Constructed in 1864-65 at 120 East 1st South, this red sandstone building served for nearly 30 years, 1866-1894, as the seat of government. Here the Territorial Legislature met and passed laws establishing free public schools, made appropriations for the first University of Utah buildings, and granted woman suffrage. From its cupola, a 1700 lb. bell sounded fire alarms and curfews while its clock chimed the time of day. In 1961 the structure was removed, stone by stone, and restored to its original likeness through the efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the State of Utah, the Salt Lake City Corporation, and the N.C. Morgan Foundation. Now a Utah State Visitor Center and historic shrine.
Its two most interesting features occupy the grounds at each front corner of the building. At the northwest corner is the “International” bison. This bison wears the flags of many of the different ethnic groups that contributed to the great economic growth of the area during the first 50 years after the initial emigration. At the northeast corner is the “Suitcase” bison, representing a piece of luggage bearing travel stickers from many of Utah’s top scenic attractions.
Erected between 1864 and 1866 to house Salt Lake City’s governmental offices, Council Hall served both as a municipal building an4 the Utah Territorial Capitol until 1894. Today it is an impressive reminder of what historian Howard Roberts Lamar has characterized appropriately as
“perhaps the most turbulent and unusual” experience “in the history of the American territorial system.” Between 1850 and 1890 Utah exhibited few of the political, legal, and economic customs normally found in a developing frontier community. The theocratic territory rejected public schools,
Federal land policy, the two-party system, parts of the common law, and the primacy of civil courts. Consequently the National Government departed from its usual territorial policy and adopted special measures to reconstruct Utah’s political and social institutions. In 1857-1,858 President
James Buchanan sent a military expedition to the desert territory to force the Mormons to cooperate with Federal officials, and between 1862 and 1887, Congress enacted a series of laws banning polygamy, reforming Utah’s judicial system, dissolving the Nauvoo Legion, and establishing a commission to supervise Utah voter registration and elections. Only once before, in the defeated South after the Civil War, had the U.S. Government found it necessary to interfere so drastically in the local affairs of a community or region.
Because the Territorial Governor, the Mormon-dominated legislature, and Salt Lake City municipal officials shared Council Hall, much of the struggle for political control of Utah took place in the 60-foot-square, 2-story, red sandstone building. Originally it stood on the corner of First South and State Streets, but in 1961-1962, with funds supplied by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the structure was dismantled and moved to the present location immediately south of the State capitol. Today the Utah Travel Council occupies the beautifully restored hall.
Architect William H. Folsom designed Council Hall for use as a municipal government building. Construction began at the corner of First South and State Streets in 1864 and reached completion in 1866. From then until 1894 the structure provided office space for Salt Lake City officials and served as Utah’s Territorial Capitol as well. City police enjoyed exclusive use of the hall from the mid 1890’s until 1915 , when it became the home of the municipal Board of Health.
In 1948 David O. McKay, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, guided development of plans to restore the building. The church secured land directly across from the State Capitol and furnished approximately $300,000 to finance movement of Council Hall about 1 mile
to the new site. Architect Edward O. Anderson supervised the dismantling and restoration work in 1961-1962. Presently the building is the home of the Utah Travel Council.
Elegantly designed, Council Hall is a 60-foot-square, 2-story structure of randomly laid red sandstone and contrasting white woodwork. It is seven bays wide and five bays deep. On the lower front façade, there are six stationary, 30-pane windows and a centrally located double door flanked by side lights. On the upper level, immediately above the main entrance, double glass doors open onto a small balustraded balcony, which is supported by pendant-ornamented brackets. The six upper level Windows are 12-over-12 sash, and each is topped by a broken pediment of stone. Side and rear windows are 12-over-12 sash too, but they are topped by smooth sandstone lintels.
A three-part wooden entablature extends around the top of Council Hall, and scroll brackets support the cornice and a railing. An octagon-shaped cupola with a square, balustraded base sits astride the copper-covered hip roof. The cupola dome and small spire are copper also. Two interior metal chimneys pierce the roof near the northeast and southwest corners.
length of the first story. Large paneled doors with transoms and shouldered architrave trim lead into a visitor information center and a storage room on the left and a period room and a conference area on the right. Four-inchwide oak planks with simulated wooden pegs cover the floors throughout. Walls and ceilings are finished in plaster and painted variously in white, yellow, green, blue, and pink.
A dog-leg stair with turned balusters leads from the corridor to the upper story, where there are two offices, a large courtroom, and the council room. The latter measures about 35 by 45 feet, contains period furniture, and features an elaborate plaster cornice. Adjacent to this room is the original mayor’s office, which is furnished with period pieces too.
Structurally the restored Council Hall differs from the initial building in only two major respects. A small basement has been added for additional storage space, and a sawed sandstone apron has been constructed around the exterior.