Stop 22: Salt Lake City and County Building

Washington Square

On July 25, 1892, the cornerstone for the City and County Building was set in place and in December 1894 the dedication ceremony took place amid crowds cheering, banners streaming, and musicians performing.

Offices in the building were divided down the center hall, with the county’s on the south and the city’s on the north. Furniture was also clearly divided — green upholstery for the county and red for the city.

This building also served as Utah’s State Capitol for almost 20 years, from Utah’s statehood in 1896 until the present Capitol was completed in 1915. Today the building has a single owner: Salt Lake City.

This building was constructed of rough-hewn Kyune sandstone quarried about 5 miles northeast of Colton in Utah County. A railroad spur track was built early in 1892 in order to transport construction materials from the quarry. This sandstone was chosen as the building stone because it is easily cut and carved.

Unfortunately, it also weathers easily and from 1973 to 1989, the City and County building underwent numerous minor restorations and finally one major restoration. The original stone quarry was reopened and new sawn and carved blocks of Kyune sandstone replaced the old, damaged stone.

Sandstone faces of pioneer men and women, famous Spanish explorers and American Indians, and some of Utah’s early officials gaze from the walls and columns. The numerous original carvings were done by a Mr. Linde (or Lendi) whose self portrait is between the words “City” and “Hall” on the north face. He also sculpted gargoyles and mythical sea serpents and monsters said to have ruled Lake Bonneville (the large, prehistoric, freshwater predecessor of the Great Salt Lake).

The building was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1934, so to help protect it from future earthquakes, the structure now sits upon a base-isolation system of rubber and steel “shock absorbers” set between the foundation and the ground. At the time of its completion in 1989, the $30 million retrofit was the world’s first application of seismic base isolation in the restoration of a historical structure.

Tours of the Salt Lake City and County Building (including the base isolation system) are provided by the Utah Heritage Foundation; contact the Utah Heritage Foundation at 533-0858 for more information.

End of Tour

PI-60 Building Stones of Downtown Salt Lake City, A Walking Tour