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The historic Gates-Snow Building on Provo Center Street.

When Provo residents wanted to buy furniture in the 1880s and 1890s, they had two large choices—Snow Brothers and Taylor Brothers. In December 1886 the Salt Lake Daily Herald announced, “The large and varied stock of furniture . . . at the store . . . seems to indicate that the firm does a large business or else there is some capital unwisely invested. . . . The entire stock of goods . . . might be regarded as one immense display of useful and substantial articles suitable for holiday presents.” In 1887 the newspaper declared, “There appears to be just enough competition” between the Snows and the Taylors. In 1889 the Snow Brothers expanded their store and moved from the first floor the Academy boarding house to the old Factory store across the street from the courthouse. They added a story to the building.

In May 1889 the Salt Lake newspaper declared, “Snow Brothers, the furniture deals, are now established in their new quarters—prouder than ever.” The next year Snow added J. F. Gates as a partner. The new company tore down the existing building and completed a three story building. The paper bragged that it could be expanded to a five story building. The construction of glass and iron resembled the Culmer block in Salt Lake City. According to the Daily Enquirer, “The business of this firm has been rapidly increasing during the past year, making a new building a necessity.” The business’ success did not last.

In 1890 a depression hit Provo, Utah, and the rest of the United States. The impressive building was completed in October 1890. By April 1891 the store was going out of business. According to the Daily Enquirer, “Owing to the stringency in business circles, the Gates-Snow Furniture Company has decided at least temporarily to suspend business and rent their large building.” The owners planned to rent the bottom floor as two stores, the second floor as offices, and the third floor for lodge rooms. Business picked up though, and the December 25, 1892 Provo Herald declared, “J. F. Gates . . . is a business man of merit and conducts a large and growing furniture establishment.” Part of the building was still rented.

The county fair opened offices on the second floor in 1897. In 1898 Jesse Knight purchased the building for $3,600. In 1902 Gates and Snow dissolved their furniture partnership, and M. Snow continued to sell furniture. Gates and Snow continued to operate an insurance business. The Gates-Snow building housed several businesses over the years. In 1901 the Skelton Publishing Company moved from the building to a new one on Academy Avenue. William M. Roylance also had an office there and purchased the building in 1905. Judge M. M. Kellogg, the judge of the juvenile court, established there that year. The corner, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, became “the busiest section of Provo” when the Independent Telephone Company moved into the Gates-Snow building and the Western Union and Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company planned offices nearby.

In the 1890s walking by the Gates-Snow building could be a “shocking” experience. According to the Daily Enquirer, the steel front “was strongly charged with electricity . . . on account of defective wiring.” As a result, “a great many persons standing on the wet ground and coming in contact with the building received an electric shock. The defect was soon remedied.” The next year a small fire broke out in the lumber coal bin. Someone had started a bonfire to burn papers. However, “the fire was extinguished in a few minutes. The loss was slight.” -Research by D. Robert Carter

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