Brigham Young University Opened in 1875 in Lewis Hall.
Jesse William Lewis built a large, two-story, brick building known as Lewis Hall on property at what is now the northeast corner of 300 West Center. He intended to use the two large rooms on the main floor for his mercantile business. Upstairs was a large room to be used as a theater and dance hall.
Lewis’ business failed in 1868. Brigham Young eventually bought the building. The Mormon leader rented the upstairs room to business partners named Buzzard and Fuller.
Buzzard and Fuller failed to pay their rent and by the end of November, 1869, they owed Young $1,600. Young penned a caustic letter to the men demanding payment. Several days later, a rowdy dance in the hall – at which there was considerable drinking, swearing, and raising of hell – brought the matter to ahead. Young evicted the tenants.
The riotous dance, attended by Mormon youth of both genders, gave Church leaders cause to worry. Stake President Abraham O. Smoot thought lack of education might lie at the root of many of the community’s problems. He suggested that a good college could “employ our boys [and] keep them from going about swearing and raising hell like they did last evening in Lewis Hall.”
Two young brothers, William and Warren Dusenbury, had come to Provo in the early 1860s, and at the time of the dance were successfully operating a school in a small building on Center Street. President Young rented Lewis Hall to the brothers and it became the Provo Branch of the University of Deseret for the next few years. In 1875, the property was deeded by Brigham Young to a local school board and it became the Brigham Young Academy, and, eventually, Brigham Young University.