Walker Center (formerly Walker Bank Building) is a skyscraper in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. It was opened on December 9, 1912; taking a little over a year to be built. At the time of its completion, it stood as the tallest building between Chicago and San Francisco (16 stories). It was originally constructed as the headquarters for Walker Bank, founded by the Walker brothers: Samuel, Joseph, David, and Matthew. The basement originally contained the vault for the bank, as well as a barbershop, florist, cigar store, and other shops. The main floor contained the bank, and upper floors were used as office space. It was designed by the St. Louis, Missouri-based architecture firm Eames and Young.
The Walker Center is topped by a 64-foot weather tower, which gives a weather forecast based on the color of the lights. The weather tower was taken down in the 1980s due to a city ordinance but replaced in 2008. The meaning of the tower colors are:
blue: clear skies
flashing blue: cloudy skies
flashing red: snow
Constructed in 1911-12 the Walker Bank Building is significant under Criteria A and C for its influence on the Salt Lake City banking community in the early 20th Century as well as for being an excellent example of a three part vertical block skyscraper done in a Sullivanesque style in downtown Salt Lake City. The building was designed with the most modern of amenities and innovations in building equipment and design. These included outside light for each office room, ice water taps on each floor, and four gearless traction elevators. The construction of such a large building in downtown Salt Lake City was a monument to the growth, progress, and
modernization of the city following Utah’s acceptance as a state. Investing in the building signified the faith the Walker Brothers Bank had in the future of the city. One of the tallest buildings in the West for its time, it stands as an example of the success and growth of the financial sector of Utah during the 1900-1910’s. It was also one of the last building projects completed prior to the start of World War I, which put an effective halt on major construction projects in downtown Salt Lake City. Eames and Young, an architectural firm based in St. Louis, Missouri, designed the building for the bank. Both William S. Eames and Thomas Crane Young served as
presidents of the St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, in 1890 and 1909-10 respectively.
Eames was also elected as National President of the Institute in 1904, the first from St. Louis to hold that office. They formed their partnership in 1885, which lasted until Eames’ death in 1915. The firm achieved a national
reputation, receiving good publicity for the duration of its existence and having their work featured and praised by professional journals such as Architectural Record. The building was designed with characteristics of
Chicago School skyscrapers, containing the three parts of a classical column – the bottom floors functioning as the base, the middle stories as the shaft with little ornamental detail, and the top floors serving as the capital with a greater degree of ornamentation capped with a cornice. Stylistically, the building has hints of the Second Renaissance Revival, with its symmetry, accentuated belt courses, and modillions. It received national attention
with a feature in the February 1914 issue of American Architect, as well as mention in the New York Times, The high-rise office building included several retail shop areas on the basement and ground floors, in addition to the bank’s primary ground floor space. Retaining much of its original detailing and character, the building is in excellent condition and is a contributing historic resource in Salt Lake City.
History of the Walker Brothers (see also Walker Brothers Bank)
The Walker brothers’ influence on Salt Lake City began soon after their arrival in September 1852. There were four brothers, all born in Yeadon, Yorkshire, England: Samuel Sharp born September 22, 1835; Joseph
Robinson born August 29, 1836; David Fredrick born April 19, 1838; and Matthew H born January 16, 1845. They, along with two sisters, immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri, with their parents, Matthew and Mercy Long Walker, in 1850. The father and two sisters died there from cholera in 1851. In April 1852, the four brothers and their mother decided to move on west to Salt Lake City.
The Walker brothers engaged in various pursuits prior to organizing their dry goods store in 1859. The store, first located at Camp Floyd about fifty miles southwest of Salt Lake City, profited well from the troops, and
after their departure, the stock was relocated to Salt Lake City and the Walker Brothers Dry Goods Company became well-established there.9 In conjunction with their dry goods store, the brothers engaged in banking,
which was commonly connected to the general merchandising business in those days.
The eldest brother, Samuel S., married Fannie Bascom, January 5, 1857, and together they had ten children. He was active as a businessman until his death on September 10, 1887. 10 Joseph R., married to Mary Ann Carson
in 1859, had seven children. In addition to his involvement with the Walker Brothers Dry Goods Company and the Walker Brothers, Bankers, Joseph was also president of the Alice Gold & Silver Mining Company in Montana. After his death on January 6, 1901, his heirs sold their interest in the bank and acquired control of the Walker Brothers Dry Goods Company. 11 David Fredrick, a prime starter of the dry goods store, married his first wife Emeline Homes in 1859, and together they had seven children. Emeline died in 1876; in 1883, David married his second wife, Althea Hunt, with whom he had three children. In 1888, having sold his interest in the brothers’ business, he moved to San Francisco and started business there. His death was September 12, 1910.
The youngest brother, Matthew H., was married to Elizabeth Carson in 1865. They had two children. After Elizabeth’s death in 1896, he was married a second time in 1897 to Angelina Andrews Hague, with whom he
had a daughter. In addition to his banking and merchandising involvements, Matthew served on the Board of Education from 1898 to 1902. He died on July 29, 1916.