Chris Dunsmore

Chris Dunsmore

Saturday, 15 February 2014 15:58

Fisher Mansion


In 1893 Albert Fisher had a mansion constructed in a sparsely populated neighborhood on Salt Lake City’s west side near the banks of the Jordan River. Fisher, who had immigrated to Utah from Seebach, Baden, Germany in 1881, chose the location on 200 South because of its proximity to his work. The two-story, twelve-room house, designed in the Victorian Eclectic style, stood a stone’s throw from what eventually became the largest brewery in Utah, the A. Fisher Brewing Company. And though the Fishers and the brewery had the neighborhood somewhat to themselves for a while, around the turn of the century Albert, his wife Alma, and their five children were living in the midst of a well-populated residential subdivision.

Like his neighborhood, Fisher’s beer business was booming at the turn of the century. By 1905 Fisher employed 50 people and was brewing 75,000 barrels to distribute to the many taverns he owned in the Salt Lake Valley.1 A. Fisher Brewing, along with the Salt Lake Brewing Company, was bigger than Coors. Such skillful brewing and entrepreneurial know-how made Albert Fisher an industry titan and Fisher Mansion matched his titanic status in the brewing industry and in Salt Lake.

Further proof of its strength and popularity as a business, A. Fisher Brewing was the only brewery to reopen in Utah after the repeal of Prohibition. Fisher had constantly struggled with morality laws that hindered his business. He even ran ads saying, “Beer drinking people are a home-loving, moral people.”2 Such a statement might be seen as a direct address to Salt Lake’s dominant religion, the home-loving, moral Mormons. Despite its successes and popularity though, Fisher's business couldn’t escape Prohibition and was forced to close from 1918 to 1933. After reopening, the brewery remained a viable business until 1957 when A. Fisher Brewing, run by Albert’s son Frank, succumbed to its competition and was bought out by Lucky Lager in San Francisco.

The Fisher Mansion, on the other hand, has remained a well-used and well-loved structure in Salt Lake for 120 years, adapting to new functions and changing to fulfill the needs of the surrounding community. For its first 51 years members of the Fisher family inhabited the house. In 1945, Albert and Alma’s daughter Alice and her family, the Davidsons, leased the mansion to the Catholic Church. The residence became a convent for Our Lady Queen of Peace and Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters. Then in 1970 the mansion became St. Mary’s Home for Men, an alcohol and drug abuse treatment facility. The home accommodated 41 men, providing them with shelter, food, clothing, counseling, and job assistance.

Though its surroundings have become much less residential over the years, in part due to construction of I-80 for which many homes were demolished, Fisher Mansion still stands. Salt Lake City purchased Fisher Mansion in 2006 to preserve the building and complete the Jordan River Trail. The City has solicited the public’s input to decide the mansion's function, but it’s clear that whatever that may be, the 120-year-old mansion will remain an important Salt Lake City site. From housing a beer baron and his family, to providing treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, throughout its history Fisher Mansion has proven its adaptability and firmly established itself as a community center on Salt Lake’s west side.



“Fisher Brewing Company Part II,” March 5, 2013, by Richard Markosian 




 “The History of Salt Lake City – Fisher Mansion” Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office

“Guests tour historical Fisher Mansion in Salt Lake City,” by Gina Barker, Deseret News, published: Sunday, May 16, 2010,

“CRSA Fisher Mansion Historic Structure Report February 5, 2010”

“Historic Structures Report: The Fisher Mansion,” prepared by Kent Brough, Soon-Ju Kwon, Shalae A. Larsen, Paul Nielsen, Sara Staffanson, University of Utah College of Architecture and Planning

“Becker wants historic Fisher mansion, a 'hidden jewel,' open to public,” by Derek P. Jensen, The Salt Lake Tribune, published January 18, 2008

“A toast to historic S.L. Victorian: Mayor seeks input on best uses for west-side Fisher mansion,” by Jared Page, Deseret News, published: Saturday, Feb. 9 2008

“Fisher Mansion Open House”

“Fisher Brewing Company Part II,” March 5, 2013 by Richard Markosian

Monday, 16 December 2013 14:40

Rose Park


The Rose Park neighborhood of Salt Lake is considered to be one of the most diverse areas of the city. Several historical factors have contributed to the community’s complex makeup. In the 1870s the railroad split Salt Lake and physically delineated the city’s west side. Railroad workers of various ethnicities, cultures, and religions settled into what is now the Rose Park area, transforming a part of Salt Lake that had been predominantly LDS into a more heterogeneous community. Then, in the 1980s and 90s Rose Park saw an influx of Pacific Islanders and Central and South Americans, a migration consisting largely of Mormon converts moving closer to their church’s headquarters in Salt Lake. During the 21st century Bosnian, Russian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Sudanese and Somalian immigrants, many of whom are refugees, have made their homes in Rose Park. This complex and rich cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity has given Rose Park a reputation as a welcoming, community-oriented, and proud neighborhood.

But the area wasn’t always so welcoming or prideful of its diversity. Before being redeveloped and renamed as Rose Park the area was called the Oakley Park Subdivision, which was marketed as somewhat of a resort community. But the area consisted of marshes, slues and stinky springs really only fit for cattle. As developers prepared to take over and revitalize this undesirable land during the post-World War II housing boom they first ordered the health department to clean out a residential area that inspectors considered to be an unsanitary slum. Residents of the “blighted,” “depressed” area were to clean up or move out, and developers and inspectors were accused of “pushing people around.”1 And people continued to get pushed around during Rose Park’s heyday of expansion during the 1950s as the booming new development’s covenants only allowed white people to own homes in the area. This prejudice continued until immigration policies were loosened, a change that has allowed Rose Park to become the diverse community it is today.

Rose Park has also experienced an environmental transformation. From the 1930s until 1957 Utah Oil and Refining Company disposed of acidic waste sludge in an unlined pit that came to be known as the Rose Park Sludge Pit. In 1982 the US Army Corps of Engineers oversaw construction of a remedy that consisted of building a bentonite slurry wall around the sludge pit’s perimeter and capping the waste. The EPA deemed the site protective of human health and the environment and was deleted from the National Priorities List in 2003. The area is now known as Rosewood Park, and residents enjoy picnicking, playing soccer, and skating at what was once a Superfund site.2

From slums to sludge pits Rose Park has proven itself to be a resilient, adaptable, and community-minded neighborhood throughout its history. And it stands out in Salt Lake not just for its diversity and its history, but also for its physical differences from downtown. The railroad separated the area from the city in the 1870s, and that separation was more recently reinforced by the construction of the I-15 freeway, which is one of the community’s boundaries (west of I-15, north of 600 North, and east of Redwood Road). Even the neighborhood’s layout sets it apart from the rigid grid of downtown and its surroundings. Rose Park’s original developer, Alan E. Brockbank, designed some of the original streets to look like a rose from an aerial view. The story goes that Brockbank’s father was a gardener at Buckingham Palace, a fact that also inspired Brockbank the younger to name several streets for rose varieties, and, of course, inspired the development’s rosy moniker.

And apparently the layout and cultural diversity of the neighborhood have facilitated an exceptionally livable community. Rose Park suffers fairly widely held misconceptions about crime in the area, which is perhaps a symptom of its physical separation, its cultural, ethnic, and religious differences, or both. But the community belies such misplaced accusations. Its been suggested that the Latino population, taking advantage of the neighborhood’s layout and small scale, have imported a culture of more vibrant, walkable, community-oriented neighborhoods to Rose Park, a way of life that’s familiar in Latin American cities, and that’s becoming more familiar elsewhere (see the recent attempt at a walkable downtown development, City Creek Center).3

Rose Park’s separation and differences from Salt Lake City proper have engendered errors and misunderstandings in the media and among the neighborhood’s downtown neighbors. But over the years separation and difference have stimulated and strengthened the community’s growth, its maturation, and most importantly it’s sense of community.

1Salt Lake Telegram, 8/6/1948, “S.L. Demands West Side Area Cleanup,” by Richard W. Bernick

2, Return to Use Initiative 2007 Demonstration Project: Rose Park Sludge Pit: Salt Lake City, Utah

3The Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 2, 2003, “Restoring livability: Latinos bring back the concept of walkable, vibrant neighborhoods,” By Tim Sullivan

Sources:, "Best of Utah 2010: Rose Park," by City Weekly Staff, The Salt Lake Tribune, “Residents say Rose Park embodies the American Dream,” by Christopher Smart, published July 25, 2013, The Salt Lake Tribune, “Rose Park blossomed after World War II,” by Tom Wharton, first Published May 09 2013, last updated May 09 2013, “SLC neighborhood profile: Rose Park,” by Rachel Quist, “Alan Brockbank, a Builder of Homes in S.L. Area, Dies,” published: Sunday, Sept. 9 1990, Return to Use Initiative 2007 Demonstration Project: Rose Park Sludge Pit: Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake Telegram, 11/4/1948, “West Side Coming into Its Own, But Needs City Services and Facilities”

Salt Lake Telegram, 8/6/1948, “S.L. Demands West Side Area Cleanup,” by Richard W. Bernick

A History of Salt Lake County, Utah Centennial County History Series, by Linda Stilltoe, pgs. 214, 281, 324

Rose Park Community Study and Analysis, MaryLu Olson, Alisha Gordon, and Kelly Feller, Social Work 6112, March 23, 2005

The Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 2, 2003, “Restoring livability: Latinos bring back the concept of walkable, vibrant neighborhoods,” by Tim Sullivan

Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 27, 1991, Editorial Commentary, “Maligned Rose Park”

The Salt Lake Tribune April 17, 1996, “Proud to Live in Rose Park,” Kenneth L. Neal

The Salt Lake Tribune, March 10, 2000, “False Stereotype,” Mack Donald Sullivan



Mrs. Lorrenson put up with her husband’s decision to take another wife for two months. But in the end the second wife was the last straw. Prior to entering into plurality Mr. Lorrenson neglected his wife and three boys, paying most of his earnings to the Mormon Church while his family begged and went barefoot in cold weather. Thinking it irresponsible that Mr. Lorrenson would take another wife when he failed to care for one, Mrs. Lorrenson (the first wife) protested. For her rebellion Mr. Lorrenson mortgaged their home to his second wife. After leaving their home and the man they had depended on, Mrs. Lorrenson and her children were destitute, stricken by the ills of polygamy.1

Though the type and severity of the cases varied, Mrs. Lorrenson is representative of the inmates at the Women’s Industrial Christian Home. The home on 145 South 500 East, which opened in 1889, was established and constructed with the support of the US Congress to provide young Mormon females with an “avenue of escape from polygamy and its attendant evils.” The home, while providing women with temporary shelter, also attempted to teach them skills they could use to support themselves and their families. These women would no longer have to depend on their husbands or the Mormon Church. Women of the Industrial Christian Home were instructed in domestic industries such as cooking, dressmaking, and tailoring; and in mechanical industries like typewriting, stenography, and telegraphy. Not surprisingly for the time, an escape from the evils of polygamy was not an escape from the confines of domesticity or an expansion of the narrow range of opportunities for women.

“The labor in the effort to lead these strangely deluded women into lives of self-dependency”2 was not quite as successful as the Women’s Industrial Christian Association had hoped. Though the association successfully petitioned for federal aid, it lost control of the home to a board of control comprised entirely of men who didn’t necessarily share the original vision of what the home should be. The board, headed by Governor Eli H. Murray, narrowly defined women’s eligibility for the home’s services, which may account for its failure. First wives, and women who refused to be a party to polygamy or a part of Mormonism, were denied aid because polygamy didn't technically affect them. The Women’s Industrial Christian Home, built as an escape from the abuses of Mormon polygamous patriarchy, failed in part because of governmental and bureaucratic patriarchy. Women in Utah lived at the mercy of men who claimed to be their protectors, both in and out of marital or religious structures.

After its closure some men in the legislature - exhibiting resilience in the face of their failed attempt to aid Salt Lake citizens in need - pushed to have the home appropriated for the Utah Legislature. The building’s “convenient and suitable halls and necessary committee rooms connected therewith,” could be had “free of rent or other expense, except to pay for gas to light the rooms used and coal to heat them.”3 So for a short time the Women’s Industrial Christian Home became the meeting place for the men of the legislature. After facilitating Utah’s representatives, the building was repurposed as the Fifth East Hotel, and later, in 1945, became the Ambassador Athletic Club. The Ambassador Club became a bit of a boy’s club, a place where members could conduct informal business, bowl, gamble, and, as Utah prohibited liquor by the drink at the time, a place where they could stash and drink their rum and gin. Built as a haven for the destitute women of Utah in 1885, the building was torn down in 1985, standing to indulge weary travelers, bowlers, gamblers, boozers and legislators for a century.

1Polygamy: The Work of the Industrial Christian Home Association of Utah Territory (Google eBook) by Eugene Hale


3Congressional edition, Volume 3167 (Google eBook), United States Congress, U.S. G.P.O., 1895



Sources: “A Grand Old Lady: Salt Lake Ambassador Club” “Tippling Through Time” by Ted McDonough

Seeing Salt Lake City, by Alan Barnett “New nonprofit launched to help people from polygamous communities,” by Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune, Published February 5, 2009

The Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Fifty-Second Congress 1892-’93., Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893. “Industrial Christian Home Association of Utah. Communication from the Utah Commissioners Transmitting Their Annual Report to Congress.” Office of the Utah Commission, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 25, 1892

Polygamy: The Work of the Industrial Christian Home Association of Utah Territory (Google eBook) by Eugene Hale

Congressional edition, Volume 3167 (Google eBook), United States Congress, U.S. G.P.O., 1895

Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874-1939, by Peggy Pascoe, Oxford University Press, 1990

Notable American Women 1607-1950, Edward T. James, Harvard University Press, 1971, page 621 “Utah's First Territorial Capitol, Fillmore, Was Too Remote for Legislators,” Yvette D. Ison, History Blazer, July 1995

Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power: Salt Lake City, 1847-1918, by Jeffrey D. Nichols, University of Illinois Press, 2002, pgs 22-23