Built in 1900 by volunteer firemen’s association under leadership of George M. Ottinger.
Used continuously as a social hall by its members.
Ottinger Hall, a two-story brick structure, with a wood shingle roof, was dedicated February 22, 1900, It is rectangular in shape, originally about 27 feet by 39 feet, but with a lean-to kitchen added later to the north side, A bell tower centered on the roof houses the original bell, reputed to be Utah’s oldest. The architect for the building is unknown, but very probably it was designed by members of the Veterans Volunteer Firemen’s Association, who constructed it, Funds were raised through donation, labor, concerts and rummage sales by the members of the Association.
At present the structure is in fair condition only. The original construction was mediocre; however, there is no question about the stability and salvage potential. It houses many pioneer fire-fighting relics of importance, including the first fire engine built in Utah designed and constructed in 1853 under the direction of Jesse C. Little, the colony’s first “official” fire chief. Also, the building houses one of the “hose carts” brought west by Johns ton’s Army in 1858.
The building was constructed originally as a Social Hall for members of the Association and their families. Ft has been used for that purpose continuously. As a unit, the hall and its relics represent and present the story of the development of a fire-fighting department in Salt Lake City. Its preservation Is important to retaining and telling that story.
Ottinger Hall sits in the canyon of lovely City Creek, just a few hundred yards east of the Capitol Building. Its builders wanted a place to meet where they could mingle and pay homage to their proud firemen’s heritage. Today Memory Grove Park bounds it to the north.
Salt Lake City established a Volunteer fire department as early as 1850; however, its first fire chief, Jesse C, Little, was not appointed until 1853, He in turn was succeeded by John D. T. McAllister, Charles H. Doneldson and George M. Ottinger in 1876.
In 1860, a new organization established Deseret Engine Company number one (later changed to Eagle No. 1) and Deseret Hook and Ladder Company number one. Other volunteer companies were also added. The horse-drawn engines and volunteers were unable to handle a major fire in June 1883. Apparently, as a result of this, Salt Lake City elected to establish a paid fire department, beginning October 1, 1883. Its first chief was George M. Ottinger.
Under the leadership of Ottinger, the Veterans-Volunteer Firemen’s Association was organized in 1890. Ten years later they had their meeting and Social Hall, Ottinger remained president until his death in 1917. In 1912 the Ladies Auxiliary was organized.
Ottinger was not only a firefighter, but an artist of note, and especially appreciated by local people. His self portrait and other paintings hang in the hall today. He painted a sign displaying the volunteers’ slogan: “We aim to aid and work to save, n now at the hall.
Since Ottinger Hall contains both the tradition and paraphernalia of the Volunteer Firemen of early Salt Lake City,its preservation provides an important link between the past, for this extremely important development, and today’s urban society.(*)