South Temple Historic District
The South Temple Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. 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 South Temple Historic District consists of that part of South Temple Street from State Street (100 East) to Virginia Street (1350 East) containing 10-1/2 large blocks on the south and 20 small blocks on the north, The street slopes gradually from east to west, and marks the boundary between the flatter areas of the original settlement and the steeper "dry bench" of the Avenues to the north. South Temple Street was the first stately residential boulevard in Utah. The South Temple Historic District consists of that part of the street which continues to display many fine old homes of both architectural and historical significance. A variety of buildings exists in the district, including large mansions, carriage houses, churches, commercial and office buildings, a school, hospital, medical clinics, clubhouses, apartment buildings and gas stations. The density of buildings per blockscape ranges from 1 to 12 with an average of 4.7 buildings per block elevation. Natural and geographic features are not prominent in the district.
Types, styles and periods of architecture: The South Temple Historic District consists primarily of large, high-style residences built from the late 1880s through 1915. There are also a few small vernacular residences which survive, though moderately altered, as remnants of the street's pioneer period. Larger buildings before 1930 include major religious architecture (Cathedral of the Madeleine, First Presbyterian Church, Masonic Temple), as well as large, significant apartment projects (Eagle Gate Apartments, Maryland Condominiums). A number of buildings have been erected along South Temple Street since the historic period. Some of these, particularly the earlier structures, are architecturally compatible with the period buildings. Many of the most recent larger structures are inconsistent with the residential character of the street.
A large number of architectural styles are represented in the South Temple Historic District. Many of the buildings are the best examples of their styles in Utah, as well as the best residential work of the architects who designed them. Examples include:
Chateauesque: Kearns Mansion, Carl M. Neuhausen
Scale: The period residences range from one to three stories in height. The few early vernacular structures are small in scale while some of the mansions contain four tall levels, 30 rooms, over 20,000 square feet of floor area and are massively scaled. The two churches and the Masonic Temple are also large in scale. The clubhouses are of residential scale. The early stores are two to three stories in height while the apartment buildings have an average of three stories. Some of the later intrusions, especially the Bonneville Apartment and some of the office buildings, are over-scaled and are visually obtrusive.
Proportions: Due to the heterogeneous nature of the South Temple Historic District's architecture, proportions vary widely. Generally, the majority of significant buildings are more vertical than horizontal in character, though there are exceptions.
Materials: A great variety of building materials is apparent in the South Temple Historic District. Exterior materials include red sandstone (First Presbyterian Church), oolite and Indiana limestone, (Kearns Mansion), granite (quartzite), numerous kinds and colors of brick, terra cotta (Elks Club), stucco and half-timbering, wood siding, shingles, cast stone, structural and ornamental concrete, pressed metal, cobblestone and many others. Roofing materials include wood shingles, slate, tile, asphalt and other coverings such as sheet copper. Ornamentation is represented in many materials including stone, wood, glass, tin, iron, plaster, terra cotta, brick and cast stone.
Interior materials are even more varied than those on the exteriors. Rare stones, tile, woods, fabrics, glass and other more exotic materials were imported from throughout the world and are fairly common in the historic South Temple buildings.
Decoration: The buildings in the South Temple Historic District are replete with decoration. Each of the more than twenty styles represented in the district has its own ornamental detailing and decoration (see style examples given above). Columned porches, classically bracketed and dentiled cornices, corbeled brickwork, rusticated and carved stonework, leaded glass windows, finials of many types, towers, cupolas, bay windows, dormers, classically pedimented gables, and applied ornamentation in the form of cartouches, swags, inscription plaques, foliated scrolls, carved faces and full figurines are extant. Fancy wood decoration produced by scrollsaws, lathes and moulding planes is common throughout the district. For many of the simply-massed buildings, ornamentation relieves the hard forms. Photographers and painters frequent South Temple Historic District because of its reputation for fine detailing.
Workmanship: Because the buildings in the South Temple Historic District were constructed by the city's most affluent people, the price of skilled labor and rich materials was not a limiting factor for many. Consequently, the workmanship in the district is the finest that could be obtained at the time. Utah's best craftsmen built their masterpieces on South Temple Street.
Design quality: Most of the buildings on South Temple Street were designed by architects. In fact, South Temple Historic District is not only the showplace of Utah's most prominent architects, but features designs of well-known out-of-state architects as well. Many buildings are examples of pure styles and some instances are the best examples of certain styles in the state. Some may feel the designs found on South Temple Street are excessive, opulent, and overly flamboyant. Though this may be the case, the architecture there is a direct reflection of late 19th century times its largesse, arrogance and Victorian grandeur. During its historic period, the area's best designers were employed on the street.
General Physical Relationships of Buildings to each Other and to the Environment
Facade lines: The front facade of the typical South Temple Historic District building is set back 25 to 30 feet from the street. While some, particularly the oldest structures and the mansions, are set further back on their lots, it appears that setback requirements were established early in the street's history. The regularity of the facade line is paralleled by uniform rows of trees, light posts and sidewalks along some sections of the street. As commercial buildings were erected on South Temple Street, some were permitted to violate the old setback law and located close to the sidewalk. For the most part, however, the facades of the churches, clubs, commercial structures, apartments and homes on South Temple are set well back from the street.
Street plans: South Temple is now 72 feet wide (from curb to curb) completely straight, and inclines gradually from west to east. The only other street in the South Temple Historic District is Haxton Place, a one-half block long residential street cul-de-sac which runs south from South Temple Street. Haxton Place was purchased in 1909 by James T. Keith, a dentist and laid out by an Englishman, Thomas G. Griffin, who is said to have modeled the shed after Haxton Place in London. The street is a simple cul-de-sac with two pairs of stone pillars at the entrance, and is distinguished by the variants of Colonial Revival styles built there. South Temple was historically Salt Lake City's major east-west axis street and forms the boundary between two neighborhoods where two different street grids meet.
Parks: Two parks are located on South Temple Street, both on the south side of the street. Reservoir Park is found between 1300 East and Virginia streets and is situated on the easternmost block in the district. The other park is actually a grass field used as a playground for Wasatch School, and is probably the result of demolition of historic homes. It is located between two groups of houses on the block between 1100 East and 1200 East streets.
Open spaces: In addition to the parks, several mansion properties in the western part of the South Temple Historic District feature large open spaces. This is due to the originally low density of two to four buildings per block, which has been maintained on some blocks. Other open spaces have been created by removing historic buildings for parking lots to serve new office buildings. The extreme width of the street creates a large corridor of open space which extends the entire length of the district. This space, framed along most of the way by tall, deciduous trees, helps to give the street a stately, boulevard quality.
Structural density: The density on South Temple Street varies from one to fourteen buildings per block. While the numerical density is least in the west part of the district, the buildings are generally much larger there. East of 900 East Street, the homes are smaller, more closely grouped and have smaller side yards. The original density of South Temple Street (when it was known as Brigham Street) was low, usually one or two buildings per block. The present higher density reflects the change in street character from suburban to urban.
Planting: East South Temple is distinguished by sections of mature landscaping planted during the historic period. The street is lined with 60-80' broad-leafed trees, primarily maple and plane trees. These occupy the planting strip between the street and sidewalks. Some of the private lots retain their original site plan. Large trees, shrubs, and flower gardens are arranged in both formal and informal patterns, since South Temple has historically been the city's most landscaped street. With recent construction, some large gaps in the street canopy have occurred.
Other features: Natural and geographical features have little impact on the street, except that the buildings on the north side of the street are elevated above those on the south side due to the gradual incline of the Avenues bench to the north. Other features which add to the street's scenes of historicity are the several fancy, two-story carriage houses which are generally set off to the side and rear of the more prominent mansions, the stone curbs and hitching posts, iron hitching rings, and carriage steps made of stone and featuring the names of the original owners. Wide, walled walkways and stairs of stone, wrought iron fences and gates, old lampposts, flagpoles, yard urns and masonry walls are among the other period elements which add to the historic quality of the South Temple Historic District.
Building Types Found in South Temple Historic District
South Temple Street, east of 300 East Street, has historically been an area of large, single-family residences. Collectively, remaining residences continue to be the most significant historical element in the district.
As the street developed into a highly desirable residential boulevard, supporting public and commercial structures were erected along the street. A neighborhood was created. An elementary school, hospital, three churches, several commercial and office buildings, clubhouses, apartment houses and gas stations appeared, mostly after 1900. The above variety of uses still exists on the street, although residential structures, whether or not still used as residences, continue to dominate the streetscape.
General Condition for Buildings: Restoration or Rehabilitation Activities, Alterations
At the time they were built, the mansions of South Temple employed the state's finest architects and builders. In many cases, the best building materials available were used. Despite these conditions, even the most costly and carefully constructed buildings have experienced deterioration. Due to the unfortunate selection of Utah's soft limestones and sandstones, the local freeze-thaw cycle, sulphur dioxide pollution and other deteriorating forces have caused spalling and exfoliation of many exterior masonry surfaces. Intending to provide a measure of protection, many exterior facades have been painted, particularly on homes with brick and wood surfaces.
South Temple Street has maintained its position as Utah's most stately residential street and is distinguished from its surrounding by its large mansions, carriage houses and mature landscaping. The street marks the north boundary of an old, residential area of SLC (Salt Lake City) known as Central City. While this area contains a few scattered mansions, it largely consists of smaller, unpretentious middle-class homes. The large blocks and wide streets from this neighborhood run into and terminate at South Temple.
The area to the north, which consists of blocks only one-fourth this size of those found in Central City, is known as the Avenues. An old upper-middle class neighborhood which is built on a steeply inclining bench, the Avenues is characterized by fine, medium and large-sized residences from the Victorian Era, as well as a few small vernacular houses from the Mormon pioneer settlement period, and modest bungalows and pattern book homes dating after 1915. The Avenues' narrow north-to-south streets terminate at the north side of South Temple.
The east boundary of the South Temple Historic District is Virginia Street. It is here that South Temple, in its role as a major boulevard, ends. East of Virginia Street, it is interrupted by an oval planting strip and, then continues through the Federal Heights neighborhood before ending up at the northwest corner of the campus of the University of Utah.
To the west, South Temple terminates at the Union Pacific Depot. The street between State Street and the Depot is a commercially developed area and is therefore of a different character than the residential part of the street continued in the East South Temple District. The western part of South Temple includes Temple Square (National Historic Landmark), the Devereaux Mansion (National Register), but consists mainly of large apartment houses, office buildings, hotels and retail stores and several intruding newer structures.
The South Temple Historic District concentrates on the portion of the street associated with the development of aristocratic residences during the mining boom years.
Archeological Potential within the South Temple Historic District
Archeological potential is low in the district due to he fact that the properties along South Temple and the street itself have undergone many grade changes over the past 130 years. The likelihood of finding undisturbed ground that would yield significant archeological material is minimal. There may be a few lots which have been relatively undisturbed since the construction of homes after the 1880s. These lots may have potential for historical archeologists interested in recapturing information from the Victorian period and later.
South Temple Street is significant as the first stately residential boulevard in Utah and remains today, much of it still residential, as a reminder of a lifestyle that is gone. It served as the only primary east-west route in early settlement days between the city and Red Butte Canyon, and Fort Douglas (established in 1862). The buildings which line this street from Third East to Virginia Street are unique reflections of some of the people who have greatly influenced the history and development of the state of Utah. Included in this group of people are: senators, governors, mayors and other political figures; mining men, who made their fortunes in the small mining towns surrounding the Salt Lake Valley and then used their new wealth to build impressive, ostentatious mansions for their families; and immigrant merchants who became financially successful. Along the street are many fine structures of both architectural and historical significance. The excellence of design and craftsmanship, the landscaping, and the diversity of periods and styles represented, sets the street apart from any other area of Salt Lake City.
South Temple Historic District includes some of the best work by Utah's major architects. Richard Kletting's all-concrete Classical Revival mansion for Enos Wall is one of the largest of Kletting's residential designs. Several of Frederick Hale's finest residences (including the Downey House, the Keith-Brown Mansion and the Markland house) and his Renaissance Revival Alta Club are on South Temple Street. Henry Ives Cobb, the New York architect who designed the Boston and Newhouse buildings on Exchange Place, did the Terry House, one of the most elaborate and academic Colonial-Georgian Revival houses in Utah. A number of other buildings on South Temple are among the very finest examples of their styles built in Utah and these include the Cathedral of the Madeleine, (C.M. Neuhausen) the First Presbyterian Church (Walter E. Ware), the Kearns Mansion (C.M. Neuhausen) and the Ladies Literary Club (Ware and Treganza). Two of the most architecturally significant apartment blocks are on South Temple, the Eagle Gate and the Maryland (Bernard O. Mecklenburg). The loss of significant buildings on South Temple, attributable in large part to the zoning changes of 1935 and 1959, shows the continuing prestige of South Temple addresses — even though the newer architecture does not reach the standards of the old.
The appeal of South Temple is reflected in the decision of two religious groups to locate their most significant buildings there. Begun in 1889 and dedicated in 1909, the Cathedral of the Madeleine documents four aspects of Utah and western history. First, the Cathedral represents the missionary efforts of Catholicism in settling the American West. Second, much of the money used to build and furnish this edifice came from Catholic mining entrepreneurs who gained wealth through Utah's gold and silver mines beginning in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. Third, the structure, designed by architect Carl M. Neuhausen, is Utah's best example of academic Romanesque architecture. Fourth, the Cathedral symbolized the efforts of Bishop Lawrence Scanlan who labored as a missionary and prelate in Utah and the west from 1873 to 1915.
The First Presbyterian Church also decided about this time to build on South Temple Street. Like the Catholic Cathedral, First Presbyterian Church marks the coming of age of the Presbyterian community in Utah. Although Presbyterian mission schools and chapels were scattered throughout the state, and played a pioneering role in promoting professional public education in Utah, their activities and buildings had been paid for from eastern sources. The First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City marked the maturation of a local Presbyterian congregation to the point at which they were financially independent of sponsoring missionary organizations. Their desire as a Presbyterian community within a Mormon stronghold was to erect an imposing and distinguished edifice that would reflect their church's established and growing importance in Salt Lake society by supporting the cost of construction as a congregation. The First Presbyterian Church of Salt Lake City signalled that it was now a wholly native institution within Mormon dominated Utah, and not dependent on infusions of members and money from outside sources.
The South Temple Historic District includes a significant deviation from the original plat of the city in Haxton Place. Purchased by James T. Keith, a Salt Lake dentist, Haxton Place is reportedly modeled after London's street of the same name and was laid out by Englishman Thomas G. Griffin. Although a simple cul-de-sac with two pairs of stone and iron pillars at the entrance, Haxton Place is distinguished by the unique variants of various Colonial Revival designs built there.
The appearance of the district has changed during its 130 year history as South Temple has evolved from a rural street in a small pioneer town to a stately residential and commercial boulevard in a large city. The following chronology outlines the development of the street from its beginning in 1847 to the present time.
Salt Lake City streets were laid out according to Joseph Smith's plan for the City of Zion, with South Temple (also called Brigham Street) assuming a stature of importance as the major east-west axis. The early site plan specified setbacks, road widths, density, land use and other elements now associated with modern zoning. The growth of South Temple was initially well-planned and orderly.
As originally surveyed, the street was very wide, had a graded dirt surface, dirt walks, a few hitching posts and, by 1860, 15-20 foot trees along the developed portion of the street which extended to 200 East. The eastern section of street, except for irrigation ditches, was undeveloped and rural.
Temple Square was developed in the early 1850s as the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first tabernacle was built in 1851, the Temple Square Wall was built as a Public Works Project in 1855. The Great Temple was commenced in 1853. Eagle Gate was erected in 1859.
South Temple was the early commercial and economic center of the territory. The Tithing Yard, located on the north side between Main and State Streets, contained he Deseret Store, Tithing Office, mint, Deseret News Building, and tithing barns and storehouses. An important educational center, the Brigham Young School was built in 1859 between State and 200 South.
Properties on South Temple were distributed by lots drawn mostly by church leaders. Brigham Young took the lead in establishing South Temple as the city's most prominent residential street with the construction of the White House, (1848), Beehive House (1854) and Lion House (1856). Other Church leaders followed Young's example and constructed substantial homes near the prophet's homestead. To the west, the Devereaux House was built in 1857.
South Temple, as the center of territorial activities, became the site of the first architectural landmarks and the showplace for the works of Utah's finest craftsmen and designers. The talents of Truman O. Angell, William H. Folsom, William Ward, George Romney, Joseph Ridges and Ralph Ramsey were first displayed on South Temple. Architectural styles during the 1850s was limited to adobe vernacular and Mormon variants of Federal and Greek Revival styles,
The land north of South Temple was wilderness in the 1860s. Much wildlife, i.e., rabbit, owls, grasshoppers, etc. lived along the street. Sego bulbs were abundant along the street and were eaten by the pioneers. Sage brush, sunflowers and service berry trees were ubiquitous. Locust and native box elder trees provided shade for the cattle which foraged on the north side of the street. A frog pond provided an early play area.
Development of the eastern portion of South Temple was slow. By 1860 there were only four houses east of the Brigham Young School on the north side of the street: The "Bell House" at the foot of A Street, and three "bleak looking two-story buildings," the homes of John, Adam and Joseph Sharp. The first home built east of Eagle Gate was the "Kay Corner," a two-story adobe "Salt Pile" (salt box style) building.
South Temple became important as the major traffic route between Fort Douglas and the city after 1862. During this period the roadbed was crooked and covered with deep, fine dust ground by wheels of military wagons and wagons going to Red Butte Canyon for building stone. Peddlers and merchants made frequent use of the street, which was also a parade route.
During the mid-1860s, gradual residential expansion east of Eagle Gate occurred. Adobe houses were built on corner lots and the spaces in between were filled with barns, gardens, orchards, and pastures for livestock. A new landscape element — fences of rock and iron work — marked the beginning of permanent civilizing efforts along this previously untamed stretch of road.
During the 1860s, commercial development expanded south of South Temple on Main and State Streets, leaving East South Temple a totally residential street, except for the 1-1/2 block long Indian Distribution Center established by the government on the south side of the street. Surprisingly, the largest, most prestigious homes built during the period were erected on hillside land in the Avenues and Arsenal Hill (Capitol Hill) areas, perhaps because land was cheaper, the view better and the environment more isolated than the now heavily-trafficked South Temple.
With the coming of the railroad in 1869, a flourish of new architectural styles and more sophisticated technology was brought to the territory and appeared in South Temple residences beginning in the 1870s. Early Gothic Revival and modest early Victorian homes began to provide a striking contrast to the more austere vernacular structures built previously.
Brigham Young, George A. Smith, Daniel Wells, and other church leaders continued to occupy the land near Temple Square. Eastern South Temple, however, was settled by a heterogeneous population of Mormons and non-Mormons, (Gentiles). As Gentile merchants became wealthy, they purchased choice frontage on South Temple and built impressive homes.
The full force of Victorian architecture began to express itself on South Temple in the 1870s. The Gardo House, built in 1876 and designed by Joseph Ridges and William H. Folsom for Brigham Young's wife, Amelia Folsom, was a splendid French Second Empire monument, unfortunately razed in 1926 for the Federal Reserve Bank. Old adobe homes were gradually replaced with larger structures and lots were subdivided, reducing open spaces and eliminating orchards.
South Temple continued to be a major traffic way though the 1870s. On a typical day, "public hands," (workmen on the temple) could be seen carrying their tin lunch pails to work. Children walked to school and to the new tabernacle (built 1867) for celebrations. Parades featuring Ulysses S. Grant and later William H. Taft and Theodore Roosevelt (who led a charge of dashing, shouting Rough Riders) attracted the interest of local citizenry. Horse-drawn fire engines from Veteran Volunteer Fire Brigade, Wasatch No. 2, would hurry from the station at 4th East and South Temple.
Brigham Young, the major figure associated with South Temple, died in 1877, but not before seeing the realization of an earlier prediction that his namesake street would "eventually be the fine residence street of the city."
The gaslight era was no more evident than on South Temple. Earlier kerosene lights were replaced by gas lights supported by fancy metal standards. Electric lights appeared by 1900. Modern water and sewer systems were also installed in the 1890s, replacing the pioneer water ditches which had served for irrigation and culinary purposes.
The period from 1889-1893 marked the Utah Building Boom. Several fine residences in the new Victorian style — Shingle style, Chateauesque and Eastlake — were built. Perhaps the period of heaviest growth for South Temple was 1889-1901 when the nouveaux-riche mining, railroad and commercial tycoons built opulent mansions on the street. Government officials like Mayor James Glendenning also were attracted to the street. Towers, pinnacles, vast porches and balconies, carved stone decoration, stained glass windows and imported materials, styles and craftsmen characterized the period.
The old trees on South Temple Street, now large and overgrown, obscured the street view of many buildings, and trees were cut down and replaced with smaller trees. The old pioneer adobe homes and barns almost totally disappeared. The street was still dirt, but new wrought iron fences and fancy carriage houses improved the landscape.
The commitment to adhere to the old zoning rules were abandoned. Growth on South Temple continued in an orderly manner during the 1890s, but future generations would undo much of the carefully designed planning from this period. Well defined walks, planting areas, and curb and gutter originated in the 1890s.
Eastern South Temple's best known residences were built in 1900-1901. These include the mansions of Thomas Kearns, Enos Wall, and David Keith. Late Victorian and Neo-Classical Revival styles dominated the architecture.
The dirt street, for so many years an inconvenience, was finally paved, first with brick and later with asphalt, in the early 1900s. The old rock wall which surrounded the city and ran along part of South Temple was dismantled and the orchards totally disappeared. By this time, oxen, mule and horse teams were being replaced by gas-powered automobiles. Jitney auto busses were gone. The street had the contrasts of beauty and utility, its palatial mansions serviced by a network of metal tracks, telephone poles and a thick web of electrical wires.
Old church landmarks, including the Tithing Office, were replaced by the Bishop's Building and Deseret Gym on North Temple and Hotel Utah on South Temple. The homes of early church leaders were replaced by turn-of-the-century apartments and club buildings: Eagle Gate Apartments, Covey and Buckingham Apartments, B.P.O.E. (Elks) Club, the Alta Club and the University Club. The change in land use spread to the east where older homes were replaced by the Romanesque Catholic Cathedral and the Gothic Presbyterian church.
After seven decades of stable and relatively slow and controlled growth, South Temple Street experienced some major changes which ultimately resulted in the present awkward mix of old and new buildings. Zoning changes in the 1920s permitted commercial development on the street. As prominent families aged and dispersed, and as the introduction of income taxes in 1913 reduced income, retaining mansions as single family residences became impractical. New zoning allowed higher residential densities. The physical result of these new ordinances was the demolition of old mansions and the construction of gas stations, office buildings, and apartments, and the remodeling of existing buildings to provide for new uses. The devastating effect of these short-sighted laws has only recently been resisted.
The appearance of the street itself changed during the teens. The two-level road was finally graded flat and the tracks and poles were removed. Electric lights on new metal truss posts were installed and still exist. The change in buildings has had the greatest impact, however. The battle between residential vs. commercial growth continues.
Lester, Margaret. Brigham Street, Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1979.
Salt Lake City Directories, 1890-1910.
South Temple Historic District, State Register Files, Utah State Historical Society.
† Lois Harris, Preservation Historian and Allen Roberts, Architectural Historian, Utah Heritage Foundation, South Temple Historic District, Salt Lake County, UT, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.