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Historic Salt Lake City Apartments of the Early Twentieth Century

Text and Photographs by Lisa-Michele Church

Salt Lake City contains many beautiful examples of early twentieth-century apartment buildings constructed to house a growing urban population. With whimsical names such as Piccadilly, Peter Pan or Waldorf, these buildings beckoned to Utahns interested in a new approach to residential life. Apartments became places of beginnings and endings for the young couple starting out, a single woman with her first job, an immigrant family new to the area, or a widow no longer able to care for her home. Apartments were a stage on which the rest of your life came into view. As one resident put it, “You moved in with a suitcase, and out with a truck.”

The buildings were designed with style and architectural flair. Residents could enjoy amenities such as electric stoves, night watchmen, elegant entryways, and, for some, Murphy “disappearing” beds. Local families, including the Coveys, Downings, and Sampsons, constructed many of the complexes. Monthly rents ranged from $30 to $50. The last of the distinctive buildings was built in the 1930s; after World War II, people preferred cozy bungalows in the suburbs.  But about half of the original 180 apartment houses are still standing as a vivid illustration of the boldness with which Salt Lake City entered the twentieth century.

The following photo gallery features a few of these buildings. Download a self-guided walking tour brochure to see the historic apartments buildings at your own pace.


1 Pauline

Pauline. The Pauline was built at 278 East 100 South in 1904. This is a “walk up” design where each apartment has its own entrance landing and balcony. Note the cut sandstone foundation, iron railing balconies, and brick details.

2 Woodruff

The Woodruff, located at 235 South 200 East, was built in 1908 and contained 51 units. The building advertised to “young men looking for desirable apartments close to their work.” There was a café, The building featured steam heat, hot water, telephone, gas range, a dresser, buffet, and Murphy bed. Tenants had the option of choosing the color of their walls. A night watchman and janitor were assigned to the apartment, and a café was an added amenity to residents.

3 Woodruff detail

Note the lovely lamp posts, now gone, and the bold entrance. Abraham Gross and his wife, Vera, were typical residents in the 1930s, living in unit 60 and raising their young son, Jerome. Abe and Vera were Polish immigrants; he worked as a cattle buyer. When Abe was killed tragically in a 1935 train accident, Vera and Jerome moved out and the apartment stood vacant for two years.

4 Altadena

The Altadena, at 310 South 300 East, was built in 1905 at a cost of $21,000 by the Octavius Sampson family. The Sampsons originally named it Vivian Flats but changed the name a few years later to match that of their baby daughter. Typical residents included sisters, Annette and Martha Rustad, Norwegian immigrants who worked as seamstresses in Salt Lake department stores. They lived at the Altadena for many years; neither ever married.

5 Altadena detail

The entrance doors at the Altadena are especially detailed. Both buildings feature pediments, Tuscan columns, dentillated cornices and accented cornerstones.

6 Sampson

The Sampson building is at 276 East 300 South, around the corner from the Altadena. It contained seven “walk up” units. The Altadena and Sampson Apartments are almost identical plans. Both buildings have red brick, white trim, substantial balconies, and oak doors. One luxury item was an elevator at the back of the building.

7 Elise

The Elise, at 561 East 100 South, features a massive columned entrance with decorative iron railings and balconies.

8 Elise detail

The detail on the Elise columns is striking. The building was built in 1914 and contains eight “walk up” units.

9 Hillcrest

The Hillcrest is located at 155 East First Avenue and was built in 1915. It joined other apartment buildings financed by the Covey family, including the Covey Flats (now LaFrance), Buckingham, Kensington, New Hillcrest, and Covey. All were built by W.C.A. Vissing, a popular apartment contractor of the time and member of the Covey family.

10 Buckingham

The u-shaped court of the Buckingham (241 East South Temple) is echoed in the other Covey-designed buildings. All were carefully landscaped with generous courtyards and flower beds.

11 Ruby

The Ruby, at 435 East 200 South, was built in 1912. It contains 21 “walk up” units and beautiful wood framed doors and windows. The detailed brick work is also remarkable.

12 Ruby too

One resident of the Ruby, Sadie Baldwin, worked as a dressmaker earning $720 per year in 1940. Sadie was a young widow with three children to raise.

13 Embassy

The Embassy was built at 130 South 300 East in 1926. It contains 31 units using a double-loaded corridor plan where each room opens off a central corridor, and few have balconies. This plan type was a particularly efficient use of Salt Lake City’s deep lots, and was common in the buildings built after World War I. It is currently called the Pauline Downs.

14 Embassy detail

Most early apartment buildings used bold signs to attract attention and convey style. The Embassy sign is no exception. The Embassy was built, along with two adjacent apartment buildings, by Bessie P. Downing and her husband, Hardy. Hardy was a famous tandem bike racer and boxing promoter. Bessie lived in this building and managed it until Hardy’s passing.

15 Embassy Arms

The Embassy Arms was a little fancier than the Embassy, with its French door balconies and elaborate stone entrance. It was built by the Downings next to the Embassy, at 120 South 300 East, in 1930. Note the stone “D” over the sign; it was originally named the Downing Deluxe.

16 Embassy Arms too

These French door balconies were unusual in a double loaded corridor plan. Note the brickwork and stone accents.

17 Spencer Stewart

The Spencer Stewart, at 740 East 300 South, was built in 1926 and included 29 units. It was advertised in the 1935 Salt Lake Telegram for its “three rooms, electric refrigerators and ranges, furnished or unfurnished, disappearing beds, nice large rooms, moderate rent.”

18 Stratton

The Stratton was built in 1927 as part of a building boom where at least ten new apartment buildings appeared on the downtown skyline. It is located at 49 South 400 East and features some castellation along the roofline, two balconies, and an imposing entrance.

19 Peter Pan

The Peter Pan is located at 445 East 300 South. It is notable for its tile roofs, brick detailing and lovely sign. The building was built in 1927.

20 Peter Pan detail

The name signs on the early apartment buildings were often neon and included colorful metal designs.

21 Bell Wines

The Bell Wines apartments were built in 1927 by a married couple, Hazel Bell and Stanley Wines, who combined their surnames. It is located at 530 East 100 South. The building is evocative of a southern plantation home, with a center porch and tall columns around a courtyard.

22 Bell Wines too

The building contains 30 units opening off a long hallway. One early resident, Eva Harmer, became engaged to her sweetheart, Blaine Allan, while living here in 1934. She was alarmed when she discovered she had dropped her engagement ring down the apartment’s sink. Fortunately, city water officials blocked off the pipes until the ring could be found.

23 Annie Laurie

The Annie Laurie, located at 326 East 100 South, and its sister building, the Lorna Doone, were both built in 1928 by the Bowers Investment Company at a cost of $80,000 each. The Lorna Doone has 33 units and the Annie Laurie has 30.

25 Lorna Doone

The Lorna Doone, at 320 East 100 South, shared an interior block parking lot with the other nearby apartments. Between the two sister buildings is a landscaped courtyard.

24 Lorna Doone detail

Both buildings feature elaborate gargoyles and ornaments at the entrance and on the roofline.

26 Armista

The Armista, located at 55 East 100 South, is a substantial building of stone and brick with little ornamentation. Its doorway features beautiful lamps. Herrick and Company built it with 30 units in 1927. Its name was later changed to the Waldorf Apartments. A 1927 Salt Lake Tribune ad read: “$40.00 to $42.00. One of the most modernly equipped and conveniently located apartments in the city.”

27 Piccardy

The Piccardy, at 115 South 300 East, was built in 1930. It has 40 units: five one-bedroom and five studios on each floor. It features Jacobethan styling, twisting columns at the entrance and some leaded glass windows.

28 Piccardy detail

Acanthus leaf trim and original light fixtures adorn the Piccardy entrance.

29 Los Gables

The Los Gables is one of the largest apartments of the early period with 80 units. It was built at 135 South 300 East in 1929. Note the imposing stone work and arched doorways.

30 Los Gables detail

The Los Gables also features inset stone pieces and timber accents.

31 Piccadilly

The Piccadilly is a typical double-loaded corridor plan, built in 1929 at 24 South 500 East.

32 Piccadilly detail

The doorway at the Piccadilly features the original light fixture and decorative sign.

33 Bigelow

The Bigelow apartments were built in 1930 at 223 South 400 East, containing 30 units. A 1940 ad read: “2 r[oo]m modern, lots of space, light, all electric, good service, exclusive.”

34 Premier

The Premier was built at 27 South 800 East in 1931 for $50,000. The site features an unusually large front courtyard with lush landscaping. Note the upright metal sign on the roof.

35 Premier detail

The Premier entrances have striking stone work and wrought iron gates.

36 Chateau Normandie

The Chateau Normandie, 63 South 400 East, was built in 1931. It is a rare example of a “walk up” design built at the end of this apartment era. It has stately trees and extensive timber accents.

37 Chateau Normandie detail

The windows at the Chateau Normandie are extensively decorated.

38 Eastcliff Westcliff

The East Cliff and West Cliff buildings sit together on 200 South between 400 East and 500 East. They were built in 1927–28 and originally named the Cummings apartments.

39 Mayflower

The Mayflower, at 1283 East South Temple, is one of the largest and most elegant apartment buildings of the first half of the twentieth century. Built in 1929 from a design by the architect Slack Winburn, each floor has only five 2,600-square-foot units. Arches and ivy adorn the exterior.

40 Knickerbocker

The Knickerbocker apartment building at 1280 East South Temple was built in 1911 by W.C.A. Vissing. It has a large carved cornice and massive columns with iron railing balconies.

41 Castle Heights

The Castle Heights apartment building opened in January, 1931 to great acclaim. A Salt Lake Tribune ad dated January 18, 1931, read: “Every kitchen in this ultra modern apartment house is equipped with a genuine Frigidaire unit.” It still stands at 141 East First Avenue. Note the stone work, arched entrance, and neon sign.

 

 

Veterans Utah History Project

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Where were you when WWII ended?

The Division of State History and the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs have joined together on the Veterans Utah History Project.

Whether you are a WWII veteran and want to document and share your experiences and memories or you want to volunteer to interview a WWII veteran there are opportunities to participate.

Visit the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs website to learn more and get involved to collect, document and archive this important part of our history.

Art-o-mat

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Art-o-mat creator Clark Whittington helps an art lover make a purchase.

Utah Arts & Museums introduces Utah’s first Art-o-mat, a cigarette vending machine that has been transformed to sell small pieces of art. Purchased in April 2014, this Art-o-mat is the creation of Artists in Cellophane (AIC), an organization based in North Carolina that encourages “art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form.” AIC believes art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable.

There are currently 100 active machines in various locations around the country. Utah Arts & Museum’s model will be housed primarily at the Rio Gallery in the Rio Grande Depot for 12 months while it’s under an exclusivity contract. After that, it will be leased to other organizations in Utah on a first-come, first-served basis.

At the Art-o-mat’s Utah debut at the Mountain West Arts Conference, 46 conference-goers fed the machine a five-dollar bill for a cigarette box-sized work of art. Utah’s machine holds work by 11 artists. Each artist includes a brief description of what’s inside, such as “earrings with a twist” or “alcohol ink painting,” and the works are as varied as you might imagine: tiny robots with movable arms and legs, barcode flip books, painted ceramic tiles, earrings, small paintings, and more.

There are approximately 400 contributing artists from 10 countries currently involved in the Art-o-mat project, and AIC says it is always searching for fresh work. Artists are asked to submit their art for review, and if they’re chosen, Art-o-mat pays them to create work that will then be distributed to machines all over the country. Each piece includes a small paper with contact information and details about the artist. Utah Arts & Museums hopes Utah artists will participate so that local talent can be represented in the project.

To learn more about Art-o-mat, visit www.artomat.org.

Original Writing Competition

Established in 1958, the competition awards Utah writers for works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in a variety of forms. Submissions must be original works and cannot be published or accepted for publication at the time of entry. Manuscripts are reviewed in a blind process by judges selected from outside of Utah. There is no entry fee, and it is open to all Utah residents age 18 and over.

Click HERE to read an informative article by Connie Goldsmith, last year’s Young Adult Book judge, with tips on polishing your manuscript before entering it in a competition.

The 2016 guidelines will be coming later in the spring. Stay tuned.

Click on the links below to see lists of winners in previous years:

2015 OWC List of Winners

2014 OWC List of Winners

2013 OWC List of Winners

2012 OWC List of Winners

2011 OWC List of Winners

2010 OWC List of Winners

Questions?

Contact Alyssa Hickman Grove at agrove@utah.gov or 801.236.7548.

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Literary Arts

The Utah Division of Arts & Museums has been supporting Utah’s literary community for more than 50 years. The Utah Original Writing Competition began in 1958 and has since expanded to other offerings. Through readings, conferences and workshops offered throughout Utah, as well as support for professional development for writers, the Literary Arts program has been able to reinforce growth and interest across all literary genres.

Bite-Size Poetry

We’ve invited notable Utah poets to recite short poems they’ve written. Our friends at TWIG Media Lab have created videos of the readings. This is our last video of the current batch. Enjoy!

Bite-Size Poetry for January 2016: Nancy Takacs

To see more videos of past Bite-Size Poets, please visit our YouTube channel.

Poet Laureate

Utah initiated its Poet Laureate program in 1997. The Poet Laureate is a Governor-appointed advocate for literature and the arts throughout the state. The Poet Laureate is available for readings at public events and in venues including libraries, universities and schools. To have the Poet Laureate visit your organization, please fill out the Poet Laureate appearance request form.

Literary Resources

Utah is home to a rich and diverse writing community. Throughout the state, there are several literary journals and magazines (both print and electronic), conferences, competitions, awards, festivals and presses. These range from independent to university- and college-sponsored periodicals, events and workshops, and include content in all literary genres, often paired with visual arts. Additionally, audiences for each range from local to national and from secular to religious, and are inclusive of experienced and emerging writers alike. For a list of resources, click HERE.

You may also sign up for our monthly LitOps e-newsletter by contacting Alyssa Hickman Grove at agrove@utah.gov .

Competitions

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Poetry Out Loud
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with Utah Arts & Museums’ Literature Program to support Poetry Out Loud, which encourages Utah’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. State arts agencies receiving arts education funding from NEA are required to participate.

Original Writing Competition
The annual Original Writing Competition has won national respect because of the reputation of its judges and the honors received by its winners. For more than 50 years, this competition has honored some of Utah’s finest writers with public recognition, career assistance and cash prizes.

Download an information sheet on the Literary Arts program.

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