Oakwood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
Oakwood, located at 2610 Evergreen Avenue, is a large frame two-story Victorian home with Eastlake style decoration. The Oakwood estate is the finest remaining from Mill Creek's era as the country home of Utah's mining millionaires. The house was built about 1905 as a summer "cottage" for the Silver Queen, Susanna Emery-Holmes, and added to in the 1920s when it became the year round residence of the Harold Lamb family. Today the house is composed of four wings, one at each compass direction, in an asymmetrical plan that is emphasized by the use of different roof heights for each wing.
Oakwood's west (front) wing has a steep gable with horizontal and raking cornices. At the top of the gable is a small Eastlake bargeboard with heavy wood framing, two panels with a scroll-sawn sunburst cut-out, and a turned pendant below. In the gable is a tall window surrounded by patterned wood shingle siding.
On the first and second floors of all four wings the siding is clapboard with vertical cornerboards. Windows are tall and narrow, except for the large first floor front window with its single lower pane and transom above with smaller rectangular panes. These panes match those of the French doors on the entry way.
A large front porch wraps around the west and north sides of the wing. On the west (front) side the porch has a small mansard roof and on the north side a sloping shed-type roof. It is supported by turned columns and scroll-sawn brackets in the Eastlake style. A balustrade with turned balusters follows the curved edge of the porch.
The small north wing consists of a gabled two-story bay window, whose ridgeline is lower than that of the west wing. The gable decoration is a smaller version of that found in front, with horizontal and raking cornices, Eastlake bargeboards, tall window, and patterned wood shingle siding. The gable is supported by scroll-sawn brackets with turned pendants. The segmental bay window below is framed in wood in the Stick style with panels of patterned wood shingles and clapboard.
The east (rear) wing is the largest of the four. On its western gable, where the tip of its roof peeks above the roof of the front wing, there is another Eastlake sunburst bargeboard and a small window surrounded by wood shingle siding. The wing's east gable, at the back of the house, has horizontal and raking cornices and a tall window but no other decoration.
There was once an east back porch where the second floor overhung the first. Traces of this may be seen in the short lengths of molding, between the first and second floors on either side of the house below the rear gable, that once trimmed the overhang. The porch was enclosed in 1923 when a former carriage house on the property was moved and added to the rear of the wing as a garage, with a sleeping porch built above. A one-story double garage was added to the west of this in 1929.
The south wing of the house was added in 1929 by Salt Lake City contractor Oscar Chytraus. It contains the dining room and breakfast nook, a bedroom above, and there is a small one-story kitchen nestled behind it next to the east wing. The new wing's south facade is a slightly simplified copy of the north wing, with a corniced, shingled gable, Eastlake bargeboard, and Stick style segmental bay window below. On the east and west sides of the wing are French windows which open onto brick steps on the first story and small balconies on the second.
Besides the rear garage additions in 1923 and 1929 and the new south wing in 1929, the house received several smaller alterations when it became the year-round residence of Susanna Emery-Holmes' nephew Harold Lamb around 1923. The original single wood-burning stove, sufficient for a summer house, was replaced with a coal-fired hot water central heating system. Several interior walls were removed and two small front room and the old entry hall became the present large living room. A large fireplace with an ornate iron screen was installed, its chimney replacing an old attic stair. The main stair landing was also enlarged at the expense of a former guest bedroom. Despite these changes, the panelled woodwork and carved newel-post of the stair remain, as do the carved architrave moldings around insides of windows throughout the home. Stained glass windows were removed, however, and replaced with rectangular pane sash. Scalloped wood or iron trim that had formerly accented the exterior roof ridges was also removed, all part of the general 1920s reaction against Victorian "over decoration."
The only major alteration since that time occurred in the early 1950s when the front porch was rebuilt. The present shed roof replaced the original mansard on the north side at that time. Today's porch also lacks some of the original Eastlake trim, including a second floor balustrade and a knob-and-spindle screen seen beneath the cornice in early photographs.
Indications remain of the lavish grounds of the early Oakwood. Flanking the entrance to the tree-lined drive are cast iron gate posts, and a section of cast iron fence can be seen along the driveway south of the house. The shell-shaped 1923 swimming pool, the cemented-in portion of the original Neff mill pond, is in good condition on the knoll to the northeast. There is a simple two-room bath house and the relocated ruins of the power generator shed nearby. To the south of the pool are tarmac tennis courts installed in 1931 and used into the 1960s. Mill Creek, which powered the Neff grist mill and later Oakwood's electric generator, flows through the south part of the property. A smaller ditch with sluice gates still intact splits off above the old generator site and flows around the north side of the house before rejoining Mill Creek below.
Oakwood is significant as the finest remaining home of Utah's famed Silver Queen, Susanna Emery-Holmes, a major figure in the state's mining economy whose flamboyance caught and still holds the public's attention. The large house is a good example of an Eastlake style summer "cottage," the best surviving home of the era in the Mill Creek area. The site and house reflect Utah's changing economy over a century and a quarter, illustrating changes in land use along Mill Creek from an area of water powered mills, to an isolated cluster of country homes for Salt Lake's nouveau riche mining millionaires, to a suburb of Salt Lake City.
Long before the Silver Queen entertained lavishly at Oakwood, John Neff built Utah's first grist mill on this site. The Neff mill was first of many flour and sawmills to be located in this area. Between 1850 and 1880 more than 20 mills were in operation here, and the area was appropriately named Mill Creek.
The former millpond and Mill Creek, running through the Oakwood estate, are visible reminders of the first chapter of the site's history. The end of the nineteenth century saw a de-emphasis of the early Mormon ideal of self-sufficiency as once-isolated Utah became integrated into the economy of the United States. A major cause of these socioeconomic changes was the development of a booming mining industry in the mountains around Salt Lake City. Camps located at Park City and Tintic, both now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as Bingham Canyon, Alta, Mercur, and many smaller locations produced vast quantities of gold, silver, lead, copper, and dozens of trace minerals. By 1904, Utah was producing over twenty percent of the nation's metal.
The changing economy meant the end of the water-powered mills along Mill Creek, and simultaneously brought into being a new leisure class of nouveau riche mining millionaires. Several of these saw the wooded dale along Mill Creek, far south of Salt Lake City, as an ideal place to build country homes to supplement their city palaces on South Temple Street.
In 1891, William H.H. Spafford, a wealthy mine owner and real estate magnate, purchased the mill site and machinery for $4,500. He tore down part of the mill and remodeled it into a dance hall. Edward H. Airis bought the property in 1898, paying $8,000 for the mill site, water power, and water rights. Airis was Secretary of the Mercur Gold Mining Company and had real estate holdings in Salt Lake City. The mill was completely destroyed some time between 1898 and 1905. Part of the mill burr was saved and set in a monument in front of the East Mill Creek Ward LDS Church, one half block east of the site. The mill pond, used for many years for LDS baptisms, was cemented in and still survives as the Oakwood estate's swimming pool, located northeast of the house.
In 1904, the Neff mill site was purchased by Mrs. Susanna Bransford Emery-Holmes, the most famous of the new mining millionaires. Mrs. Holmes was known throughout he world as the Silver Queen, due to her first husband's investments in the Silver King mine in Park City, Utah. It was Mrs. Holmes who built this house as her summer retreat and named it Oakwood.
Mrs. Holmes had humble beginnings in Richmond, Missouri, where she was born in 1859. Her family moved to the new mining camp at Park City, Utah, five years later. In 1884 she married the first of her four husbands, Albion B. Emery. He was an early speaker of the Utah House of Representatives and had nine holdings. At the time of his death in 1899, his mining stocks were declared worthless. Mrs. Emery refused to sell the stocks and parlayed her holdings into a huge fortune. She eventually owned an interest in every major mine in Utah. Because of her mining successes and her elegant parties she was given the title, the "Silver Queen."
In 1900 she married Col. Edwin B. Holmes, a millionaire from Detroit. The couple lived at the Amelia Palace (now demolished) on South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, the former home of one of Brigham Young's wives. The Holmes were leaders of Salt Lake Society and entertained lavishly at the Amelia Palace and in Washington, D.C. They traveled around the world many times and were received by Pope Leo, Queen Victoria and Russian royalty.
At Oakwood, the Silver Queen built this house to serve as her summer residence. It is a large frame Victorian home with Eastlake style decoration, the finest home of its era in Millcreek. The frame construction is not common in Utah, and the 1904 date makes it a very, late example of Eastlake architecture, popular in the 1880's. The architecture may represent a desire to be old-fashioned and "countrified," or it may indicate the house was an attempt to emulate the earlier homes of wealthy eastern capitalists.
The Oakwood estate is heavily wooded and had beautifully landscaped grounds. Over the creek and irrigation canals, Mrs. Holmes built many small wood bridges. A small house built behind the main house produced electricity for Oakwood until about 1927 when the power company lines reached the Mill Creek area. The "power house" now sits in a corner of the Oakwood estate. Oakwood was the site of many of the summer tea parties, luncheons and other entertainments that made the Silver Queen famous.
In 1919, the Silver Queen gave Oakwood to her nephew, Harold B. Lamb. Mr. Lamb's mother died in childbirth and Mrs. Holmes treated him as her own son. Harold Lamb was married to Grizelle Houston of Salt Lake City. The couple had three children, James, Susan, and Harold, Jr. Harold B. Lamb, Jr. was a self-trained landscape architect who received his early experience working on the grounds of Oakwood. He worked with the noted Utah architectural firm of Walter E. Ware and Alberto O. Treganza creating the gardens surrounding Salt Lake's finest homes, as well as the Salt Lake Golf Course. In 1925, Mr. Lamb died suddenly and Oakwood was divided among Mrs. Lamb and her children.
By the mid-twentieth century, the Mill Creek area was no longer an isolated group of country homes, opening the third chapter in Oakwood's history. Salt Lake's growing economy pushed residential development far south down the Salt Lake Valley, and Millcreek became a suburb of the city. Dr. Harold Lamb, Jr. and his brother now live in modern homes on the edge of the Oakwood estate. The house and tree-shaded grounds have been kept largely intact by Mrs. William O'Conner, widow of Harold Lamb, Sr., who lived there till her death in 1978. The brothers plan to restore the old estate and rent it as a single family residence.
Bowthrope, Asa R. "History of Pioneer Sawmills and Local Canyons of Salt Lake Valley," (1961).
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: East Mill Creek Ward, "Brief History of Mill Creek Ward."
Deseret News, September 1, 1947, p. 7.
Deseret News, April 29, 1947, p. 12.
Deseret News, May 15, 1925, Sec. 2, p. 1.
East Mill Creek Second Ward, Memoirs of East Mill Creek (1964) .
Hanchett, Thomas W., telephone interview with Joe H. Lamb, November 8, 1978.
Holmes, Mrs. Edwin F., Silver Queen Scrapbook (1902-1904).
Manley and Litteral, Utah; Her Cities, Towns and Resources (Chicago: 1891-92).
Mitchell, Robert. "The Silver Queen — Pioneer of 1864," In the Valley of the Saints (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Lesson for December, 1962).
Nelson, Elroy. "The Mineral Industry: A Foundation of Utah's Economy," Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol.31, No. 3, Summer 1963, p.178-191.
"Oakwood: A Sylvan Retreat," New West (June, 1918).
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