Salt Lake City and County Building

by Tom December. 01, 2007 6430 views

The building was originally constructed by free masons between 1891 and 1894 to house offices for the city and county of Salt Lake and replace the Salt Lake City Council Hall and Salt Lake County Courthouse, both erected in the 1860s.

Construction of the building was riddled with controversy. During the late 1800s and early 1900s the City and County Building was the symbol of non-Mormon citizens' open defiance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was designed to rival the Salt Lake Temple as the city's architectural centerpiece. It is even thought that the building's clock tower and statues were designed to mimic the temple's spires and statue of the angel Moroni. Ironically, the building was originally the 1880s brainchild of the Church-backed “People's Party.” When the non-Mormon “Liberal Party” was campaigning for city government, they deemed the proposed “joint building” an example of the Church's extravagance and wastefulness. In a reversal of stance, the Liberals decided to go ahead with the building when they finally gained power in 1890. Construction began in February on State Street at about 100 South.

The building's surface is elaborately carved from the gray Utah Kyune sandstone.

From 1973 to 1989 the building was exhaustively renovated and repaired with an eye toward historical accuracy. This was done in concert with a seismic upgrade called base isolation that placed the weak sandstone structure on a foundation of steel and rubber to better protect it from earthquake damage.


Gargoyles, eagles, sea monsters, beehives, Masonic iconss, suns, and other symbols dot the building's rich exterior.


Walter Baird and Oswald Lendi carved most of the building's features. Lindi, a French sculptor, whimsically carved his face between the words "City" and "Hall" above the north entrance.

The Salt Lake City and County Building's central clock tower is topped with a statue of Columbia and rises 256 feet (78 m) from the ground. The building's primary axis runs north-south, and large entrances mark each cardinal direction. On the south wing (over the Mayor's office) is a bronze statue of the goddess Justice. Originally, the building had statues depicting Commerce, Liberty, Justice, and Columbia, but the others were removed following a 1934 earthquake. Columbia and the other missing statues were replaced on top of the building when it was renovated in 1989.

The City-County Building sits between State Street, Second East, Fourth South, and Fifth South in Salt Lake City, a block called "Washington Square." Named for George Washington, the block is the site of the original 1847 Mormon Pioneer camp in Salt Lake City.

Like other blocks in Salt Lake City's original grid, Washington Square is 10 acres (4 hectares). The Salt Lake City and County Building, alone in the center of the block, takes up relatively little space. Trees, walkways, and statues surround the building making Washington Square like a small park. Indeed, the block is often the site of fairs, concerts and other activities.

Many of Salt Lake City's cultural events take place at Washington Square, and often 200 East Street between it and Library Square is blocked off to create one large event plaza. Events that take place in this space include Utah Pride Festival, the Utah Arts Festival, and Salt Lake City Jazz Festival and the Living Traditions Festival that celebrates all the different cultures that reside within the state. These occur once a year and usually run over the weekends.

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Pintã©R Orsi 9 years, 10 months ago


9 years, 10 months ago Edited
Sherij 9 years, 10 months ago

WOW fantastic looking buildings!! Funny I didn't see this when I was in SLC... Must have been looking for birds or something???

9 years, 10 months ago Edited
Roy 9 years, 10 months ago

Nice words too.

9 years, 10 months ago Edited
Cliff Schroer 9 years, 10 months ago

Great set of pics and I love the additional history behind the pictures!! Well done!

9 years, 10 months ago Edited
Jan Eljapa 9 years, 10 months ago

Wow, great pics, well done. I only know Salt Lake City from the ice skating i love to watch. Nice to see and read more of Salt Lake City.

9 years, 10 months ago Edited