassed by any industry in the state. The Utah Copper Company Superintendent's House is architecturally significant as a well preserved, distinctive example of a Craftsman house with Spanish Colonial Revival influences. There are fewer than ten well-preserved documented examples of Craftsman style houses in Utah; the Craftsman style having been more frequently expressed on the Bungalow house type throughout the state.
The construction of this house began in July 1926 as part of the residential community of Copperton, built by the Utah Copper Company for its employees. Eighteen houses were constructed that first year in Copperton, and by 1950, 231 houses were built in the community. This house is unique, however, in that it was designated as the home of the superintendent of the mine, and it is therefore larger and more elaborate than any of the other houses that were built. Occupants of the house were superintendents J.D. Shilling Jr. (1927-30), Louis Buchman (1930-46), Harvey L. Garrity (1946-50), and general foreman E. Simpkins, who bought the house from the company in 1956, when the company divested itself of all its residential property.
The superintendent of the Bingham Copper Mine held one of the most important mining positions in both Utah and the United States. Bingham Copper Mine has been one of the world's largest producers of copper, molybdenite and gold during the twentieth century, and it ranks first in terms of the aggregate quantity of metal produced by a single mine. The open-cut method of mining was introduced and perfected at the Bingham Mine, and the mine is currently the largest open pit mine in the world. The past 75 years have been the primary period of the miners production, although significant mining activity was underway in the immediate area by as early as the 1860s.
Copperton was established in 1926-27 at the mouth of Bingham Canyon as a residential annex to the mining town of Bingham, though it was never incorporated into the town. Bingham, which was located within the narrow canyon, offered little room for expansion of the town as the mining operation grew during the early twentieth century and more workers settled in the area. The Copperton site was chosen by the Utah Copper Company for its planned housing community for several reasons: the property was already owned by the company; the parcel of land was relatively flat and large enough to accommodate the size of community needed; the site was close to the mine, which would help minimize worker tardiness and absenteeism, especially in bad weather. Although the Utah Copper Company viewed Copperton as a benefit to the company, it was also appreciated by the workers and their families who were able to live there.
The thorough planning and quality construction that went into the creation of Copperton insured its success as a favorable homesite for employees of the company. Scott & Welch, a Salt Lake City architectural firm, worked up the initial layout of the community and designed the eighteen houses that were built the first year. Thereafter, the company designed its own homes, but the original concept worked up by Scott & Welch was followed closely. Civic amenities in the community included a fully landscaped 10-acre park, concrete curb, gutters, and sidewalks, an employees' clubhouse, and a ballpark which was developed at the site in 1923. Eventually, schools and churches were built, and a number of stores were established in the community as well. The houses were well-built, attractive, and modernly furnished. They had concrete foundations, brick or stucco exteriors, copper roofing and rain gutters, central heating, indoor plumbing, and landscaped yards. The company maintained the houses on a regular basis, repainting eaves, washing walls, etc. Although the same floor plans were used repeatedly throughout the town, variations in appearance were achieved by using different exterior features and by inverting the plans. The standard house types were a four-room model, which cost $5,065 to build, and a five-room model, which cost $5,804. The superintendent's house, by comparison, cost $18,983 to construct. The four and five-room houses were rented to company employees for $22.50 and $27.50 per month, respectively.
Since there were many more employees than there were houses, priorities were established for allotting them. First choice was given to the head company officials; the superintendent automatically had his own house, however. Workers were rated according to their seniority, department, date of application, and previous record of taking care of company property, if they had lived in company housing before. The mine superintendent took these factors into consideration and made the final decision on who would live in the houses.
Copperton, though neither the first nor the largest company-built mining community in Utah, did own the distinction of having the most substantial and well furnished houses of any company town in the state. It was considered the showpiece of Utah Copper Company's company towns with its modernly equipped, copper accoutered masonry houses. The largest of UCC's towns was Garfield, located several miles to the north, which eventually consisted of almost 400 houses, as well as school buildings, churches, and numerous commercial enterprises. It was established in 1906 near the mine's smelter, but in 1957, in order to make way for expansion of the smelter operations, the houses were either demolished or moved from the site. There were also several company towns erected by coal companies in central Utah during the early 1900s. Included among them were Clear Creek, Kenilworth, and Hiawatha, the latter of which is probably the most complete and best preserved company town in Utah.
Crump, Scott. Copperton. Salt Lake City: Scott Crump (printed by Publishers Press), 1978.
Arrington, Leonard J., and Hansen, Gary B."'The Richest Hole on Earth,' A History of the Bingham Copper Mine." Monograph Series Vol.XI No.1 (October 1963). Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1963.
† Roger Roper, Historian and Debbie Randall, Architectural Historian, Utah State Historical Society, Utah Copper Company Mine Superintendent's House, Salt Lake County, Copperton, UT nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.